A career in actuarial work will suit you if you have strong mathematical ability, are good at problem solving and enjoy analysing data

As an actuarial analyst, you'll use statistical formulas to assess risk. In life insurance, for example, this could involve working out the average life expectancy of different demographics to determine the policy premiums each should be charged.

Analysts use specialist computational software and spreadsheets, so an interest in and aptitude for using IT is useful. You could work in various areas of the financial services industry and will often be engaged in a support role within an actuarial team.

Types of actuarial analyst

You will usually specialise in one of the following areas:

  • finance
  • general insurance (pricing and reserving)
  • health and care
  • life assurance (pricing and reserving)
  • pensions and other employee benefits
  • savings and investments
  • software development (usually in an actuarial team).

Responsibilities

As an actuarial analyst, you'll be required to:

  • understand and use complex mathematical formulas, particularly in the area of advanced statistics and modeling
  • use spreadsheets or other specialist software to complete data analysis tasks
  • provide technical support to a team of actuaries, producing statistical reports and analysis
  • write reports on your computations with results of your findings, and produce these reports in a format that non-specialists can understand.

Salary

  • The average starting salary for an actuarial analyst is £20,000.
  • For a certified actuarial analyst (CAA), salaries are likely to start at around £30,000.
  • There is no salary data for what an individual can earn later in their career as a CAA, as the first people to qualify from this route did so in 2016. However, if you progress to train as a professional actuary you can expect to earn an average of £52,000 plus bonuses. Senior and consultant roles will pay more.

Benefits can include a company pension scheme, medical insurance, gym membership and other discounted insurance options.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Hours are usually 9am to 5.30pm. You may need to work some evenings and weekends, especially when working on complex projects such as marketing campaigns or year-end returns to the pensions regulator.

Paid overtime is rare, although some organisations will offer time off in lieu.

What to expect

  • Roles are office based although attending meetings is a feature of the job.
  • You'll need good concentration to work on complex calculations, using spreadsheets and specialist software.
  • Opportunities exist in the UK and overseas. An actuarial qualification with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) is globally recognised.
  • Formal dress is the norm, although some companies may have relaxed casual days at the end of the week.

Qualifications

Entry to training as an actuarial analyst does not necessarily require a degree and you can study for CAA exams before obtaining a relevant job.

The minimum entry requirement for the Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries (FIA) route to qualify as an actuary is an A-level in mathematics at grade B or above. However, most entrants have a degree in a numerate subject such as mathematics. Other relevant degree subjects include:

  • business studies, where the course includes numerate options or core modules
  • economics
  • engineering
  • physics
  • statistics.

There are also specific degrees in actuarial science which can provide some exemptions from professional examinations. Companies usually look for applicants with a 2:1 or first class degree, although there are exceptions to this.

Search for postgraduate courses in actuarial science.

If you wish to become a qualified actuary, you'll need to take several exams while working as an analyst or trainee actuary.

Skills

You'll need to demonstrate:

  • a strong ability in mathematics
  • the capacity to analyse data and solve problems
  • the ability to carry out statistical analysis, such as scanning and cleaning data and interpreting trends and relationships between data sets
  • the ability to produce reports and summaries of data analyses that non-specialists can understand
  • good communication skills - for feeding back findings to non-actuarial colleagues or clients
  • commercial awareness - you'll need to adopt a business-like approach when dealing with clients
  • an aptitude for collaborative working.

Work experience

Although prior commercial experience is not essential, you'll be at an advantage if you gain some in financial services - particularly insurance - either as part of your degree or after graduation. Other work experience in any role or sector is also looked upon favourably, especially if you can demonstrate relevant transferable skills.

It may be possible to undertake a paid summer internship at a relevant company during your studies. Some larger companies such as the 'big four' consultancies (PwC, Ernst & Young, KPMG and Deloitte) advertise actuarial internships. For a paid six-week summer internship, you'll typically need a predicted relevant 2:1 degree with 340 UCAS points, or a predicted first class degree and 240 UCAS points. Opportunities to undertake 12-month paid internships are also available.

Some smaller companies may not advertise, so you will need to make speculative applications to enquire about opportunities. You should include examples in your CV of any opportunities you have had to gain relevant skills, such as numeracy, data analysis, IT and problem solving, from your degree or other placements including part-time and vacation work.

Employers

Actuarial analysts are found in a range of large to medium-sized organisations, including the 'big four' consultancies, as well as other financial services companies and all major insurers.

Employers are located in most major cities, in particular:

  • Birmingham
  • Bournemouth
  • Bristol
  • Edinburgh
  • Glasgow
  • Leeds
  • Liverpool
  • London
  • Manchester.

Some of these are pan-European or international, so opportunities to work overseas are common - though less so for trainees.

You can search for job vacancies at:

Recruitment agencies include:

Professional development

Entrants can either train as a CAA, or work towards becoming a professional actuary with recognition as an FIA or a Fellow of the Faculty of Actuaries (FFA).

There are no entry requirements for becoming a CAA, and the qualification can be studied via part-time distance learning through the IFoA over the course of two to three years. The CAA is a professional qualification which not only enables you to become an actuarial analyst, but also equips you with transferable skills. These skills enable you to work in any analytical role across other sectors, for example as a business or climate analyst.

For those wishing to study for the CAA or professional actuarial examinations, paid study time is usually available - typically half a day a week.

Career prospects

The skills and expertise of actuarial analysts are in demand as most of the work relates to a dynamic area of the financial services sector, notably pensions and life insurance. Those with highly developed numerical and analytical skills will find opportunities for graduate entry positions. The competition for these roles is fierce.

Once you've become CAA qualified, and qualified as an actuarial analyst, it's possible to progress and take the FIA exams to gain recognition as a qualified actuary. Alternatively, you can seek senior positions as a senior actuarial analyst.

Undertaking the professional exams to become a fully qualified actuary provides the greatest opportunity for your development in the profession. From qualification, you'll be able to progress further into senior roles or consultancy work.

You can find comprehensive information on the types of roles and areas of speciality within the sector, along with details of the CAA qualifications, from the IFoA.