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I'm currently a PhD student in mathematics at a decent sized graduate school, but I've been questioning my desire to continue on and finish my doctorate after I achieve my master's, which will occur within the next year.

I've been thinking about trying the actuarial exams so I might have a route to leave academia. I've never taken financial math, but I have taken a Calculus-based probability theory class, a mathematical statistics class, and two measure theory based probability classes. I've gotten at least an A- in all four classes.

I've never taken a financial mathematics class, but I have taken a wide range of both applied and pure math classes.

Based on the experiences of some people that have passed these two exams, given my background does studying for and passing both exams seem like a possibility for me?

Thanks for any advice!

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Clarinetist, Semiclassical, user147263, ahulpke, Graham Kemp Apr 13 '16 at 23:18

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ I guess "fm" stands for "financial mathematics", but what's "p"? $\endgroup$ – user228113 Apr 12 '16 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ the p stands for probability $\endgroup$ – User112358 Apr 12 '16 at 18:26
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Sure, you can pass the exams, but not without studying the very specific material that they cover. You have to know the material well enough to do the problems very quickly, all while fumbling with a very basic calculator.

I took both exams. I studied for one night and passed exam P, but this should be weighed against the fact that two years prior to this I taught a course in probability that would be sufficient preparation to pass the exam. I studied for a couple of weeks and failed exam FM because a quarter of the material on the exam was not covered by the material I studied (specifically, options). I believe I took both exams the year before I got my PhD in algebraic combinatorics. I'm not an actuary now, but I have a job in finance.

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Some individuals have successfully taken both examinations in the same administration period (the evidence of which is available in historical records of the pass lists). I seem to recall that there might even be a few rare individuals who have taken three or more examinations at a time, and passed.

The broader issue, aside from being adequately prepared for the specific information being tested in these exams, is whether you are aware of the scope of the entire series of examinations leading to Associate or Fellow. The preliminary exams are almost entirely mathematical in nature and as such, candidates who are proficient in calculation are often caught off guard by the shift in exam content once they have passed the first four exams and begin to take exams that relate to ratemaking, reserving, and regulatory aspects of actuarial practice.

That is not to say these would present a special challenge, but rather, it is my strong recommendation to anyone interested in pursuing a career in actuarial science that they take the time to understand that a very large portion of what you would be doing in the industry, and a corresponding amount of exam content, is not of the sort of material you would encounter in the first few exams. The FASB stuff was, in my opinion, so mind-numbingly dry I could hardly stay awake reading the stacks of papers on it, let alone try to memorize it.

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  • $\begingroup$ "it is my strong recommendation to anyone interested in pursuing a career in actuarial science that they take the time to understand that a very large portion of what you would be doing in the industry, and a corresponding amount of exam content, is not of the sort of material you would encounter in the first few exams." - Yes, NO ONE is ever told this when they're entering the industry and then people who end up leaving (like me) end up feeling mislead. $\endgroup$ – Clarinetist Apr 13 '16 at 12:49

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