Seth Anderson's original guestion, I offer a few generalizations
of some of the differences.
First off, I am 5 years out of a university degree in Actuarial
Science. I am an ACAS, and an ASA, who experienced both sides =
during university work terms and consciously chose the =
casualty side at graduation.
1) Both sides may require just as much math, but a clearly
oversimplified generalization illustrates the difference:
In life insurance, you only die once, it will happen, and
you have a set amount of life insurance when it does. =
In casualty insurance, you may never have a car accident, you may
have 10 every year, and each one could be a $100 windshield
crack, a $20,000 write off, or a $5 million liability claim.
This tends to increase the variability on the casualty side!
This makes the casualty side require more statistical analysis,
but means the numbers on the life side have more statistical
To emphasize, that is overly simplified, and does not touch much
of the life side (things like pensions). Disability insurance
is to some extent a middle ground.
2) The life insurance side is currently more into investments.
Life is longer term after all, but this is changing, and the
casualty side is working on the investment side. Many people
view this as big growth for actuarial, and view the life side
as being more prepared.
3) The casualty side is newer, and less developed.
This might be more true in Canada than the U.S., but on the job
itself, I found on the life side I was doing more running of =
somebody elses program, or system, and on the casualty side I was
doing more creating of my own.
4) The casualty side has more growth areas, and opportunities,
and is likely easier to find work worldwide.
Much of this will require proving your worth in a new area to =
people who are not as convinced of your value.
5) The life side may be the quicker route to upper management.
Again, this might be more true in Canada than the U.S., but there
are more Actuarys as Presidents and VPs of life company's than
of casualty. This also might simply be the size factor, as even
proportionally speaking there are more casualty actuaries in
the U.S. than Canada. =
6) On the casualty side, it is quicker to be the head Actuary for
your company (or the only Actuary for your company).
Again, largely size issue. Some people view this sort of exposure
as a good thing (it does add to the interest), but it
means more self development, as there will be fewer Actuary's
above you to learn from.
7) The exams are different.
Personally, I was concerned about the big exams on the CAS
side, as I was happy with the smaller life exams.
As for math, I have had several FSA friends say they never saw
any math on exams after they got their ASA (old version), while
the CAS has much math all the way through. =
In general, I think the CAS exams do more testing what you can
memorize, while the SOA exams do a little better at testing what
you know. I think this also is a size issue. The SOA side can
get enough actuaries needed to do the exams a little easier than
the CAS can.
8) If its hard to tell (I doubt I succeeded, but I tried for a =
middle ground), I completely favour the casualty side.
I find it fascinating compared to what I have experienced, and
hear about, on the life side, and have difficulty imaging
enjoying work as much if I went the life route.
But, each side has advantages, and the choice could be different
for each individual.
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