In a recent study by CareerCast.com; the Actuary profession came out as the most desirable profession based on 'physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook'. Even though being an Actuary, where the main tasks are to evaluate and advise on financial risk, has always seemed like an extremely boring career; it is highly paid. Due to all of this, it seems prudent to give a guide on how to become an Actuary.
What Do Actuaries Do?
Actuaries apply mathematical, economical, and statistical knowledge to real financial situations. This is usually associated with the following sectors:
Actuaries are historically known for calculating risk especially in regards to insurance and pension companies. However, they now perform a large number of day-to-day tasks such as:
- Using statistics to calculate, accident rates for particular demographics.
- Assessing the value of assets and liabilities.
- Providing advice on investment strategies and assessing the profitability investments.
- Calculating funding rates and considering assumptions for pension scheme liabilities.
- Performing risk assessments for Insurance companies.
- Mitigating enterprise risks.
- Conducting mathematic modeling on assets and liabilities, and improving product development and profit testing.
- Working with Software Engineers to make sure they meet regulatory standards when developing certain software. Software for defence contractors would be a good example of this.
Actuaries are extremely well paid even as trainees. A look at this table makes that extremely clear:
Average Basic Salary
Chief actuary, senior partner
Senior function head, practice director
Function head, practice head
Department manager, managing consultant
Section manager, senior consultant
Section leader, consultant
Senior actuary, junior consultant
What Qualifications are Needed?
In order to become an Actuary you need to be highly numerate. Having at least a 2:1 or higher degree in one of the following subjects is seen as a minimum requirement for entry into a graduate or trainee programme.
- Actuarial science or actuarial mathematics.
- Mathematics or statistics.
- Business or finance.
- Science, physics and chemistry.
Taking the Financial Mathematics Exam which is offered to University Graduates by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries is usually considered the first step towards becoming an actuary. Experience is not usually a requirement; however, many companies will require some form of internship or placement prior to accepting an applicant onto a graduate scheme.
Most new graduates become actuaries by joining a firm as an actuarial trainee or risk analyst while studying for their professional qualifications. Employers usually help trainee actuaries in their studies with mentoring, time off and financial support. Becoming a qualified actuary by taking the Associate member exam usually takes between three and six years of study. This allows you to use the letters AIA AFA after your name. You can then take the Fellowship exam which allows you to become an expert in your chosen area such as investments or enterprise risk management. You are then allowed to use the letters FFA and FIA after your name. Both of these qualifications are internationally recognised and allow you to take up employment anywhere in the world.
Qualified actuaries have a huge amount of flexibility and can progress quickly through the ranks of their company. An actuary can also change their area of expertise quite easily, giving them the ability to move into newer, emerging fields, which may have more opportunities for career advancement.
The actuary career is certainly desirable in terms of pay and job prospects. However, it is not for everyone. Unless you are highly numerate, there is no way that you can pursue it as a career. It also requires someone who is extremely analytical and truly enjoys working with statistics. So if you love maths and want a large pay check, then this may be the career for you.