The actuarial profession is one that demands a high level of academic attainment. Generally, employers will demand a minimum of a 2:1 at degree level and excellent A levels from potential candidates.
A minimum requirement of 300 UCAS points (BBB) at A level is the norm. Some companies require even higher grades: asking for 320 (ABB) or 340 UCAS points (AAB) is not uncommon.
What degree subject should I study?
Most employers recruit numerate graduates – those with degrees in mathematics, statistics, actuarial science, economics, business degrees, engineering, physics and chemistry.
What if I don’t meet the requirements?
Alternative routes are available: PwC for instance, requires a 2:1 degree and 320 UCAS points, but also offers a route for those with lower grades who can demonstrate through extracurricular activities that they have the skills and characteristics they are seeking.
There is the option to take the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries qualification – the CT1, Certificate in Financial Mathematics. If you do take and pass the exam, then you will be eligible to become a member of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries.
It is advisable that you speak directly to employers if you do not meet their entry requirements: you could enquire as to whether you could join them any other way, whether by taking a couple of exams you would be exempt from any entry requirements, and finally what requirements are unavoidable.
The pros and cons of a degree in Actuarial science
Several universities offer undergraduate degrees in actuarial science. Some of these degrees offer exemptions from all the Core Technical subject examinations. Other actuarial degrees offer exemptions from a subset of these subjects.
The advantages of studying an actuarial degree:
- Finding out more about actuarial work before starting employment.
- Exemption from some professional exams, if a high enough standard is reached in the corresponding university course.
- Quicker qualification as an actuary in comparison to graduates from other courses. This could lead to quicker promotion.
- A higher number of exam passes may mean that the actuarial graduate may 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 (making actuarial graduates suitable for a range of careers, not just actuarial work).
The 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 a few of the Core Technical subjects.
- 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 expect that they will necessarily be paid more than other graduates.
What about postgraduate degrees?
Postgraduate degrees that offer exemption from Core Technical subjects or Specialist Technical subjects are available. These have similar advantages to the actuarial science degrees noted above. However, students typically have to find private funding for these postgraduate courses.
Of course, your formal qualifications aren’t the only important requirements. Take a look at our article on Key Skills to see what personal qualities you will need to become a successful actuary.