Taking an actuarial apprenticeship

Image of actuarial apprentice
Liam Wood is an actuarial apprentice at Aon. He discusses his job and why he chose it rather than do an actuarial science degree.

Liam decided against university and took an actuarial apprenticeship instead. Here’s his story so far.

  • 2013 – worked for two years as part of match-day catering staff at West Bromwich Albion FC; two weeks of accountancy work experience
  • 2014 – A levels in maths, biology, chemistry and Spanish
  • 2014 – joined Aon as a production administrator
  • 2016 – started as an actuarial apprentice

Liam says…

I was put off going to university by the financial cost. Not only did I not want the debt, I didn’t think the maintenance loan would have been enough to cover living costs and my parents didn’t have the money to help either. I initially wanted to study accounting and finance, but after doing a fortnight’s work experience at an accountancy firm I was left with the impression that the work could get quite monotonous. So I began to see if there were other careers in the financial services industry that I would be interested in.

Finding an actuarial apprenticeship

While I was looking into going to university, I discovered that you could do a degree in actuarial science, which seemed like a good career to get into. Actuaries use mathematic formulae to evaluate risks in areas such as pensions, insurance and healthcare, and provide services to individuals and organisations based on these evaluations. However, I was unsure of whether I would be able to achieve the high grades universities seemed to ask for to study actuarial science. The careers team at school sent round an email with a list of opportunities for school leavers, and I noticed Aon’s actuarial apprenticeship on there. Before then, I didn’t really know that there was an alternative route into the actuarial profession – without going to university.

After I had applied for the apprenticeship I got a call that informed me that the apprenticeship wasn’t going to be ready for another year. However, after a separate application process, Aon took me on in an alternate role as a production administrator for that year. This role involved assisting on projects from elsewhere in Aon by applying administrative processes in order to make the work more efficient.

Relevant experience is valuable, but, especially for school leavers, I don’t think it is a requirement. When it came to applying for the apprenticeship again, I still didn’t have any in-depth experience of actuarial work. Obviously, after a year at a company which provided actuarial services I had a slightly better understanding of what it entailed, but not to any significant extent. I think the key thing that impressed during my interview, and that I had demonstrated through my part-time work and at Aon, was my work ethic. Things I’d done that I didn’t think were important, such as managing a catering team, ended up giving me skills that helped me significantly.

What my job involves

As an actuarial apprentice at Aon I work in retirement, looking after the pension schemes of large companies. Essentially it’s my job to help employers meet the funding requirements to pay members’ pensions. Working in pensions is actually quite interesting. It’s varied and I get to apply mathematical techniques practically to my work every single day.

Qualifying as an actuary

I’m currently working towards the Certified Actuarial Analyst qualification, which is a course of six exams. I’ve done two of these exams and can carry on completing them once my apprenticeship finishes. There is also the potential of progressing down the more traditional route and becoming certified with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. This takes around 15 exams, and some are only sat twice every year so it can take a number of years. I’d like to go down that route and become a fully qualified actuary. I also complete a log book that tracks my progress through work, to show that I’ve met certain work-based criteria.

It’s not easy trying to balance working with studying in the evenings and weekends. But, if you can master it, it’s highly beneficial and quite satisfying. I get eight days of leave per exam for studying, on top of my annual leave, but I still have to sacrifice some of my own time. I do enjoy having something to aim for outside of work though, and I like having an alternative to going out and spending lots of money like my housemates who go to university.

Advice for school leavers

Throughout my apprenticeship I’ve learned the importance of, and how much employers and colleagues value, being ambitious. I always try and bear in mind while working not to be complacent and to go out and grab whatever opportunities that may arise. The more you get involved the easier it is to fit into to an employer’s culture. Once you’d adapted to the environment, that’s when you can set your roots down and really flourish as an individual.

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