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What is an Actuary?

Contrary to popular belief, actuaries don’t work with birds, shoot arrows or act.

Actuaries use their mathematical skills and analysis of past events to help measure the probability and risk of future events. Actuaries are problem solvers and strategic thinkers with a deep understanding of the financial world.

Actuaries work in a range of different practice areas. Main areas actuaries work in:

  • Life Assurance
  • Pensions
  • General Insurance
  • Investment / Investment Banking
  • Enterprise Risk Management
  • Health Insurance
  • Reinsurance
  • Management Consulting
  • Central Bank/Financial Regulator and other regulatory Bodies
  • Education, Universities, Professional Bodies

  • Environmental Impact Modeling

More information on these is provided here.

Actuaries work in a range of different practice areas:

  • Life assurance – This is the most traditional area for actuaries to work in. Roles include financial reporting, product development and pricing. Actuaries may also advise on investment strategies, business planning, and strategic risk measurement.

  • Pensions – Actuaries advise companies on all aspects of their pension scheme design and structure. They work alongside other professionals and provide actuarial advice.

  • General insurance – Actuaries work on pricing products such as motor and household insurance, advice on reserves and capital requirements, and may be involved in reinsurance arrangements.

  • Finance and investment – Actuaries are involved in the day-to-day activity of the capital markets. They advise on investment strategies and long term targets.

  • Enterprise risk management – This is a new actuarial field. Actuaries are involved in the identification, measuring and monitoring of risks to limit a company’s losses. The level of risk taken is analyzed with regard the companies profit expectation.

  • Health and care – This is a growing area and actuaries are needed both in the private and public sectors. Actuaries may be involved in pricing medical insurance and critical illness contracts or projecting public healthcare costs in the future.

  • Reinsurance – In the reinsurance fields, actuaries can design and price reinsurance and retro-reinsurance schemes, and to establish reserve funds for known claims and future claims and catastrophes.

  • Management Consulting – This area is suited to actuaries with strong problem – solving skills, who enjoy a variety of work in a multi – disciplinary environment. A role in this area may involve working on large corporate transactions, M&A’s and strategic investments.

  • Central Bank/Financial Regulator and other regulatory Bodies – Actuaries employed in this area ensure that the companies in their region comply with all relevant legislation.

  • Education, Universities, professional bodies – Actuaries are involved in the development of exam material and the setting and marking of examinations. Actuaries can also work as tutors and lecturers. Within the Professional bodies actuaries work to ensure all members are kept up to date with legislative changes and the organization of CPD events.

  • Environmental Impact Modeling – An increasingly important aspect in the evaluation of both existing and proposed changes to the environment, habitats, drainage and topography due to main-made or climate changes to the land, air or water.

Becoming an Actuary?

Even if you have studied an actuarial degree you will still have some exams to complete once you begin work.

On qualification as an actuary the learning doesn’t stop and you will be expected to keep up to date with current actuarial developments and your responsibility within the company will increase.

Exam Information
Useful Links

Common Graduate Questions

The most commonly asked questions by graduates are listed below:

When to apply?

You should start applying directly for graduate positions either in response to the university visits/adverts from hiring companies or otherwise from late December through to May of your graduation year.

How to prepare a CV?

Acumen Resources provide full CV Preparation guidelines for registered candidates (Extract Below)

Your CV is a marketing document and should be carefully designed with the aim of helping you get an interview. It should be tailored to your unique skills and experiences.

You CV should include the following:

  • Personal details
  • Education / Academic
  • Placement/summer work experience
  • Skills – PC, technical, interpersonal
  • Hobbies / Interests
  • References

In general your CV should show:

  • Detailed explanation of any university placement (if applicable)
  • A degree of progression – an increasing level of experience or responsibility and/or the gaining of a wider skill-set
  • A variety of skills used

  • At least one main achievement – more if relevant

How do I prepare for an interview?

Acumen Resources provide full Interview Preparation guidelines for registered candidates attending interviews (Extract Below). We also provide a mock interview service taking candidates through commonly asked questions.

Acumen Resources suggest the following format for your Interview Preparation:

  1. Gather information on company and the role
  2. Prepare your key message
  3. Identify key questions
  4. Prepare answers
  5. Prepare your own questions for the interviewers
  6. Practise ALOUD

What to look for in a prospective employer?

We recommend you chose an employer where you will work closely with a qualified actuary. You should ask about the ratio of students to qualified actuaries and the size of actuarial team in general. Other students will provide a support network for you over the exam session and will give you useful advice on using study leave and study techniques. Most companies provide a comprehensive study package which will cover all your study materials and time off work to prepare for the exams.

Direct writer vs. consultancy?

Whether you would prefer to work in a consultancy or a direct writer is very much a personal decision. The main difference between consultancy work and working for a direct writer is the variety of work involved. By working in a consultancy you will get involved in different projects with many different clients. If you work in a direct writer you will usually work in a team on one actuarial function e.g. pricing or financial reporting. There will usually be little overlap between the 2 functions. However many employers operate a rotation scheme where approximately every year you will get rotated around different actuarial teams – this is important to ensure you gain a wide range of skills on the road to qualification.

Which Practice area?

Many graduates take the first job offered to them after college but there is a big difference between roles across the different practice areas. Below are sample graduate job specifications for the main practice areas:

Considering a role in Risk Management?

This is a relatively new area for actuaries to get involved in. We recommend considering the ST9 exam or CERA qualification as good preparation for a role in Risk Management. Further details on this exam and qualification can be found here.

Exam Information

UK & Ireland

The exams are split into 4 sections:

Core Technical

Eight written exams and one residential course (CT9). You may get exempt from all or most of CTs 1-8 from a college degree.

Core Applications

Three subjects which you must pass or get exemption from. Two of these, subjects CA2 and CA3, involve attendance at a two-day residential course.

Specialist Technical

You need to pass or be exempted from two of the nine ST subjects available. The STs you choose usually relate directly to the area you practice in.

Specialist Applications

You need to pass one of the seven SA subjects available. No exemptions are available.

Exams can be sat in April or late September/early October. The UK Institute of Actuaries recommends the following exam schedule for an exam sitting:

  • Three Core technical subjects
  • Actuarial risk management

  • Two Specialist technical subjects

  • One Specialist technical subject and the chosen Specialist applications subject with the Relevant UK practice module

  • Some other comparable combination

The study session from May to September is shorter and so it may be difficult for you to study at the same rate during this time. In order to qualify as a fellow of the institute of actuaries you will need to complete all the above exams and 3 years work experience which must be documented.

Postgraduate Diplomas

A number of postgraduate diplomas are available where exemptions can be gained for the CT, CA, or ST series.

Ireland

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