The data science gap

The data science gap Research highlights the need to expand knowledge in the profession

The IFoA commissioned the research agency Living Brands to conduct a survey with over 500 members and conducted interviews with members, employers, and experts. Here’s what we learned:

Current landscape

  • 82% of members surveyed agreed that knowledge of data science (DS) is very or fairly important in the workplace. Notably, though, more experienced members were likely to deem DS as less important. 
  • Only 20% said they can confidently apply DS skills and 45% said that they know relatively little about DS beyond Excel. 
  • More than half of survey respondents told us they had recently taken advantage of learning that was available for free online or with their employer. The survey showed a high level of interest in all DS topics, but especially in modelling, data visualisation, and machine learning. It is also clear that, although Fellows currently make more use of R programming language in their daily work, there is now higher demand for learning in Python. 
  • 72% of respondents said they’d like to see the IFoA provide a new course on the subject. 

Future of the profession 

Interviews strongly suggested that change is coming across the profession. They revealed that actuaries are already working side-by-side with data scientists and learning the skills to process larger and less structured data and to oversee and assure such processes. While some worry was evident, many see opportunity for the profession.  

Amongst the more dramatic signs of change across our interviews were new job titles, such as actuarial technologist and actuarial developer.  

The level of support for the adoption of DS methodologies varies dramatically across regions. Our interviews suggest that UK and European firms are more prepared to invest in technology and upskilling than those in Asia. And our interviewees saw the greatest need for DS methodologies in pricing, with the least need in risk management. 

What we’re doing

The IFoA is continuing research in this area with its latest thematic review report, Actuaries using data science and artificial intelligence techniques, published on 26 February. To learn about the key findings, join our webinar with the report author Alan Marshall on Tuesday 19 March from 08:30 to 09:30. Book your place.

After pausing the IFoA Certificate in Data Science in 2023, we’re also exploring how we can deliver learning specific to actuarial work that meets the needs of both members and their employers. Join the conversation on IFoA communities to share your thoughts and ideas.

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