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 Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) 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
- a Pass in the IFoA’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 Financial Mathematics (CT1) exam as a non-member. 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:
- most employers look for students with a minimum 2:1 in a numerate degree and A level maths
- you will be up against students with 1st or 2nd class numerate degrees who will be exempt from several of the IFoA’s exams
- each company, especially in the recession, will have raised 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
- if you speak to an employer and explain that you have/or are thinking of taking CT1 to gain entry to the profession, this may exempt you from some of their entry requirements. However, please note that this cannot be guaranteed: each company will have its own specific entry requirements. Employers details can be found in the Directory of Employers.
How do I choose my university course?
Most employers prefer candidates with a numerate degree from a university department with a strong reputation. A numerate degree may also lead to exemptions from some of the profession's exams. Actuarial science degrees, in particular, are likely to carry exemptions.
You could look at the University League Tables for further information on how the universities you are interested in are rated.
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 subjects examinations.
The advantages of studying for an actuarial science degree are:
- it gives you the opportunity to find out more about actuarial work before accepting an actuarial trainee role with an employer
- 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
- a higher number of exam passes or exemptions may mean that you receive a higher salary (probably staggered and dependent on future exam success)
- a degree in actuarial science is an excellent grounding in subjects like economics, finance, mathematics, and statistics, as well as the actuarial subjects. This makes actuarial graduates suitable for a range of careers, not just actuarial work.
Will I be at a disadvantage if I am not doing an actuarial science degree?
There are benefits to studying alternative degrees:
- non-actuarial degrees enable students to study a greater range of subjects
- non-actuarial degrees may still lead to exemption from some of the Core Technical subjects(e.g. 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 post-graduate degrees?
What exemptions from the professional examinations will I obtain?
What happens in a graduate placement?
Once you have obtained a placement within a firm, you will be able to start to work your way through the exams, eventually gaining the necessary work experience for you to qualify as a Fellow of the IFoA.
Typically employers give you one day off a week to study, although this is at the discretion of each individual employer. You will be given a study mentor who will be able to support you through the exams. Your salary will normally increase when you pass exams and take on more work and responsibility.
How long does it take to qualify?
In order to become an Associate or Fellow of the IFoA, students must pass exams, complete 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.
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).
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Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, 7th Floor Holborn Gate, 326-330 High Holborn, London WC1V 7PP
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