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Actuarial profession – what is it?


When it comes to the daunting decision of what to do with your life, it feels like there is so much out there and there is an overwhelming number of professions to choose from. There is an abundance of information out there when you search online for well-known professions such as a doctor, lawyer, accountant, etc. But there are a lot of other rewarding professions out there that you may not even have heard of. An actuary is one of those - not many people know what an actuary is, does or that we even exist! So, let’s change that!


While actuaries tend to be involved in various streams of work, put simply an actuary uses financial and statistical theories to assess the likelihood of a particular event occurring and its possible financial cost. Traditional areas of work for actuaries include:

  • Investment management

  • Life insurance

  • Healthcare insurance

  • General insurance

  • Pensions

The list above is ever growing - the landscape is changing with various opportunities for actuaries to get involved in other areas involving technology and unique areas of risk. Actuaries possess valuable skills in assessing risks and therefore, the skill set they possess is valuable for a range of other professions in the financial services industries should you decide to make a career change.


What does an actuary do?


On a day-to-day basis, work you may get involved in could include performing data analysis, performing calculations to value liabilities and assigning numeric values to risk, preparing reports and valuations in line with regulatory requirements, and advising clients on risk management. You can shape your career to suit your preferences. For example, there are actuarial roles that focus solely on performing detailed analysis and producing models that underlie complex calculations. On the other hand, there are actuaries that advise companies on their business strategies and are more focused on stakeholder management.


What do I need to become an actuary?


There are no strict requirement criteria to become an actuary. Generally those most suited to the profession are:

  • Numerically strong: the underlying work we do is grounded in mathematical and statistical analysis and so it is important that you are able to understand and undertake complex calculations.

  • Effective communicators: a lot of the concepts we deal with are very technical and so you need to be able to simplify these to explain them in terms that other people will understand.

  • Analytical: the work we do involves a lot of data and thinking about the bigger picture, so it is imperative that you are able to dig into the finer details and critically evaluate.

  • Organised: depending on the role you choose; you could be working on multiple projects at the same time, so it is important that you are able to juggle and prioritise work.

  • Determination: for actuaries early in their career, the qualification is a vital aspect of the job and typically, employers will sponsor examination fees, study materials and study support packages including study days and lessons. While the examinations are challenging, they are also rewarding and can open doors to other roles and opportunities. Find more on the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ qualification route on their website.

Benefits of the actuarial profession:


Actuaries are financially compensated well, and typically work standard office hours with c.40-hour weeks. Jobs typically involve hybrid working arrangements where there tends to be a 50/50 split between working at home and in the office. Being an actuary provides an intellectually stimulating and rewarding career pathway.

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