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Love Actuary

Chris O'Brian, Director, Centre for Risk and Insurance Studies, Nottingham University Business School explains.

Actuaries make financial sense of the future.That phrase, used by the Actuarial Profession, may be rather abbreviated, but it does conveythe idea of actuaries as involved in complex �and challenging � financial work.�

This means that students with a variety of skills can be keen to enter the Actuarial Profession.

Some study actuarial science for their first degree, and go on to join an employer, often an insurance company, pension fund or firm of consulting actuaries, as soon as they have graduated.

However, most of those who enter the profession have not specialised yet, and come from a variety of backgrounds. Many have a degree in mathematics or statistics. Imagine working in an insurance company: you may be working out what premiums to charge, how to invest the funds that the company accumulates, and checking that the company has assets sufficient to meet its liabilities. There are similar issues in a pension fund. This work clearly has a strong mathematical element. Indeed, recent years have seen actuaries using new computing power to develop more sophisticated models that enable them to analyse and to solve problems in a way that older generations of actuaries could only dream about.

However, actuaries are usually addressing financial problems in a way that requires a good awareness of business needs. Actuaries working for insurance companies - perhaps designing their products - will get to grips with what the objectives of the insurance companies are, how they make a profit, and how they are regulated. Similarly, an actuary working for a pension fund will recognise that the finances of the pension fund have to be understood in the context of the business that is running the fund to provide pensions for its employees.

So students with other degrees are also welcomed into the profession provided they have an adequate understanding of maths at 'A' level or equivalent. Some students have a first degree in business, which may indeed have include insurance and/or risk management, thereby giving students a flavour of the type of problems that actuaries face. Other degrees may be oriented towards finance, which again can lead students towards the profession.

The precise content of the undergraduate degree is not critical, however. A new graduate can join an employer straight away, with time granted for study leave; or may choose instead to study for a postgraduate qualification in actuarial science at a university before progressing to full-time employment.

Actuaries, when qualified, will have a mix of mathematical and business skills, enabling them to cope with financial and other risks. The always-changing nature of risk means that there are challenging and stimulating jobs for those who have chosen to enter the profession.

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