MA (Actuarial Focus)

Master of Arts in Mathematics (Actuarial Focus)


The Department of Mathematics offers a Master's of Arts (M.A.) degree in Mathematics (Actuarial Focus).  Our actuarial M.A. program is essentially a professional program dedicated to providing the academic preparation for entry-level actuarial employment in the United States. Our graduate program is funded by the State of Texas and strongly supported financially by actuarial employers throughout the United States, who hope to recruit qualified graduates of the program. Although our actuarial graduate program is small (usually two to four new students are admitted with financial support as teaching assistants each fall and sometimes a few other applicants are admitted without financial support), the actuarial mathematics classes typically have 40 students per class, since they meet with their corresponding upper division undergraduate classes (but with additional questions on examinations, required class presentations, different grading standards and/or additional course responsibilities determined by the instructor of record). It is our expectation that our M.A. students supported as teaching assistants be top performing and effective teaching assistants.

Students successful in our graduate program earn a masters degree while taking classes that cover the learning objectives for all of the preliminary examinations of the major North American actuarial organizations. Alternatively, graduate students can take actuarial classes while pursuing a graduate degree not specifically emphasizing actuarial studies. The majority of such students have sought a Masters of Science degree in Statistics, using actuarial studies as their formal minor. Occasionally, some mathematics Ph.D. candidates decide to pursue more business-related opportunities and fulfill our M.A. requirements. Our M.A. program requires 33 credit hours and is designed to take 4 semesters. Our M.A. degree in Mathematics (Actuarial Focus) is a terminal degree.

There is not a Ph.D. program in actuarial studies at the University of Texas at Austin, but students have occasionally received Ph.D.s in various fields of actuarial research (such as risk management, financial mathematics and statistics) that are performing distinguished research in actuarial or actuarially related areas.

Admission Information

Interested students must complete the application for admission to the mathematics graduate program.  In addition, applicants must:

1. Include in the Statement of Purpose plans for using the actuarial education - for example, actuarial career plans.

2. Send to the actuarial program director information on what actuarial exams they have passed, if any, either including a photocopy of actual score reports or identifying the month and year in which the exam was passed so the official pass list can be used to confirm the information.

The minimum score required on the GRE Quantitative for admission is 151, although successful actuarial graduate students usually score 161 or above.  Actuarial graduate students generally are expected to pass SOA Exam P no later than their first semester in the program, and preferably before they begin the graduate program; thus applicants need to have already succeeded in calculus, linear (matrix) algebra, calculus-based probability and, preferably probability-based statistics.

Since only a limited number of students can be admitted and the program is intended for students needing to learn the academic content of SOA and CAS Exams MFE, MLC, C, 3F, 3L and 4, students that have already had formal classes on much of that material or passed any of those exams will not generally be admitted.

Although the graduate program is small (usually four new students are admitted with financial support each fall - sometimes others are admitted without support), the actuarial math classes often are not small, since they meet with undergraduate classes (but with additional questions on tests and different grading standards).

Requirements for the MA (Actuarial Focus)

The M.A. in Mathematics requires at least 30 semester-credit-hours (10 3-credit courses) of coursework, plus either a Report for 3 hours or an additional Mathematics class for 3 hours. For the Actuarial Studies focus, the report must be on an actuarial project (usually a write-up of a work or study project rather than original research) approved by the director of actuarial studies.

The coursework must be as specified in the four points below; at most nine hours can be undergraduate (upper-division) hours, with no more than six of those nine in a single subject.

1. Actuarial mathematics courses (15 hours): M 389U, M 389V, M 389W, M 389J, M 389P
2. Minor (6 hours): non-math classes from among those on the core or additional courses list or as approved by the director and graduate advisor. Students typically choose courses that fulfill validation by educational experience (VEE) requirements such as FIN397.1 or FIN357.
3. Mathematics courses (6 hours): approved by the director and the graduate advisor, three hours can be the master's report. Students typically use M389D and M349R
4. Other courses (6 hours): math or non-math classes as approved by the actuarial program director and the mathematics department graduate advisor, at least of which must come from the additional courses list.

Sample Course Plan

Possible schedules for graduate students may vary enormously, depending on exam status upon arrival.  This is an example of a graduate student who has Exam P successfully completed and is a teaching assistant.  Her goal is to stay for four semesters, pass at least two additional actuarial exams and obtain a summer internship.

First Year
Fall: M 398T (required for all TAs, but does NOT count toward the 33 credits required for graduation), M 389U (Life Contingencies I), and M 389F (Interest Theory).
Spring: M389D (Introduction to Financial Mathematics), M 389V (Life Contingencies II), and M 389J (Probability Models with Actuarial Applications). Pass SOA exam FM in February. Sit for Exam MLC in May

Second Year
Fall: M 389P (Actuarial Statistical Estimates, M 389W (Financial Mathematics for Actuarial Applications), and Elective. You have completed coursework for Exam C and Exam MFE
Spring: M349R (for VEE credit in Regression and Time Series), Elective, and Elective