Actuarial Science Major
Actuarial scientists solve problems and analyze risks. They play essential roles in the insurance and finance industries, where understanding risk and opportunities is crucial to providing services that offer financial security and peace of mind.
The actuarial science major at Xavier University—the only of its kind in Southwest Ohio—is an interdisciplinary program that covers the mathematical, statistical, computational and business background needed to succeed in the actuarial field. At Xavier, you’ll study coursework that covers topics dealt with by actuaries, prepare for and pass the first actuarial exam (Exam P/1) and take advantage of opportunities to learn from practicing actuaries. You’ll also graduate from the program prepared to take the second actuarial exam (Exam FM/2).
Actuarial science is an academic discipline that teaches students to assess and manage risk for businesses, financial industries and insurance companies.
It is an interdisciplinary field that integrates mathematics, statistics and computer science alongside courses in business like finance, economics and investing.
Around the end of their junior year, students are typically prepared begin the process of becoming certified as an actuary. Students become certified through passing exams with one of two professional bodies, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) or the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS), and through completing courses for Validation by Educational Experience (VEE). Both SOA and CAS offer certifications at the associate and fellowship level.
What can you do with an actuarial science degree?
Students generally begin the process of becoming certified as an actuary during the end of their junior year of college. Certification consists of a series of exams that can take seven years or more to complete as well as VEE credits.
Recent graduates typically work in entry-level actuarial analyst roles after completing at least one actuarial exam. These roles increase in pay as more exams are passed, with employers often paying for their actuaries to complete their exams.
Most actuaries work in financial and insurance industries. Within these industries, actuaries play many different roles, from predicting the best investments for businesses to calculating the cost of providing healthcare services to determine health insurance premiums for policyholders.
Jobs and specialties include:
- Insurance actuary
- Property and Casualty
- Financial actuary
- Investment strategy
- Pension & retirement
- Enterprise risk
- Actuarial consultant
- Actuarial analyst
- Business analyst
- Insurance underwriter
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, actuaries earned a median salary of $108,350 per year in 2019. The Bureau estimates a 20% increase in job openings in this field over the next ten years.
According to Payscale.com, the average salary for entry-level actuaries is $60,821. Salaries typically increase as individuals pass more of the exams for certification.
Yes. Students in high school who are interested in pursuing an undergraduate degree in actuarial science should look into taking as many math classes as possible, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus. Courses in computer science and economics can also be useful.
What classes do students take to earn an actuarial science degree?
Actuarial Science is an interdisciplinary academic field that focuses on math, statistics, computer science and business. Curriculums generally include courses in:
- economics (macro and micro)
- probability and statistics
- financial accounting
- computer science
- business finance
- probability theory
- actuarial mathematics
At Xavier, students also complete core curriculum requirements, which include ethics, religion, English and a second language. Learn more about Xavier’s undergraduate core curriculum on our website.
How much does the program cost?
Find a complete tuition breakdown on our Undergraduate Tuition and Aid website.
Are there any financial aid opportunities or scholarships available?
Yes. Nearly all incoming Xavier students receive financial assistance each year through grants, loans, work study opportunities and scholarships or a combination of these. The average incoming first-year student receives $22,210 in merit scholarships and grants. Find out more about financial aid opportunities, scholarships and grants on our Undergraduate Tuition and Aid website.
To become an actuary at the associate level in the United States, individuals need to pass 7-10 exams with one of two professional bodies, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) or the Casualty Actuary Society (CAS).
SOA certifies actuaries in the fields of life insurance, health benefits systems, retirement systems and finance and investment.
CAS covers the property and casualty field—auto, homeowners, medical malpractice, workers compensation and personal injury liability.
The first three exams for each of the two professional bodies are the same. Individuals do not need to choose which path of exams to take until after their third exam.
There are also Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) courses in economics, accounting and statistics that individuals need to complete to become an associate level actuary. These courses can be taken after passing the first two exams and are often included in undergraduate curriculums.
At Xavier, actuarial Science majors are prepared to sit for the first two actuarial exams in Probability (P/1) and Financial Mathematics (FM/2) by the end of their junior year. They also take courses that are approved for VEE credit.
How hard are the actuarial exams?
The actuary exams are challenging, but not impossible. They’re a commitment that requires focus and many, many hours of studying. Individuals who sit for the exams typically spend between 200-600 hours studying per exam. Pass rates for exams are generally between 40%-60%, depending on the exam.
Where do actuaries work?
Actuaries typically work in the finance and insurance industries, although they also work for private companies, businesses and government agencies. Their jobs are generally office-based although some may work from home or work as independent consultants.
The sample course sequence below illustrates class offerings for the Actuarial Science major. Consult the official Xavier University course catalog for detailed registration and advising information.
- Math 170 - Calculus............ 4cr.
- Math 225 - Foundations of Higher Mathmatics............ 3cr.
- Historical Perspectives............ 3cr.
- English 101 - English Composition............ 0cr.
- Core 100 - First Year Seminar............ 3cr.
- Core 101 - GOA............ 0cr.
- Math 171 - Calculus II............ 4cr.
- Actuarial Science 101 - Intro to Actuarial Science............ 3cr.
- Econ 200 - Microeconomics............ 3cr.
- Philosophy 100 - Ethics as Introduction to Philosophy............ 3cr.
- Theology 111 - Theological Foundations............ 3cr.
- Core 102 - GOA............ 0cr.
- Math 220 - Calculus III............ 4cr.
- Math 256 - Intro to Probability & Statistics............ 3cr.
- Acct 200 - Intro to Accounting............ 3cr.
- Econ 201 - Macroeconomics............ 3cr.
- second language 1............ 3cr.
- Math 240 - Linear Algebra............ 3cr.
- Computer Science 170 - Computer Science I............ 3cr.
- Finance 300 - Business Finance............ 3cr.
- Scientific Perspectives............ 3cr.
- second language II............ 3cr.
- Math 311 - Probability............ 4cr.
- Finance 365 - Investments............ 3cr.
- English 205 - Literature and the Moral Imagination............ 4cr.
- Natural Sciences Elective............ 3cr.
- Oral Communication Elective............ 3cr.
- Math 312 - Statistical Inference............ 3cr.
- Math 230 - Differential Equations............ 3cr.
- Finance 465 - Options and Future Markets............ 3cr.
- Creative Perspectives............ 3cr.
- Writing Intensive Elective............ 3cr.
- Philosophical Perspectives ............ 3cr.
- Humanities Elective............ 3cr.
- E/RS Elective............ 3cr.
- Elective............ 3cr.
- Elective............ 3cr.
- Actuarial Science 201 - Actuarial Mathematics............ 3cr.
- DCR Elective............ 3cr.
- Theological Perspectives............ 3cr.
- Elective............ 3cr.
- Elective............ 3cr.
Xavier is known for providing an education that's both challenging and personal. Here are some courses that are part of the Actuarial Science major at Xavier:
Intro to Actuarial Science (MACS 101) - This course is an introduction to Actuarial Science. The course consists of presentations introducing various topics dealt with by actuaries, weekly lab activities to provide in-depth work with these ideas, and presentations from actuaries regarding their work. Specific topics include mortality tables, interest theory, probability, principles of insurance and reserves.
Data Modeling (MATH 257) - Exploratory data analysis and visualization, logistic regression, estimation and inference of multiple regression models, model selection, Analysis of Variance, multiple comparisons, and experimental design.
Linear Algebra (MATH 240) - Systems of linear equations, Gaussian elimination, echelon forms, algebraic structure of solutions; vector and matrix arithmetic, invertibility; linear transformations and their matrices; vector spaces and subspaces, bases, coordinates, dimension, rank; change of basis; determinants,Cramer\2019s Rule; eigenvectors and eigenvalues; diagonalization; inner products, the Gram-Schmidt process.
Options & Futures Markets (FINC465) - Options and futures strategies, the valuation of options and futures, and the theory of hedging.
Actuarial Science Club
Xavier's Actuarial Science Club is the perfect fit for those looking to explore the possibilities of a career as an Actuary. Students in the Actuarial Science major hear testimonies from actuaries in the field, have the chance to job shadow at a local insurance company in Cincinnati and even travel to meet with fellow numbers people. They also meet for study groups regularly.
98% of Xavier students, including those in the actuarial science major, are working, volunteering or in graduate school within six months of graduation.
Top Jobs: Software Engineer, Actuarial Analyst, Associate Consultant, Chemist, Developer, Electrical Engineer
Top Companies: Good Samaritan Hospital, The Christ Hospital, AT&T, 84.51, TBM Consulting, ScribeAmerica, GE Aviation
All for one
Real Experience for Actuarial Science Majors
Cincinnati is home to multiple 500 companies. Students in the undergraduate actuarial science program land internships with local and national organizations in both public and private industries.
Careers for Actuarial Science Majors
At Xavier, actuarial science majors have a high career placement rate. They go on to work at top companies like the Great American Insurance Company, Liberty Mutual Insurance, and Ohio Financial National Services.
Relevant Coursework for Actuarial Science Majors
Students complete coursework that provides Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) credits in the actuarial field, as well as preparation for the actuarial science exams in probability (P) and finance (FM).
Actuarial Science Major at Xavier University
The Actuarial Science program at Xavier University has a long and proud history as the only Actuarial Science program in Southwest Ohio. The discipline is particularly important in the insurance and finance industries where understanding risk is essential to providing services that offer financial security and peace of mind regardless of the uncertainty in daily life. This program resides in the Department of Math within Xavier's College of Arts and Sciences.
Xavier University’s College of Arts and Sciences challenges students to develop an integrated understanding of humanity, the world, and God by pursuing the questions raised in Xavier's core and departmental curricula. The College of Arts and Sciences is the oldest and largest college at Xavier University. The college provides an excellent liberal arts education in the Jesuit tradition that prepares students for careers, professional or graduate school, and life in a global society.
Xavier University is a private university located in Cincinnati, Ohio, providing a liberal arts education in the Jesuit Catholic tradition. Founded in 1831, the University is the sixth-oldest Catholic university in the nation. It has been ranked among the top 10 master's-level universities in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report for the past two decades. The Princeton Review names it one of the "Best 385 Colleges in America."