As defined by Charles Young, a Consulting Actuary at Hymans Robertson: ‘Actuaries analyse past and present data to solve real business problems. A lot of actuaries’ work is about risk management: assessing how likely an event may be and the costs associated with it. Actuaries predict and measure emerging risks and then help to reduce them, putting financial safeguards in place.’
Areas of work
There are many areas in which you can work as an actuary including: consultancy, investment, insurance and pensions. If you are unsure which is best suited to you, check out our Areas of Work articles which explore the traditional and emerging areas in which actuaries operate. In your application, you may need to show employers what attracted you to work in that particular business area, so it is worth doing your research!
Skills needed to become an actuary
Those entering the profession typically come from a numerate degree discipline. Actuarial science or mathematics & finance degrees may provide you with some exemptions from the necessary professional exams, but you will still be eligible to enter the profession if you’ve studied maths, statistics or economics.
In addition to a relevant degree, you will also need the necessary skills set. You may feel secure in your ability to comprehend complex mathematical forecasting, but your clients may not. You’ll need solid communication skills when explaining your findings and suggestions to clients and colleagues alike.
Tenacity will ensure that you rise to the demands of the exam process, but an inquisitive nature will help mean that you learn from experienced colleagues along the way.
Actuarial work experience
If you’re doing a three year course, you may want to spend the summer before your final year gaining experience at a company with actuarial services, or if you’re doing a four year course, undertaking a placement in your third year.
Our Employer Directory is a good place to start, in which we list a number of employers in insurance and consulting.
Gaining the experience to work as an actuary before you graduate gives you the opportunity to establish industry contacts and make an informed decision about your future career. A high number of employers now fast track internship and placements students onto their graduate schemes.
Don’t worry if you don’t manage to secure an actuarial internship or placement, as there are alternative forms of work experience that can boost your employability. Around a third of actuaries work within the insurance industry, so consider creating your own opportunities by approaching insurance firms speculatively. The number of actuaries working within banking is also on the rise, so look into doing an insight programme or internship for a bank in your first or second year.