By Kischel Nair, Actuarial Analyst at FNB South Africa.

Before Actuarial Science

I wanted to become a neurosurgeon. It was my lifelong dream when I was young ( Eventually I had to give up the idea that Tommy Lee Jones would invite me to join a secret organisation that polices and monitors alien activity on earth i.e. the men in black). This all changed when I began doing some serious and really cool maths in the advanced maths course we had in high school. It was a brilliant maths teacher that awoke a hidden passion for advanced problem solving. The challenge and the mental stimulation of not being able to solve a problem in seconds really excited my senses. Now I must point out here that when I say my senses were excited, I really mean it. The mental stimulation of solving these complicated problems was sort of a pseudo drug. It was such that I would neglect a lot of my other subjects which I didn’t feel were as challenging and hence why I don’t think my overall school results were as good as they should have been(I’m sure a lot of heroin addicts feel the same way about their academic performance). Nonetheless, I did enough to get into actuarial science.

Why did I choose Actuarial Science?

These days (marks prevailing) university courses resemble a restaurant menu full of extravagant options.  What actually motivated me to choose it as a career (apart from the appeals of it involving a lot of maths and the ego-feeding that only the smartest people can do actuarial science) was the incredible charm of the director of the actuarial science course at the university I would eventually attend. He did a presentation on actuarial science and the course at the university’s open day. It was astonishing to me how he handled himself presenting to a group of a people with a lot of charisma and wisdom but more importantly, he was a normal guy!

In my mind the typical actuary was an introverted Eastern European professor Dumbledore who had a special pouch for his calculator who wouldn’t be able to look at anyone’s shoes, never mind their faces. However this ‘Actuary’ who presented to us was not a mythical being but was in fact a normal person. I could immediately relate to this guy but more importantly aspire to be like him. I was sold. I wanted to be an actuary.

My Journey through the course and lessons learnt

I chose to do a university degree in Actuarial Science. The course can be done through an actuarial board even if one does not do an actuarial degree. This is subject to certain criteria being met by the actuarial board chosen. The university route allows for certain board exam exemptions and can allow for a better qualification time than for someone who does not do the degree[1]. The degree also allows for a lot of interaction with near qualified and qualified actuaries. Apart from wisdom and inspiration obtained from those who have been through the course, the degree allows for the more theoretical and academic side of Actuarial Science to be explored.


The university degree was very challenging and through my journey, I experienced many highs and lows. The most important thing I learnt was the required balance between hard work and intelligence. Without the right balance, the actuarial course will sort one out. The actuarial course will teach many skills and tools.  However, in addition to the course itself, there are many life skills one has to develop during the course in order to be successful. It is the content of the course as well as the life skills that the actuary possesses, that makes him/her so highly valued in the professional world today, in any job, industry, country etc. If there is a challenging problem to be solved, you can guarantee that an actuary is your best bet at solving it or at least being involved with the solution.