Actuary Careers

How to become an actuary

What does an actuary do?

Actuaries use their knowledge of mathematics, statistics, economics and business to assess financial risks and probabilities. Traditionally actuary work is mainly concerned with pensions, life assurance and other types of insurance, but actuaries may also work in investment and other business areas where major financial risks are involved.

Actuaries create statistical and mathematical models to analyse past events and predict the financial outcome of different situations. For example, in insurance they may study accident rates or medical data in order to develop and price new insurance policies so that there are sufficient funds to cover liabilities but still make a profit for the insurance company. Insurance companies are required by law to employ at least one actuary to advise on financial management. Actuaries can also work for independent consultancies or the Government Actuary’s Department, advising on social security, pensions and health care provision.

Since actuaries are usually part of a wider team, they have contact with a variety of other professionals including insurance underwriters, investment managers, solicitors, company secretaries and accountants.

What's the working environment like for an actuary?

Actuaries normally work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They may need to work extra hours at busy times. Consulting actuaries will have to cover hours to suit their clients. During training, evenings and weekends will be spent studying for professional exams. Flexible working is common. Part-time work and job sharing may also be available.

The work is office-based, except where travel to visit clients is necessary. Dress code is usually formal.

What does it take to become an actuary?

To be an actuary you should:

  • be highly skilled in maths and statistics, with an aptitude for analysing data
  • have strong communication skills and the ability to explain complex information
  • have a thorough knowledge of business, economics and commercial practices
  • have good commercial sense and sound judgement
  • have a logical approach to problem-solving and good organisational ability
  • have highly developed information and communications technology skills
  • have an appreciation for detail and the bigger picture
  • be able work as part of a team or on your own.

It is required that you join the Institue and Faculty of Actuaries in order to study for industry related qualifications that will permit you to work in this role. In order to join the IFoA, you will need a degree in maths or related subject. A few examples are:

  • Economics
  • Accounting
  • Statistics.

Actuary career opportunities

Approximately 50% of actuaries work in insurance or life assurance companies. A growing number work for independent consultancies, in investment banking, the Stock Exchange, industry and commerce, education, pension broking and the Government Actuary's Department.

In larger companies promotion to a management position is possible soon after qualifying, and senior roles are open to those with lengthy experience.

Self-employed consultancy or work overseas is a possibility.


Further information

If you would like to learn more about becoming an actuary that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Institute of Actuaries
Napier House
4 Worcester Street
Tel: 01865 268200

Faculty of Actuaries
Maclaurin House
18 Dublin Street
Tel: 0131 240 1300

The Actuarial Education Company
31 Bath Street
OX14 3FF
Tel: 01235 550005

Financial Services Skills Council (FSSC)
51 Gresham Street
Tel: 020 7216 7366

Did you know?

  • The UK pet insurance market is worth more than £110m
  • Insuring the Mona Lisa would cost an estimated $35m
  • The Great fire of London in 1666 heralded the introduction of fire insurance on buildings.