Introduction to Being an Actuary

Before discussing the intrinsic (and rather subjective) advantages and disadvantages of being an actuary, I believe it is important to gain a grasp as to what exactly is an actuary and what does an actuary actually do.

An actuary is a corporate professional who deals on the monetary basis of risk and uncertainty. They deal in in-depth mathematical approximations and estimations to calculate the probability of outcomes in order to maximise income and minimise costs from associated future events as well as the associated time value of money. (To gain a more extensive understanding - check out the video below 'What Exactly is an Actuary?')

If you are interested in becoming in actuary either as a first time graduate job (or even without a degree) or as a career (Job) change and want to know what it takes it to really succeed as an actuary then you shouldn't really look any further than the 'Actuaries' Survival Guide: How to Succeed in One of the Most Desirable Professions' - which is by far one of the most comprehensive guides upon such a subject. For a book more complete on the tips and tricks of becoming an actuary, then I recommend the book by Melissa Rosales - 'How to Land a Top-Paying Actuaries Job: Your Complete Guide to Opportunities, Resumes and Cover Letters, Interviews, Salaries, Promotions, What to Expect from Recruiters and More'.

What Exactly is an Actuary?

Advantages of Being an Actuary

High Compensation Packages - an obvious benefit that comes with being an actuary is the relatively high compensation packages that actuaries receive. In the UK an actuary typically receives around £60,000 or more for experience of over 10 years within the role and more for those who undertake a senior actuarial role, £100,000 +. Job perks and conditions are obviously individual to the company but it is common for them to be substantial also. (Graduates in the position of a junior actuary etc. can expect to recieve around the £25,000 mark with their wage often increasing with every qualification 'passed').

Corporate Respect - a real positive aspect of being an actuary is the corporate respect that you receive for undertaking such a role. Where an actuary can often command a good degree of respect from fellow co-workers and potential clients due to their expertise (and obviously those who know exactly what an actuary is). So, if you are looking for a certain authority and presence within a company and corporate environment, then becoming an actuary is a great way to achieve such an ideal.

Intellectual Satisfaction (especially if you enjoy Mathematics) - another great merit of being an actuary is the variation and type of work problems and situations that you have to deal with. If you enjoy solving mathematical problems and the creation of financial products, this will obviously factor in as an advantage of being an actuary - as you will find the work intellectually stimulating. There are however different areas that actuaries work within and along with that different actuaries will find different areas of the profession satisfying. But, on the whole if you enjoy solving quantitative problems and scenarios then it can be a great job on a job satisfaction level. 

Disadvantages of Being an Actuary

You Train Long and You Train Hard - a potential negative aspect that comes with being an actuary especially at the early stages is the long and hard process of training and passing examinations. Almost all actuaries will tell you the examination stage and the actual process of qualifiying as an actuary is a pretty tough ordeal that will require hundreds of hours of study and revision - taking on average more than 3 years to qualify - all the while still having to go to work. Hence, becoming an actuary requires a pretty big committment, so it is important that those who are pondering on whether to become an actuary or not give it sufficient thought and research before going for it.

Stressful and Hard Work - another perhaps rather subjective drawback of being an actuary is that at times it can be a rather stressful ordeal, as you are being dealt with numerous tasks of analysing statisictical data to presenting reports and explaining their implications to managers and directors all within specific deadlines can cause a great deal of stress upon an individual. Having said that, there are some who thrive on such stress and hard work - so again as stated before this all really depends on the type of person and how they cope with the work load.

Boring? - obviously this is a rather extreme opinion, but there are claims that the work of an actuary can be rather tedious and feel meaningless - pretty boring (even from current and past actuaries). This is why it is important to really extensively research what a actuary does before you commit to becoming one, as you may find that is was not anything like you imagined. Although, this rather contradicts the previous advantage of 'intellectual satisifcation' it is again dependent upon the person. It would probably be wise to also gain work experience in an actuarial firm to decide really whether this is the right career path for you.

Summary of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Being an Actuary

Obviously the above list of advantages and disadvantages of being an actuary is a rather a tongue in cheek attempt, but at the least I hope that it has pointed out the general outlook of what the positive and negative aspects are of an actuarial profession. Do the advantages appeal to you and you dismiss the disadvantages, then that might suggest that you may indeed want to become an actuary and should probably commit to further research if you think the actuarial role suits you -- or perhaps try out for an internship. However, if you found it to be the other way round for example you do not have keen interest for solving quantitative issues then perhaps you can potentially discard the actuarial career path. 

In my general opinion an individual with a keen interest for solving varying quantitative issues with the like for a good compensation along with a deal of corporate respect, then that individual should certainly consider the role of an actuary. If you have anymore additional advantages and disadvantages for being an actuary or any general experiences on being an actuary or just a general remark then I encourage you to please leave a comment below.