An actuary is an expert in risk management. They use their mathematical skills to help measure the probability and risk of future events. This information is useful to many industries, including healthcare, pensions, insurance, banking and investments where a single decision can have a major financial impact.
Actuaries in the UK belong to a global profession with internationally-recognised qualifications. It is also very highly regarded, in the way that medicine and law are, and an actuarial career can be one of the most diverse, exciting and rewarding in the world. In fact, due to the difficult exams and the expertise required, being an actuary carries quite a reputation.
The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries is the chartered professional body for actuaries in the UK. The Actuarial Profession represents and regulates members of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries externally.
What does an actuary do?
Every area of business is subject to risks so an actuarial careeer offers many options. A typical business problem might involve analysing future financial events, especially when the amount or timing of a payment is uncertain. But it could also involve understanding something like the weather: assessing when and where devastating storms may hit can help predict risks, and their associate costs, for investments or insurance. Due to an actuary’s skill the opportunities open to them are endless, they can even be employed in the marketing and development of financial products.
Take a look at our profile of actuary Laura Molloy to learn more.
What qualifications do I need to be an actuary?
Actuaries are typically graduates with a 2:1 in a numerate subject (others may be suitable), good communicators with excellent business acumen and a love of logic and problem solving.
Most employers are looking for graduates with at least a 2.1 degree and excellent A levels or equivalent.
The minimum requirements for admission as a student of the Actuarial Profession are:
- Maths A level (or equivalent) at grade B, together with a second A level (or equivalent) in any subject at grade C
- Three Scottish National Qualifications Authority Higher passes, one of which must be in mathematics at Grade A; or
- The Irish Leaving Certificate in at least five subjects; one of the passes must be in Mathematics at Grade A; or
- The Actuarial Profession’s CT1 exam taken as a non-member; or
- Other qualifications which are considered to be equivalent to the above.
For holders of a second class honours degree or above in a non-mathematical subject, the Mathematics A-level requirement is reduced to a grade C.
For holders of a third class honours or above in a mathematical or actuarial science degree, the maths A level requirement is dropped.
Most importantly, actuaries have strong mathematical, economic and statistical awareness – and they are able to apply this to real situations
in the financial world. They are also able to communicate difficult topics to non-specialists. There are additional skills and competencies you will need as your career develops: understanding how businesses operate, and how legislation may affect them, is vital.
How much will I be paid?
Salaries and benefit packages are excellent, even for those starting out in their careeer. In fact, it’s one of the highest paid professions wherever you go in the world. Trainees earn between £ 25,000 and £ 30,00 a year and newly-qualified actuaries can earn up to £ 55,000. In later years, senior actuaries can earn six figure salaries.
How do I find a job as an actuary?
A list of companies that have indicated that they have actuarial graduate training schemes is available in the Directory of Actuarial Employers. Details of current actuarial vacancies are available at the following websites: The Actuary Magazine and Inside Careers .
In addition, most employers advertise in annual recruitment directories and many have their own websites. Some employers attend careers fairs at universities. University careers services will have further details about employer presentations and careers fairs. A further opportunity to meet with working actuaries is through the Actuarial Profession’s careers events .
What are the career progression prospects for actuaries?
The skills that you will gain as an actuary will be invaluable to you in your future career, whether that is as an actuary or other. Many actuaries change practice area and career path. They move into teaching, alternative risk roles, consultants, business operations managers, career advisers – the list is endless.
What are the pros and cons of being an actuary?
Actuaries’ skills are in great demand throughout the financial sector, particularly in investment, insurance and pension. Actuaries are also increasingly employed in risk management for large companies. However, actuarial consultancies are probably the biggest employers of actuaries in the UK. There are many areas where actuaries work, including:
- Consultancies: offering advice on issues such as acquisition, mergers and financing capital projects and also on occupational pension scheme
- Investment: involved in research and on the pricing and management of investments, particularly in mitigating the risk of investments, and often using their understanding of insurance or pension liabilities to mange the corresponding assets
- Insurance: providing a service to companies which need a huge range of numerical information investigated, analysed and explained; e.g. to create and price policies, or to ensure they have the money to cover claims
- Pensions: designing and advising on company pension schemes, especially placing a value on accumulated pension commitments.
The skills you gain in the UK profession can take you anywhere in the world. With mutual recognition agreements with some of the other Actuarial Professional bodies, once you have qualified it may be easy to transfer to another professional body if your work takes you that way.