Careers questions answered
What qualifications do I need to become an actuary?
Most employers are looking for graduates with at least a 2.1 degree and excellent A-levels or equivalent.
The minimum requirements for admission as a student of the Actuarial Profession are
- Maths A-level (or equivalent) at grade B, together with a second A-level (or equivalent) in any subject at grade C; or
- Three Scottish National Qualifications Authority Higher passes, one of which must be in mathematics at Grade A; or
- The Irish Leaving Certificate in at least five subjects; one of the passes must be in mathematics at Grade A; or
- The Actuarial Profession’s CT1 exam taken as a non-member; or
- Other qualifications which are considered to be equivalent to the above.
For holders of a second class honours degree or above in a non-mathematical subject, the maths A-level requirement is reduced to a grade C.
For holders of a third class honours or above in a mathematical or actuarial science degree, the maths A-level requirement is dropped.
What if I don’t meet the entry requirements?
There is the option to take the Certificate in Financial Mathematics (CT1) exam. It will give you the option to see if the maths skills and experience you have is enough to take our exams. If you do take and pass the exam, then you will be eligible to become a member of the profession.
However, there are a few things to note before you consider this option
1) Most employers look for students with a minimum 2:1 in a numerate degree and a maths A Level
2) You will be up against students with upper 1st or 2nd class numerate degrees and who have exemptions from several subjects
3) Each company, especially in the recession will have upped their entry requirements in order to facilitate the huge number of applicants for each position – if you do not meet the basic requirements it may put you at a disadvantage
4) If you spoke to an employer and explained that you have/or are thinking of taking CT1, which could get you into the Profession then it may exempt you from some of their entry requirements. Please note that this is not definite, it is just something to be aware of, each company will have specific requirements that you will need to meet.
It would be worth in this situation to call employers directly through the Directory of Actuarial Employers to see if they can give you any advice as they will have their own procedures in place.
What A Levels should I do?
In order to become a student member of The Actuarial Profession, you will need to have a grade B at A level mathematics and a grade C in another A level subject, or equivalent. Other than the mathematics A level, it is your choice which subjects you choose.
How do I choose my university and course?
- For the majority of actuaries, a good degree is essential.
- Most employers prefer candidates with numerate degrees from a university department with a strong reputation.
- A numerate degree may also lead to exemptions from some of the Profession's exams. For a list of those universities click here.
- Actuarial science degrees, in particular, are likely to give the most exemptions.
- You could look at the University League Tables for further information on where the universities you are looking at fall.
Will I benefit from studying a degree in actuarial science?
Several universities offer undergraduate degrees in actuarial science, which offer exemptions from some or all of the Core technical subject examinations.
The advantages of studying for an actuarial science degree are:
- It is an opportunity to find out more about actuarial work before starting employment.
- If you achieve a sufficiently high standard in the appropriate university exams, then you will be recommended for exemption from the corresponding professional exams.
- If you have an actuarial degree you should be able to qualify more quickly than if you take a course which gives fewer exemptions. You may be more focused on your work and be promoted more quickly.
- A higher number of exam passes or exemptions may mean that the you receive a higher salary (probably staggered and dependent on future exam success).
- An actuarial degree gives an excellent grounding in subjects like economics, finance, mathematics, and statistics, as well as the more actuarial subjects. This makes actuarial graduates suitable for a range of careers, not just actuarial work.
But I won't be at a disadvantage if I'm not doing an actuarial degree, will I?
There are benefits to studying alternative degrees:
- Non-actuarial degrees enable students to experience a greater range of courses and to pursue a variety of interests outside actuarial work.
- Non-actuarial degrees may still lead to exemption from some of the Core technical subjects (eg CT3 Probability and mathematical statistics).
- Some employers are less enthusiastic than others about employing actuarial science graduates, so you may wish to seek the views of your favoured employers.
- Experience in the office is at least as important as exam passes. Actuarial graduates should not assume that they will necessarily be paid more than other graduates.
What about postgraduate degrees?
Postgraduate degrees which offer exemption from Core technical subjects or Specialist technical subjects are also available. These have similar advantages to the actuarial science degrees noted above.
However, students typically have to find private funding for these postgraduate courses.
Where can I get sponsorship?
The Worshipful Company of Actuaries do offer funding through a charitable trust.
Also, the Staple Inn Actuarial Society (SIAS) offers funding at university level.
How long does it take to qualify?
In order to become a Associate or Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, students must pass exams, completion a number of practical modules, and acquire a satisfactory level of work-based skills. This means that the average qualification time is currently three to six years.
What exemptions from the professional examinations will I obtain?
This will depend on the scope and standard of the subjects covered by the university examinations taken and on the performance you have achieved.
It is possible to gain exemptions from all eight of the Core technical subjects on some undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Some postgraduate degrees offer the opportunity for exemptions from Core applications and Specialist technical subjects.
Details of the universities and courses we have agreements with are available, along with information on how to apply. If you have taken a different university course you may still be eligible for exemption from some of our exams, but will need to apply to us for confirmation. You must be a member of the Profession before you can gain any of the exemptions.
Where are actuaries based in the UK?
Actuaries work in cities throughout the UK and not just in London. Details of many actuarial employers can be found in the Directory of Actuarial Employers.
How do I obtain a work permit to work in the UK?
Work permits are issued by the Borders and Immigration Agency, which is part of the Home Office. Work permit applications can only be made by employers based in the UK who wish to employ people from outside the European Economic Area. Individuals are not allowed to make applications on their own behalf.
Do I have to work as an actuary to qualify?
Yes, as well as passing the examinations, Associateship and Fellowship requires the satisfactory completion of a period of work based training, evidenced by a learning log.
What happens in a graduate placement?
Once you gain a placement within a firm, you will embark on a route through the exams and gaining the necessary work experience for you to qualify as a Fellow of the Actuarial Profession.
Typically employers give you one day off a week to study although this is subject to each individual employer. You will be given a study mentor who will be able to support you through the qualifications.
You will be given a salary which will usually increase when you pass exams and take on more work and responsibility.
Will I need to continue training once I have qualified?
Yes, actuaries are required to maintain their competence once qualified through continuing professional development (CPD).