Actuarial science: What subjects should you be studying at school?

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I know what you’re thinking—the world of full-time work and careers seems so far away, so why should you think the things you do now could affect your future career? But even though it feels a long way off, it’s always a good idea to start thinking about your career now. The best way to do that is to consider which subjects you should take to help you reach your goal.

Choosing relevant subjects is important, but it’s also vital to consider which are your strongest subjects and which ones you will enjoy studying in order to help you perform well in your exams and achieve good grades.

Actuarial science is the study of risk management and uses mathematics to measure the probability of future events. It makes sense that if you want to become an actuary you need to study mathematics. What can be less clear is the other subjects and your own interests that will look great on your CV. Luckily, we’ve put together a list of key subjects and extra activities for you to consider.

Mathematics

This is an obvious one, but it’s worth remembering just why mathematics is so essential to the work of an actuary. The world of numbers and statistics are at the core of actuarial science. If you have a knack for maths and don’t mind being surrounded by data and statistics all day, actuarial science may be the job for you. To keep developing this skill, remember to focus on practical rather than theoretical maths. Think about ways that statistics daily life. Try and challenge yourself with new mathematical formulas.

Maths

Maths is the subject most associated with this career, but other maths-based subjects, such as physics, are useful as well. Subjects such as further maths, physics, economics, accounting, engineering, chemistry, and statistics are all important for future actuary students. The will prepare you for a life spent working with numbers and give you a good overview of how maths works in practice.

Communication-based subjects

Much of your work will involve communicating with other people. Actuaries need to talk to colleagues — who may not have a financial or mathematics background — and explain their findings. You could find yourself working in a wide range of fields, from insurance or pensions to corporate finance, healthcare or even agriculture. Subjects such as English, drama, foreign languages, politics and philosophy will all be a great addition to your skillset. Focus on improving your written and conversational skills. You don’t need to have the confidence to address a room full of executivesyet, but realise that this scenario might be in your future. So, try and prepare for it!

Computing

In much of your job as an actuary, you will use computer programming languages to collect, organise and analyse data sets and produce reports. Keep in mind school subjects like computer science or digital technology. While you probably won’t need to know how to build your own website, knowing your way around a spreadsheet or programming languages, such as SQL, R and Python, can be incredibly useful.

Additional subjects

You could spend much of your time as an actuary working in large corporate organisations managing risks that drastically affect the outcome of the business’s projected profits or efficiency. Studying business, law, psychology or sociology help you in a business environment. Going into the industry with a working knowledge of how most businesses function and the ins and outs of the finances will set you apart from the rest.

Other activities

It’s not all about what you do in the classroom (though your grades do count quite a bit, sorry)—showing that you have a life that reflects your passion can also work in your favour. If you want to build up your social skills, why not try volunteering at a local charity shop or food bank. They need the help and you can learn to become more comfortable talking and chatting in a work environment. Team sports such as football or hockey can teach you about leadership, strategy and improve your social skills.

Taking up an instrument can be a fun creative hobby that also looks good on your CV as it shows perseverance and self-directed learning. If it’s available at your school, consider volunteering to be a peer tutor. This is a great way to build up your skills while helping others. More relaxing activities such as board games or computer games can also help you prepare for a future career. Games that rely on strategy and focus can help bring the idea of risk assessment and strategy into your everyday life. Pick up a hobby like this over the summer and you won’t regret it.

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