An actuary is a financial risk expert who is responsible for forecasting, assessing, advising and planning for future risks, seen and unforeseen, using knowledge of commercial, market and economic principles.
Actuaries are employed by investment banks, insurance companies, pension funds and other, similar financial services companies. Others may work as self-employed or salaried consultants in specialist consulting firms.
As an actuary, you apply your enthusiasm for graphs and numbers (statistical modelling tools probability theories, and other nerdy stuff) to economic markets, taking into account potential trends and external factors (political or social factors, for example).
Basically, people use your maths brains so they can make some cash!
You can find current vacancies on our Jobs page in the Banking, Finance and Accountancy sector.
Salary & benefits
Graduate actuarial trainees working in insurance and pension fund companies start with annual salaries ranging between £25,000 and £40,000; qualified actuaries earn between £45,000 and £60,000; and experienced actuaries earn salaries above £75,000, exceeding £120,000 for senior professionals with experience in excess of 10-15 years.
London salaries are higher to account for the increased cost of living, and because that’s where all the really cool actuaries hang out.
Actuaries employed in large, multinational insurance and investment banking companies also receive an excellent benefits package, in addition to salaries towards the higher end of the market.
Actuaries enjoy a regular five day week, totalling not more than 40-45 hours on average. Some amount of travel is required, mainly to meet with clients or visit regional and overseas offices on special projects.
Roughly the first 10 years working as an actuary are intensive, since actuarial trainees are engaged in regular work activities as well as preparing for professional actuarial examinations, which can take up to six years to complete in the first attempt itself.
Entry requirements for actuarial jobs are quite demanding, as is the initial training and professional qualifications process. Employers look for candidates with exceptional academic records, with a minimum of grade ‘B’ and above in A-Level mathematics and UCAS points upwards of 320, without General Studies.
Degree requirements – undergraduate and postgraduate – are set at 2:1 and above, with an emphasis on quantitative subjects. Some companies specifically look for degrees in actuarial mathematics or actuarial science – specialist subjects focussed exclusively on the actuarial profession.
Training & progression
Graduate employees start as trainee actuaries or risk analysts. Actuarial employees spend the start of their careers gaining hands-on work experience and studying for professional qualifications mandated by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA).
The first level of qualifications bestows ‘Associate’ membership and is the minimum requirement to practice as an actuary worldwide.
Second and advanced level qualifications allow actuaries to be recognised as Fellows. Actuaries with associate status are eligible to add AIA or AFA after their names, while those with fellowships can add FIA or FFA
Career progression is largely dependent on the organisation where actuaries are employed. An actuary can specialise in a specific segment, including:
- Commercial and retail insurance
- Pension and benefit funds
- Risk management
- Technology development
- Sales and marketing
- Advanced research
- Quantitative modelling.