Careers Service Occupations

Actuarial, Insurance & Pensions

Actuarial, Insurance and Pensions


While actuaries traditionally worked in the insurance and pensions industries, many now work in the areas of healthcare, banking, business management and enterprise risk assessment.

The financial services industry employs about 4.4% of the UK workforce (Office for National Statistics, 2011).

Some employers are part of international groups or have international interests and clients. Opportunities outside the UK may be available to those making careers with global companies.

Careers advice

The following websites and documents give advice on acturial work and the sector in general:

For advice about careers in insurance and pensions, visit these sites:

Industry news

For news about the actuarial sector, check out the Inside Careers Newsletter or The Actuary, which includes Careers: Why become an actuary? 

For the latest stories about insurance, you'll find The Insurance TimesInsurance AgeInsurance Day and PostOnline useful.

Pensions news sites include Pensions Age and The Pensions Regulator.

Professional bodies

They represent the interests of people working in the sector, providing training and networking opportunities. They often provide careers support for students and graduates. Follow professional associations on LinkedIn or visit their websites for news, contacts, work experience and vacancies.

The main professional associations for this sector include:




Making contacts

Making contacts is useful for success in this sector. Gaining insight and arranging work experience comes through networking and speculative applications. You could start with:


Recruitment fairs, open days, talks and events give insights and opportunities to make contacts. Regular events organised by the Careers Service include Employer & Sector Insights and Recruitment Events.

Takeaway resources in the Careers Service

Inside Careers Guide to Actuaries

Related sectors

You can find information about other business and finance careers in this section. See our other Explore Occupations pages for more options. 


Roles & Skills

The following job profiles include descriptions of typical duties, entry requirements and case studies.

The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) provides information on the role of actuaries in different practice areas. Those working in insurance can specialise in commercial and corporate, life assurance, personal insurance and reinsurance.

Have a look at Prospects and targetjobs to find out what roles in this sector involve and how to get into them. You can also see employee profiles from Inside Careers.

These are some of the job profiles available:

Skills employers look for

Employers look for diverse skills, including:

  • analytical skills, problem-solving and logical reasoning
  • effective communication, particularly the ability to explain complex information
  • high levels of accuracy and attention to detail
  • the capacity to react quickly
  • numerical, research and administrative abilities
  • integrity and self-discipline

Gaining Experience

Entry into this sector is competitive. Work experience is vital to develop relevant skills and show your commitment to recruiters.

For more information on work experience in this sector see:

Relevant ways of getting experience could include:

  • being active in student societies, eg Newcastle Student Union Investment society
  • entering related competitions, such as Modeloff. See Awards & Competitions for details of other external competitions
  • building contacts, attending events, commenting on related blogs, following companies and professionals on Twitter and joining a professional body, such as IFoA
  • part-time work, which can help you develop relevant skills. Working in insurer contact centres, banks and building societies, sales roles and customer services can be useful. See Part-time jobs
  • voluntary work in a financial or advisory role with a charity. The Money Advice Service lists financial advice organisations for speculative approaches

Finding work experience

Several large companies offer paid internships, eg Allianz and Willis Towers Watson. Applications generally open around September, with closing dates as early as October and November.

Smaller companies often don’t advertise work experience, so you may need to contact them speculatively. Do this early, as it is competitive.


See Internships, placements and shadowing for additional ways to find work experience.

Finding companies

Find companies that interest you and get in touch with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for. Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. 

Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen. 

Even if they can’t offer work experience, talking to people working in the sector through an informational interview can also give valuable sector insight.

The following sources are excellent for finding firms:


Finding Jobs

Opportunities are available within insurance brokers, retail banks, supermarkets and specialist consultancies.

Actuaries work in retail and investment banks, the Government, accountancy and professional firms, actuarial and management consultancies. Competition for positions in this sector is strong.

Several large recruiters offer graduate schemes, for example LloydsZurich and RSA. Applications open early, around August, with closing dates usually between October and January.

Smaller companies don’t always advertise jobs or work experience. You may need to contact them with a speculative approach. Do this early as it takes time and is competitive.

Vacancy sites




Find jobs and additional vacancy source websites outside the UK on GoinGlobal.

Graduate schemes & entry level jobs 

Specialist recruitment agencies

See Graduate Jobs for more vacancy sources.

Finding companies

Not all jobs are advertised. You could also approach companies or find work through networking in the industry. 

Find companies that interest you and get in touch with a named contact. 

Be specific about what you’re looking for. Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. 

Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply - follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.

There are several places you can look for appropriate companies, including:

Self employment 

Being self-employed is possible in some areas of the industry. There are approximately 60,000 self-employed workers in the industry (Financial Skills Partnership, 2010).

START UP provides eligible students and graduates keen on starting a business with information on activities and support.

COBRA – factsheets and reports on starting up and running a business

Study & Training

Training and studying options for a career as an actuary, in insurance or pensions is outlined below.


You can join the profession by applying to an employer and joining a graduate training scheme. You need to pass courses administered by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA). 

As a trainee actuary, you will study towards an associateship (professional status). Qualifying for associate level takes between three and six years.

You can then study towards a fellowship. You can study for a chartered enterprise risk actuary qualification to specialise in risk management. 

IFoA’s Plan my Study Route gives more information about the routes and qualifications available.

Ideally your firm will support you, pay for exams, provide you with study leave and give you practical experience.


Unlike becoming a qualified actuary, there are no specific qualifications required for general insurance. 

Most companies encourage staff to take professional qualifications for continuing professional development (CPD). The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) provides professional qualifications at three levels - Certificate, Diploma and Advanced Diploma.

Many insurance graduate schemes include the Advanced Diploma in Insurance (ACII). Most graduates will complete their ACII in three years.  

If you are a graduate of Accounting, Business, Economics, Finance, Law or Management, you can get credits. These are often referred to as ‘exemptions’. They count toward CII qualifications and reduce the time taken to complete them. See CII: Recognition of prior learning


For the majority of graduate entry positions there are no on-the-job or postgraduate requirements, but professional qualifications can make a difference in your career development. 

For this sector The Pensions Management Institute provides professional qualifications. These range from beginners courses to managerial level qualifications.

Depending on your specialism, some Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) qualifications may be relevant. The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association also provides a training opportunities, including introductory training.