An actuary supports businesses to assess the probability of risks involved in certain decisions. They’ll use mathematical reasoning, probability and an understanding of human psychology to advise on the best business decisions for a company.
What is an Actuary?
As an actuary, your robust expertise is vital for business success. You’ll work in combination with a wider business team to look at potential business choices, like making partnerships, purchasing new products or investing in new techniques, while analysing the risk and success potential of each.
Once you’re qualified and completed your actuary graduate program, you’ll need regular continuing professional development (CPD) to maintain your status.
Your work combines various disciplines including mathematics, economics, psychology and investment knowledge to produce detailed reports and advice. It’s a varied and interesting career that can take you in various different directions.
Your responsibilities as an actuary will depend upon what kind of business you work for. You can expect duties to include:
- Explaining complex statistical methods to business colleagues to give rationale for your advice and projections.
- Giving presentations to your company to offer advice on business decisions.
- Keeping up to date with investment trends and the progress of the stock market to assess whether particular financial decisions for a business are wise.
- Keeping up to date with statistical techniques, investment news and economic progress to ensure your advice is accurate and up to date.
- Make use of different computer systems for running statistical analysis and mathematical models.
- Running statistical analysis on business decisions, such as assessing potential financial loss and gain.
- Using your knowledge of economic and psychological theory to assess the best course of action for business decisions.
- Utilising your knowledge to create detailed reports advising the best course of action within business choices.
- Working across different departments within a company to ensure a streamlined approach to business development.
- Working as part of a wider team of business professionals, such as accountants and business directors.
An actuary role is largely a graduate profession, so, to begin with, will receive a graduate salary. Variations in an actuarial analyst salary usually happen based on your location (a London actuary salary is likely to attract higher rates) and the size of your company.
The average graduate actuary salary in the UK as of 2019 is £28,571. This usually assumes you are part of a graduate scheme as an actuarial trainee. With experience and knowledge comes higher earnings, senior and managing actuaries can expect to earn anywhere between £54,000 and £68,000. As you progress further into roles like Director or Chief Actuary you could expect to earn up to £200,000 for a chief actuary salary, and even beyond for the right company.
You’ll usually need a degree in order to enter the actuarial profession with a minimum of a 2:1. You’ll usually go on to apply for actuary graduate schemes after you complete your degree. Actuary roles are prime jobs for maths graduates, as employers will be looking for degrees that involve statistical knowledge and a good grasp of mathematics. Examples include:
- Actuarial Mathematics degrees
- Actuarial Science degrees
- Business degrees
- Computer Science degrees
- Data Science degrees
- Economics degrees
- Engineering degrees
- Finance degrees
- Mathematics degrees
- Physics degrees
- Statistics degrees
You’ll most likely need a minimum of 2 or 3 A levels to take a degree like these, including mathematics. You’ll also need a minimum of 4-5 GCSEs including maths, English, and usually a science at grades 9-4 (A*-C). You’ll usually need a minimum of 2-3 A Levels, and minimum of 4-5 GCSEs including maths, English, and usually a science at grades 9-4 (A*-C).
Training and development
Actuarial graduate jobs involve a great deal of training while you work. While your degree or apprenticeship trains you well in the key knowledge areas you’ll need to work in practice, to become a fully qualified actuary you’ll need to take further exams offered by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IoFA). These IoFA exams usually are taken over a series of years and often included as part of actuarial graduate schemes or actuary internships. They’ll cover areas from banking and business to life insurance and pensions. Once you’ve completed your exams, you’ll be a fully qualified actuary.
You’ll usually start as a graduate or trainee actuary, and work your way through training to become fully qualified.
Once you’re qualified and completed your actuary graduate program, you’ll need regular continuing professional development (CPD) to maintain your status. The IoFA offers further training in addition to their accreditation programs that would fulfil this. You could take on additional professional development courses in areas like data science, climate risk and sustainability, as well as attending professional webinars and conferences in the field.
Your skills as an actuary combine business knowledge with mathematical ability. These include:
- A robust understanding of statistical methods.
- Ability to handle multiple caseloads at once.
- Ability to work collaboratively within a team of professionals across multiple disciplines.
- Ability to work independently.
- An ability to keep up to date to changes in the field, to ensure the advice you provide is correct and relevant.
- An overall knowledge of business, economics, and overall risk management.
- Excellent verbal communications skills, as you’ll need to translate high level statistical research into easily understood recommendations to business professionals who may not have a mathematical background.
- Excellent written communication skills - you’ll write reports regularly for your team.
- Good IT knowledge, as you’ll be using statistical software to create risk models.
- Good presentation skills - you may be expected to present your findings to a large number of colleagues.
- Great personal and social skills - you’ll be working with a variety of different people and you’ll need to be able to maintain good professional relationships.
Your degree should give you experience of working in a statistics focused environment. However, if you choose a course of study that is initially quite broad, it can be helpful to gather some hands-on experience of what being an actuary looks like in practice. This can also help if you are applying to competitive graduate actuary jobs or an actuarial graduate program.
If you are studying towards a degree, it’s worth asking your course tutors for any contacts they may have. You may find that they are in touch with firms hiring actuaries, in which case you could ask to shadow or observe their work. You could also reach out to finance or business firms directly to ask if they offer shadowing opportunities.
As an actuary, your robust expertise is vital for business success.
Alternatively, you could take an actuary apprenticeship, such as the Level 4 Actuarial Technician Apprenticeship. You’ll usually need a minimum of 2-3 A Levels, and minimum of 4-5 GCSEs including maths, English, and usually a science at grades 9-4 (A*-C).
Your career prospects as an actuary are excellent. Your role is a vital and highly specialised part of a functioning business, and there’s plenty of progression as you move through your role.
You’ll usually start as a graduate or trainee actuary, and work your way through training to become fully qualified. This will lead to higher salaries and positions like a senior actuary. As you progress further you could move into director or manager roles, again attracting higher earnings.
Some actuaries find the research side of their work particularly rewarding and pursue further academic study. There are various masters degrees in statistics, finance and business many which can be taken part time around your practice.
You could become self employed as an actuarial consultant. In this job you would be offering your skills to businesses independently and applying for actuarial contract jobs. This could give you flexibility and the ability to manage your own time.
- Are Actuaries Paid Well? — ActuarialCareers.co.uk. Retrieved 1st September 2022.