Were you one of those students who loved playing with numbers on the blackboard? Are you still that mathematical genius who solves trigonometric problems for fun? Do numerical puzzles still excite you?
Then, let me tell you about a job that will let you play around with numbers all day. For those who still can’t guess it, I’m talking about a career as an Actuary. Yes, the guys who crunch numbers and analyze data to take a look into the future for the people who have hired them.
Who is an actuary?
Actuaries are those people who identify, analyze and manage risk in a financial institution. These problem-solvers are equipped with a deep understanding of mathematics, finance, and statistics. They often play a major role in most decisions made by a financial institution and work alongside senior level management in the institution.
If the description given above rings bells inside your head, let me tell you how to become one.
How to become an actuary in India?
Now, let’s come to that million-dollar question. How to become an Actuary in India? Trust me, it’s no cakewalk. Just like CA or CS, you have a long way ahead. And the route is filled with pebbles, thorns, and diversions. So, better be careful with this part.
You’ve got a few routes to achieve your goal of becoming an actuary.
The most common way is by getting an actuarial accreditation from any of the institutes that function under the International Actuarial Association (IAA). For your kind information, the ‘International Actuarial Association (IAA) is a worldwide association of local professional actuarial associations’. It’s not me. Wikipedia said so.
Let’s get back to the point. Few of those IAA recognized actuarial societies that are accessible to you from India are Institute of Actuaries of India (IAI), Institute & Faculty of Actuaries, Uk (IFoA), Society of Actuaries, US (SoA) and the Casualty Actuarial Society, US (CAS).
Among them, Institute & Faculty of Actuaries, Uk (IFoA) is the most widely recognised actuarial society in the world. But in India, the Institute of Actuaries of India (IAI) is the most common route chosen by most students. Let’s keep Society of Actuaries, US (SoA) and the Casualty Actuarial Society, US (CAS) aside for now as they are less popular in India and are required only if you’re opting to work in the US. But even then, IAI and IFoA accreditations are valid in the US. So, why bother about that?
Let me help you understand how to go about the road chosen by most. Ie, to become a member of The Institute of Actuaries of India (IAI).
How to become an actuary in India: The Institute of Actuaries of India (IAI)
The Institute of Actuaries of India (IAI) is the association of actuaries in India and holds the right to control and regulate the education and training of actuaries in India.
Let’s say you’ve completed your 12th and have a good aptitude in mathematics and other commerce-related activities. Then, you’re eligible to take up this route towards becoming an actuary. But as completing the course will require a deeper understanding of the field and in-depth knowledge of subjects like mathematics, statistics, finance and economics, a few Actuary aspirants take up professional courses in the field before starting the journey. You must have seen Actuarial science among the academic programs offered by many reputed institutions, right?
Actuarial Common Entrance Test (ACET)
The next step is to clear the Actuarial Common Entrance Test (ACET). ACET is your entry ticket towards becoming a member of the Institution of Actuaries of India (IAI). This is the qualifying exam that makes you eligible to attempt the main actuary course. This computer-based test checks your aptitude for becoming an actuary through a series of multiple-choice questions.
This two-hour exam is for 100 marks and has 55 questions, divided into three sections. ACET happens twice in a year, probably in the months of June and December and is comparatively easier than the actual course.
Clearing ACET will make you a student member of the Institution of Actuaries of India (IAI). This membership will allow you to sit for various competitive exams conducted by IAI, including the main actuarial course. Once you’ve cleared the ACET and have become a student member of IAI, you’re qualified to appear for the main actuary course.
Actuary main course
When I say course, I’m not talking about joining an institution and taking up an academic course. To become an actuary, there are only exams and it’s not mandatory to spend years inside a campus. If you need professional assistance, various coaching institutes provide training for the Actuarial main course. Going for BSc or MSc in Actuarial science from a reputed institution can also help you in your journey.
The course consists of 15 exams divided into four stages. They are Core Technical (CT) Core application (CA) Specialist technical (CA) and specialist application (CS).
Actuary course: The ‘Core’ stages
The first two stages are the core stages. Choice of specialization is not available for these two stages. You’ve to clear all papers from both the stages to move to the specialist stages. Successful completion of these two stages will make you academically qualified to be an associate member of the Institution of Actuaries of India (IAI).
Actuary course: Core technical stage (CT)
The Core technical stage consists of 9 papers. This includes 8 regular subject-based papers and one business awareness model. This stage looks into core mathematics and also gives an introduction to statistics, finance, and economics. The purpose of the Core Technical (CT) stage is to test the theoretical knowledge of concepts the candidate needs to deal with. It is mandatory to clear all 9 papers of this stage to go forward.
The core technical papers are
- CT1 – Financial Mathematics
- CT2 – Finance and Financial Reporting
- CT3 – Probability and Mathematical Statistics
- CT4 – Models
- CT5 – Life Contingencies
- CT6 – Statistical Models
- CT7 – Business Economics
- CT8 – Financial Economics
- CT9 – Business Awareness
Actuary course: Core Application stage (CA)
The second stage is the core application stage. It consists of three papers. This stage is about the application of the core concepts covered in the Core Technical (CT) stage. It is mandatory to clear all three papers of the core application stage to move forward. The papers that come under this stage are
- CA1 – Actuarial Risk Management
- CA2 – Model Documentation, Analysis and Reporting
- CP3 – Communication Practice
Though successful completion of the first two stages makes a candidate academically eligible to move forward, a one-year practical experience along with that is mandatory to become an associate member of Institution of Actuaries of India (IAI). If that’s also achieved, he or she will be able to add AIAI designation to his or her name and will also have the right to vote while electing the council for the body of actuaries of India.
Actuary course: The specialist stages
Successful completion of the core stages will make a candidate eligible to appear for the specialist stages. These are Specialist Technical (ST) and Specialist Application (SA). This is where you actually get to specialize in your interested area under actuarial science. Successful completion of these stages will make you a fellow member of the Institution of Actuaries of India (IAI).
Actuary course: Specialist Technical stage (ST)
This is where you get to choose from technical papers provided. This stage offers 6 papers from actuarial specialist subjects and you have to choose two among the choices available. The papers available to you are
- ST1 – Health and Care Specialist Technical
- ST2 – Life Insurance Specialist Technical
- ST3 – General Insurance Specialist Technical
- ST4 – Pensions and other Benefits Specialist Technical
- ST5 – Finance and Investment Specialist Technical A
- ST6 – Finance and Investment Specialist Technical B
- ST7 – General Insurance – Reserving and Capital Modelling Specialist Technical
- ST8 – General Insurance – Pricing Specialist Technical
- ST9 – Enterprise Risk Management Specialist Technical
Actuary course: Specialist application (SA)
Specialized Application (SA) is the final stage of the actuarial course under the institution of actuaries of India (IAI). This stage offers six sets of papers. Here, a candidate has to choose one paper for specialization. As it’s the gateway towards becoming a fellow member of the IAI, this paper is also called Fellowship paper. The papers offered during this stage are
- SA1 – Health and Care Specialist Applications
- SA2 – Life Insurance Specialist Applications
- SA3 – General Insurance Specialist Applications
- SA4 – Pensions and other Benefits Specialist Applications
- SA5 – Finance Specialist Applications
- SA6 – Investment Specialist Applications
Actuary course: Practical experience
On successful completion of this stage, a candidate becomes academically qualified to become a fellow member of IAI. But to be accepted as a fellow member, you need to have at least three years of practical work experience in the field. Candidates usually start working in the field after clearing the first 3 papers.
How to become an actuary in India: Institute & Faculty of Actuaries, Uk (IFoA)?
In the case of the Faculty of Actuaries, Uk (IFoA), you don’t have to clear the ACET to appear for the mains. You can directly start with the main course. The main papers are more or less the same for both IAI and IFoA. Even IFoA exams have 4 stages. Core Technical (CT), Core Application (CA), Specialist Technical (CT) and Specialist Application (CS). Moreover, if you’re someone who has cleared 3 papers of the mains conducted by the Faculty of Actuaries, Uk (IFoA), you can directly enroll for the main course provided by IAI without appearing for ACET.
Many candidates choose the Faculty of Actuaries, Uk (IFoA) exams in India instead of the course conducted by IAI. This is because the papers are comparatively easier than that of IAI. But at the same time, the pass mark and cost is comparatively higher.
Actuarial science offers plenty of career opportunities. Actuaries are of high demand all around the world and hold a high reputation in the finance industry. But in India, it is a very less explored field. The body of actuaries, IAI, has only less than 400 fully qualified members. This opens up a lot of doors for the aspirants of this profession in India. In this article, we discussed the route towards becoming an actuary in India. The choice depends on an individual’s potential and career goals. Always remember that you make your own destiny. Make sure that you invest time and thought before making your life-changing decisions. I hope the illustrated analysis have powered up your insights and has widened your perspectives.