Why study Actuarial Science?

Studying actuarial science at postgraduate level can be very rewarding. You will develop a diverse skillset that will enable you not only to enter the actuarial industry, but also to transfer these skills, which by their nature are applicable to wider traditional and non-traditional disciplines, should you later decide on a different career path. Studying actuarial science before going into the workplace enables you to develop a deep understanding of the industry and the different types of actuarial roles, which will allow you to apply for roles in an area of interest based on the understanding you gain from the course. A career as an actuary will offer you financial rewards, growth opportunities, and engaging challenges. Actuaries enjoy a dynamic and impactful career with competitive salaries and a favourable work-life balance, especially compared to other high-earning roles in financial services like investment banking. Equally important, studying actuarial science at an accredited university by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) in the UK will enable you to quickly gain exemptions from professional subjects you will be expected to take when you join a firm. These exams are inherently challenging, and this can be exacerbated when trying to fit them into your day job even with study leave. The number of exemptions and the flexibility with which you can gain them varies among institutions, so we recommend that you do your research.

Who should study an actuarial postgraduate course?

First, you should have an actuarial interest and usually a strong background in mathematical / quantitative subjects. However, whether you are fresh out of university or looking for a career change, or have some industry experience and are looking for a course to help you get a boost in your career or clear some of the professional exams, there is an actuarial course to suit you. For example, if you have limited experience or are new to actuarial science, you would look for a course that provides you with learning and the opportunity to gain exemptions from the Core Principle subjects. If you already have some experience and the appropriate Core Principles achieved, you may be looking to get through the remaining exams more quickly, hence be looking for a course that gives you the opportunity to study further Core Practice and Specialist Principle subjects. Depending on your course choices, you will be able to achieve the number of permitted exemptions for universities by the IFoA required to qualify as Fellow actuaries. To give you an idea, we next outline the general structure of the postgraduate degrees available.

MSc Actuarial Science

In this postgraduate course, you will study statistics, probability, stochastic processes, survival models, economics, finance and investment, insurance, financial modelling and contracts valuation, with computer-based applications. This broad and varied syllabus is typically equivalent to the Core Principle subjects (CM1, CM2, CS1, CS2, CB1, CB2), and enables you to gain exemptions from them. Variants of the typical degree structure additionally offer you the opportunity to study modelling practice, by applying actuarial techniques to solve real-world problems, communication with non-actuaries on topics related to actuarial practice, but also business and predictive analytics modules that help you cultivate the skillset for modern actuaries and become competent in an ever-changing global business environment.

MSc Actuarial Management

This postgraduate course covers material related to the later stages of the professional exams, namely the Core Practice and Specialist Principle subjects. Such a course aims to delve into concepts of core practice as well as specialist actuarial areas mentioned earlier using technical and business skill learnt in Core Principles. You can gain exemptions from Actuarial Practice (CP1), Modelling Practice (CP2), Communications Practice (CP3) and the Specialist Principles (SP) subjects. A collection of business and data analytics modules is also offered.

Questions to ask when considering courses

  • Who is teaching you? For example, at Bayes Business School you will be taught and receive advice on study and exam techniques by qualified actuaries, academics and other subject matter experts with commercial and research experience.
  • How fast can I qualify? Doing an MSc in Actuarial Science and an MSc in Actuarial Management typically enables you to gain exemptions within two years from up to 11 of 13 professional subjects required for fellowship, subject to academic performance.
  • Is it all about exemptions? No, it isn’t. Actuaries find professional growth and personal satisfaction in various fields, such as business analytics, enterprise risk management, investments and fund management, banking and financial services, environmental finance, health and retirement financing, etc. Consider actuarial degrees with related topical pathways and distinctive opportunities (business analytics, data science, emerging global risks, entrepreneurial opportunities, etc.). And, remember that sometimes postponing an exemption subject in favour of a non-exemption, yet highly relevant and pivotal, subject can be a unique experience offered for professional advancement.
  • What are the course links with industry? Understand whether you will be exposed to people working in the industry through teaching but also other activities, such as clubs and societies, as this will help you build your professional network as well as understand more about it and the opportunities available.
  • What does the careers support look like? This can vary among institutions, so make sure you know what this looks like and whether it matches your expectations and needs. Some questions you may want to consider include, for example, “Is careers support/professional development timetabled as part of the course?”, “Is it tailored to the course and industries I’m applying to?”, “Do I get support before I join the course and for how long after I finish?”, “What is the experience of the people delivering it?”.
  • Reputation of the course? This is sometimes harder to find out, but, for example, look to see if the universities are accredited to provide exemptions, have good research rankings (for example, refer to the UNL Global Actuarial and RMI Research Rankings, REF 2021: Business and Management Studies, etc.), produce graduates in prestigious positions, are linked to the industry and are internationally recognized by the professional bodies (see Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, Society of Actuaries, Casualty Actuarial Society, etc.).
  • Global alumni community? Does the academic institution run a structured alumni outreach and engagement programme? Strong alumni relationships help build relationships with the new crop of talent coming through the course. This also creates opportunities to support and celebrate course developments with the connected community worldwide.
  • Financial support? A master’s degree can change your career and your life, but it is a significant financial investment. It is important to plan how you will finance your studies. Investigate possibilities such as course scholarships, alumni discounts and other external funding opportunities for postgraduate study.
  • Is there anything else that differentiates a course? For example, at Bayes we pride ourselves on the flexibility of our courses from the summer term electives, which can also be combined with research routes, the variety of -even non-actuarial- disciplines, but also the greater control offered to individuals in their study path (for example, (re)take subjects you have previously missed).

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