Actuarial Science FAQ


Actuarial Science is concerned with the evaluation of financial risk associated with uncertain future events. That risk may be associated with life insurance, casualty insurance, health insurance, disability, pensions, compensation packages, financial markets or even currency exchange.

Actuaries are professionals who are highly trained in mathematics, statistics, economics and finance and who make it their business to solve financial problems involving future uncertainty, as in the areas mentioned above. One way to describe their work is that they "put a price on risk".

According to The Jobs Related Almanac, actuary is consistently rated as one of the best jobs when salary, work environment, stress career outlook, security, and physical demands are jointly taken into consideration.

Our Actuarial Science program at SFU is an elite program that gives students an excellent training in mathematics, statistics and finance and prepares students for the professional exams.

Q1. Can I apply for graduate studies in Actuarial Science at Simon Fraser University?

Ans 1. Yes. MSc and Ph.D. graduate students  in Actuarial Science program of our Department are offered with financial support from teaching assistantship, research assistantship, graduate scholarship, or/and co-ops.

Q2. How do I apply for admission to the Major program in Actuarial Science or the Honours program in Actuarial Science?

Ans 2. The admission process for the Major program is a two-step process.

First you must be admitted to the University. You can find application forms and information regarding admission to the University at the Are You SFU? website.

The second step occurs after you have taken some courses at Simon Fraser University, generally in the semester in which you take the two basic courses STAT 285 Applied Probability Models and ACMA 210 Mathematics of Compound Interest. ACMA 210 is currently offered in the Fall semester, but it will be changed to the Spring semester in 2019 and beyond (no offering in 2018). The students in ACMA 210 are invited to apply for admission to one of the Actuarial Science programs. See application for admission for more details. Admission is competitive and based on performance at Simon Fraser University and other institutions. Particular attention is given to STAT 270, STAT 285 and ACMA 210. Students are required to have a grade of B or better in all of STAT 270, STAT 285 and ACMA 210 and to maintain a 3.00 CGPA (cumulative grade point average).

Students interested in the honours program should talk with an advisor.

Q3. Are the admission requirements for the Major and Honours programs in Actuarial Science, for first and second degree students all the same?

Ans 3. YES.

Q4. Can I apply for admission to the Actuarial programs at any other time of the year besides the semester in which I take ACMA 210?

Ans 4. Only in exceptional circumstances. For example, it might be that you took ACMA 210 some time ago but were not planning on taking an Actuarial Science major at the time.

Q5. Where can I find the details of the Major or Honours programs in Actuarial Science?

Ans 5. In the University Calendar and our program website.

Q6. What are the requirements for a student pursuing an Actuarial Science Major/Honors as a second degree?

Ans 6. A second degree student must satisfy all the upper division requirements for the degree. Most students will also need to take lower division courses to meet the prerequisite requirements. These commonly include ACMA 101, ACMA 210 and STAT 285. These lower division courses can be waived if taken in a first degree.

Q7. I have a degree and would like to take a second degree (major) in Actuarial Science. How long will it take to complete?

Ans 7. Assuming that your first degree included calculus (MATH 151, 152, 251), linear algebra (MATH 232), and a first course in probability (STAT 270), it will take about two years of part time study. This is due to the prerequisite structure between the courses and the fact that some of the courses are only offered every second year. Some students choose to take more than the minimum number of courses required for the Major in order to assist them in their preparation for the professional exams and the Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) requirements.

Q8. I took some introductory Economics (or Business, or Mathematics or Statistics courses) in my first degree. Can I get transfer credit or a waiver for the degree requirements or for the prerequisites for upper division courses in these areas?

Ans 8. You cannot get transfer credits, but you may get a waiver or a substitution. Please, read about the Second Bachelor's Degree under "Programs offered" in the University Calendar.

Q9. Must I complete all the lower division requirements for the major before I can take ACMA 210.

Ans 9. NO. You can take ACMA 210 as soon as you have completed all the prerequisite courses and feel ready.

Q10. Can I take other ACMA courses if I am not an approved Act. Sci. student?

Ans. 10. Yes, if you meet the admission requirements of the Act. Sci. program and have the necessary course prerequisites. You must request approval from the Department.

Q11. Can I take MATH 150, MATH 154 or 157 instead of MATH 151?

Ans 11. MATH 150 and MATH 154 can be used to substitute for MATH 151. MATH 157, with a grade of at least B can also be used in place of MATH 151.

Q12. Can I take MATH 155 or 158 instead of MATH 152?

Ans 12. MATH 155 and MATH 158 are accepted as equivalent pre-requisites for ACMA 210 and for satisfying the lower division requirements of the Actuarial Science Program.

Q13. Where can I find a schedule of future course offerings in STAT. and ACT. SCI.?

Ans 13. At

Q14. Where can I find a schedule of future course offerings in MATH?

Ans 14. At Follow the links to "courses" and "courses offering templates".

Q15. Is it true that approved ACT. SCI. students are allowed to take certain BUSINESS courses on an equal basis with Business students?

Ans. 15. Yes. This applies to the Business courses listed under the requirements of the Actuarial Science Major or Honors and possibly a few others. See the program requirements in the University Calendar or contact the Co-ordinator for the Program in Actuarial Science.

Q16. Where can I find the schedule for future course offerings in Business?

Ans 16. Consult the Faculty of Business Administration.

Q17. Can the lower division courses that I take in the Major/Honours Program in Actuarial Science be used towards another degree, such as in Business, Economics, Mathematics or Statistics?

Ans 17. Yes. You only need to take lower division requirements once to satisfy the requirements of any of the degrees.

Q18. Can the upper division courses that I take to satisfy the requirements for the Major/Honours Program in Actuarial Science be used towards a Business, Economics, Mathematics or Statistics Major/Honours degree?

Ans 18. NO. If, for instance, you wish to take BUS 312 to satisfy the requirements for a Business Major, then you cannot use it to satisfy the specific course requirements for the Actuarial Science Major. However, the specific course requirements for the Actuarial Science Major only add up to about 36 upper division credit hours while the Faculty of Science requirement for a Major is 44 hours of upper division course credits. So, for example, you could use BUS 312 - 3 to satisfy the requirement of a Business Major and use the same 3 credit hours to help meet the gap between the 36 upper division hours required by the Actuarial Science Major and the 44 hours required by the Faculty of Science.

Q19. Is there a Co-op Program in Actuarial Science?

Ans 19. Yes. For information, contact Natalie Erickson

Q20. What is the best time to start in the Co-op Program?

Ans 20. Ideally, you should contact the Co-op Co-ordinator, Natalie Erickson, as you approach 30 credit hours. Otherwise, as soon as possible after that. It will still be a semester or more after that first contact before you have an actual placement.

Q21. What courses should I try to take before starting on Co-op?

Ans 21. It is very helpful towards landing that first placement to have experience with MS-Access and SAS for data base management, calculations in Excel spreadsheets and Visual Basic, and object oriented programming (e.g. C++). Good communication skills are of paramount importance.

Q22. Can second degree students participate in the Co-op Program?

Ans 22. Yes. However, it is unlikely that they would be able to get the full number of Co-op semesters and benefit from the full Co-op experience.

Q23. Where can I find more information regarding the Actuarial Profession and the Examination requirements for the Profession?

Ans 23. Information regarding the profession, syllabi for the examinations, examination schedules, examination application forms and job opportunities can be found at:

Society of Actuaries:
Casualty Actuarial Society:
Canadian Institute of Actuaries:

Q24. Which SFU courses help with the Professional Exams?

Ans 24. Here is a list. However, at least for SOA Exams P, FM, MFE, MLC and C, if you are able to do a bit of self-study, then you should not necessarily wait until you have completed all the courses listed before taking the corresponding exam.

Exam P:
STAT 270, 285, 330

Exam FM:
ACMA 210
Exam MFE:
ACMA 355, 455
Exam MLC:
ACMA 320, 425

Exam C:
ACMA 355, 455
FAP Exam 1 and 2:

FAP modules partly covered in 400 levels BUS and ACMA courses

Q25. Where can I get advice regarding the scheduling of my courses?

Ans 25. You can visit this page where you will find some suggested programs of courses that can be taken semester by semester. Of course, these are only suggestions and there is quite a bit of flexibility. In addition, the actual course offerings vary from time to time and may change in the future. But this will give you some ideas.

Q26. What do employers look for when hiring long-term employees?

Ans 26. The four most important factors that they look at are (1) Good performance in university, (2) Progress with the professional examinations (2 to 4 exams), (3) Computing skills, (4) Communication skills (extremely important)!!

Q27. How do I plan my courses if I intend to double major in Actuarial Science and Statistics?

Ans 27. Courses that are required by both programs will be counted towards one of the two Majors. Normally, STAT 330, 350 and 450, will be counted for a Major in Statistics. Please see Dr. Cary Tsai, the Actuarial Science Program Coordinator, early in your planning stage to discuss the most appropriate course substitutions in your case.

Q28. What are the minimum continuation GPA and the minimum graduation GPA?

Ans 28. To continue in the actuarial science or statistics programs, students must maintain a GPA of at least 2.25 on courses labeled MATH, STAT or ACMA. Actuarial science majors must achieve a cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of 2.50 or better to graduate.

Q29. Where can I get information about the M.Sc. and Ph.D. program in Statistics and Actuarial Science?

Ans 29. Please see our Graduate Studies page and our program brochure for other information regarding M.Sc. and Ph.D. programs.

Q30. Which courses of the Lists 1 and 2 of the Upper Division Requirements are most recommended?

Ans 30. Students are required to take all of four courses from List 1 and two of three courses from List 2, and are strongly encouraged to take all of seven courses from Lists 1 and 2 for Exams P, MFE, MLC and C. The main reason for requiring two out of three courses from List 2 is to allow students to graduate in a reasonable time if they cannot take some of the courses when offered. This can happen when students go on co-op terms for example.

Q31. I have a question that you did not anticipate, where can I go for further information?

Ans 31. Please visit our Student Advising Page.