What qualifications are typically required?
All would-be actuaries need to be competent mathematicians (there is a minimum entry requirement in terms of A-level mathematics or the equivalent in other systems). Recruitment to train for the profession is usually at graduate level. Although any degree is acceptable, most employers recognise that a numerate degree offers a sound background for actuarial training. There are universities that offer actuarial science undergraduate and postgraduate courses, as well as a growing number that teach actuarial modules within mathematics or statistics degrees.
Qualification as an actuary then involves passing the professional examinations of the Faculty and Institute of Actuaries. Generally this takes between three and six years. Students who have achieved an appropriate standard in a relevant degree may be awarded exemptions from some of the examinations.
Trainees take the examinations at their own pace, usually while working for an actuarial employer. Although trainees have to study for about 15 hours a week, they are given time off work and plenty of other support. Studying is undertaken by distance learning; however, some employers may offer mentors and arrange tutorials in the office.
The most successful actuaries also have excellent communication skills and combine professional integrity with a commercial outlook. So prospective entrants to the profession need to show evidence of these important general skills as well as proving their intelligence by means of an impressive examination track record.