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Actuary

by Staff Reporter
If you have an analytical mind as well as a flair for maths and stats then a career as an Actuary could be for you.

Career Overview

The Actuarial Society of South Africa defines an Actuary as:

“a professional who applies analytical, statistical and mathematical skills to financial and business problems. This is especially valuable when facing real-world problems that involve uncertain future events or financial risk such as calculating the price an insurer should charge customers for various insurance benefits, understanding the impact that different investments have on a pension fund’s expected risk and return, or calculating a bank’s risk due to home-loan customers being unable to repay their mortgage debt. This ability to quantify that which is unclear helps individuals and businesses to safeguard their future, confidently and at a fair price, in an ever-changing world.”

Basically, you’ll most likely work in financial and investment corporations to continually adjust their methodology of calculating risk, profits and quality of goods and services.

Because of the above, a strong mathematics ability is a must.

Required School Subjects

You will need to have taken the following subjects at high school:

  • Mathematics (with a final mark of 80%)
  • English or Afrikaans Home Language or First Additional Language (with a final mark of 60-69%)

Recommended subjects:

  • Alpha Maths
  • Additional language (with a final mark of 60-69%)

Institution and APS

The following institutions are highly recommended for Actuarial studies:

  • Stellenbosch University (85% selection mark)
  • University of Cape Town (UCT) – Faculty Point Score (FPS) of 500+
  • University of Pretoria – APS 34
  • University of Witwatersrand (Wits) – APS 40

Required Qualification/s

To become an Actuary, you don’t have to study Actuarial Science specifically at university. To qualify as an actuary with the Acturial Society, you need to pass all of their exams. They provide you with the learning material and other resources needed to study for these exams. However, if you study an Actuarial Science degree, you’ll obtain exemptions from these exams via your degree. The more you study (i.e. honours and masters) the more exemptions you’ll get.

If you opt for the Actuarial Science degree route:

  • Bachelor of Commerce (Actuarial Science)
  • Bachelor of Business Science (Actuarial Science)

Going the degree route means that you get exemptions, however, upon graduation you will not be a qualified actuary. There are different membership categories, the more exemptions, the higher category you’ll fall into,

If you decide to do it alone:

  • You’ll apply through the Actuarial Society and write the board exams, starting from the first.

Required Skills

As stated by ASSA (Actuary Society of South Africa), you will need the following skills:

  • financial and mathematical ability
  • risk evaluation and interest
  • analysis of deeper concepts
  • scientific techniques
  • asset management
  • communication
  • analytical and critical problem-solving

Where you can work

You have a few different options when choosing where to start your career. You can enter into any of the following industries: insurance, pensions, investments, banking, healthcare and risk management. You can do more technical work or you can work in a more consulting, managerial role. You’ll explore the various fields during your studies to allow you to get an idea of the various industries and what you enjoy.

Once you’ve chosen your industry of choice, you’ll most likely enter a graduate programme. You’ll be encourage to write the ASSA exams, however, it is your choice at which pace you’d like to complete the exams, if at all. From here on out you’ll get promoted based on your performance and your amount of exemptions.

Working Hours

Actuaries will typically work for financial and insurance firms who generally follow the standard working hours of 8am to 5pm. However, Actuaries are known to work hard and will often be required to work overtime to reach their deadlines.

Expected Salary

Actuaries are known to be some of the top earners in the world. With each actuary exam that you pass, the higher your salary. For example, someone who has graduated with a degree in actuarial science will earn a set salary. With each exam that they pass thereafter (while working), their company will increase their salary.

Here are the membership categories based on exams passed:

  • Technical (TASSA)
  • Fellowship (FASSA)
  • Associateship (AMASSA)
  • Chartered Enterprise Risk Actuary (CERA)

You can read more about the various memberships.

The below salaries are just guidelines and it can differ largely based on how many exams have been passed.

Entry-level (average): R505 913pa / R42 159pm

Mid-level (average): R696 412pa / R58 034pm

Upper-end (average): R1 285 238pa / R107 103pm

What to expect

The Actuarial Science degree is known to be one of the hardest degrees to pass. Understandably since Actuaries do hard, extremely important work and earn top salaries. You can expect to do a lot more studying and a lot less partying than your fellow students studying other degrees.

Some of the modules you’ll cover in your degree:

  • Economics
  • Actuarial Science
  • Mathematics
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Financial Accounting
  • Financial Risk Management
  • Business Management
  • Information Systems

Included in these studies are some of your Actuary board exams. These are the exams that help you gain exemptions. If you opt to do postgraduate studies, you can gain more exemptions through your studies. However, if you go straight to work, you can write an exam every 6 months. You will buy your study material through ASSA. Most companies that hire Actuaries, and where you find yourself working, will pay for your study material and for you to write the exams since it’s to their own advantage and benefit. They’ll also give you study leave.

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