The number of candidates sitting for entry level exam P and exam FM decreased over the last decade. Figure 1 below shows the total attempts for Exams P and FM halving over the past decade.

This represents an average decline of 7% per year across the two exams. This shows a major change from 2013 when the Actuarial Profession was consistently ranked #1 in national job lists and the number of candidates sitting for exams was growing year over year. For reference, Actuary is currently ranked #20, behind software developer (#5) and data scientist (#6).

One hypothesis is that data scientists and similar job openings are drawing potential actuaries away from the profession. To investigate this question, we queried fifteen colleges, actuarial clubs, and their recent graduates to see if this trend was noticeable, with key learnings summarized below:

Candidates at schools with Society of Actuaries (SOA)’s Centers of Actuarial Excellence (CAE) recognition are more than twice as likely to remain on the actuarial career path. Further, the strongest programs appear to attract other majors due to the top-tier program and resources

Recently established data science majors are pulling some students away from actuarial science and quite a few interviewees perceived that the popularity of the actuarial science program is declining

For international students, there is a general perception that it is harder to get an actuarial job that provides working visa sponsorship, while most data science jobs still provide sponsorship

The mixed results between the first two findings suggest that the strongest college actuarial programs are becoming stronger while schools with fledgling or small programs may be struggling. For example, actuarial career fairs tend to be successful only after achieving a level of scale so that they are well attended by both prospective hires and recruiters.

Author(s): Eve Sun, Mark Spong, Roger Yuan

Publication Date: May 2022

Publication Site: Oliver Wyman