If so, you are probably considering a degree in Actuarial Science, finance or investment. If you have not as yet, we suggest that you do!

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1 Are you expecting at least 80% for school Mathematics and Physical Science, and looking for a business orientated professional career? If so, you are probably considering a degree in Actuarial Science, finance or investment. If you have not as yet, we suggest that you do! Page 1 of 6

2 WHY? 1. Actuarial work has always required a solid mathematical problem solving base, while modern finance and investment has become increasingly mathematical. You would therefore find a rewarding place for your skills. 2. The courses required for these careers are intellectually challenging and not many people can meet the demands. This means that the demand for degree qualifications in these areas is likely to be very high. 3. If you can repeat your school achievements at university, then you would qualify for a number of challenging, rewarding and well paid jobs. SO WHAT DOES AN ACTUARY DO? An actuary is a professional who applies analytical, statistical and mathematical skills to financial and business problems. This is especially valuable when facing real-world problems that involve uncertain future events or financial risk such as calculating the price an insurer should charge customers for various insurance benefits, understanding the impact that different investments have on a pension fund s expected risk and return, or calculating a bank s risk due to home-loan customers being unable to repay their mortgage debt. This ability to quantify that which is unclear helps individuals and businesses to safeguard their future, confidently and at a fair price, in an ever-changing world. They are able to provide realistic solutions to complex problems with a long term forward view. They are recognised to be pragmatic, innovative and numerate. Actuaries operate within a strict professional and ethical framework, advancing equity across all stakeholders and promoting the public interest. Further information is available at: IF YOU ARE INTERESTED, YOU PROBABLY WANT TO KNOW WHICH UNIVERSITY COURSES WOULD LAY THE BEST FOUNDATIONS. There are three main views as to what type of university education is the best should you wish to become an actuary. 1. The traditionalists view is that you should use the university as a place to get a broad education. People holding this view say you should take courses that most interest you. They would also say there is plenty of time, after university, to learn practical skills necessary in business. 2. The mathematicians view is that you would be best served by including as much mathematics and mathematical statistics in your undergraduate degree as possible. They would say that a good mathematical background is necessary to allow you to develop a deep insight into actuarial and financial issues. As these areas are developing rapidly, you will need a solid mathematical foundation to keep up in the future. 3. The practical businessmen s view would be that you should develop your business background as soon as possible. Those holding this view might say that you need to learn to think commercially, and that too many theoretical courses will make this less likely. Page 2 of 6

3 The main problem with the traditionalist s approach is that it will require you to study part-time for a significant period of time after university in order to qualify as an actuary. Part-time study is very difficult, and pass rates are generally low. It is also extremely difficult to return to high-level mathematics, if you have stopped studying it after school. If you have the financial support and the inclination to spend five or more years at university, this approach might, however, give you the most pleasure. Similarly the mathematicians and businessmen s approaches each lack balance, each focusing too much on each alternate approach. At Wits we therefore advocate a blended approach, one that combines the strengths of both these views, without either dominating, while at the same time giving you a range of subjects from the Science Faculty and the Commerce, Law & Management Faculty, satisfying in part the desires of the traditionalist. RECOMMENDED CURRICULUM Qualifying as an actuary currently requires obtaining credit for 13 separate professional subjects and satisfactory assessment at two workshop styled courses. Students who obtain adequate marks in the corresponding university subjects at Wits are able to obtain exemption from 12 of these professional subjects. Nine of these subjects are offered in a three-year undergraduate degree at Wits, with the other three for which exemption is possible being covered in the Honours year of study. While it depends on the number of exemptions obtained from the professional subjects, the average time to qualify as an actuary is expected to be approximately two to three years after graduation with an Honours degree. As explained above, the School of Statistics & Actuarial Science at Wits recommends a curriculum that combines both business and mathematical subjects, providing a balance between views two and three above, while offering the maximum number of exemptions. This curriculum is best followed in the Faculty of Science, and is given below: Bachelor of Science (Actuarial Science) 1 st year : Actuarial Science I, Mathematical Statistics I, Algebra I, Calculus I, Economics IA and IB, Business Accounting I 2 nd year : Actuarial Science II, Mathematical Statistics II, Mathematics II 3 rd year : Actuarial Science III, Mathematical Statistics III 4 th year : BScHonours degree in Actuarial Science Thereafter : FASSA, CERA, AMASSA, CFA or any other career in finance Page 3 of 6

4 Students leaning towards the mathematicians view, or whose second career choice would be of a more mathematical nature, should still choose a BSc degree, but could replace the Business Accounts option in first year with Computational and Applied Maths I. Note that this reduces by one the maximum number of possible exemptions, but allows more flexibility in switching to other related mathematical courses should one decide not to become an actuary. Those who strongly favour the business view, or whose second choice of career is more commercial, could register for a BEconSc, which can include the entire recommended curriculum but with Insurance & Risk Management as well as Economics II as additional subjects in the first and second years respectively. This route will have a very heavy workload, however, and as such is not encouraged. Most actuarial students register for a one year Honours degree in Actuarial Science on completion of their Bachelor s degree. Thereafter, the majority will enter the workplace, and complete the remaining subjects by writing internationally recognised professional exams. Upon completion, one becomes a Fellow of the Actuarial Society of South Africa (FASSA). Please note that Actuarial Science is a restricted entry course at Wits, and school marks in Mathematics, Physical Science and English are used as entry criteria. No applicant without at least 80% for Mathematics will be considered. Automatic entry is only granted to students with at least 80% for Mathematics, Physical Science and English. Other candidates with Mathematics distinctions and at least 70% for Physical Science and English may be waitlisted, with a limited number gaining access each year. Further information is available at: RELATED FIELDS AND DISCIPLINES Some students who start an actuarial degree find other related disciplines of greater interest to them. These other areas are often Mathematical Statistics (particularly with applications in finance or banking) or Financial Economics. It is generally possible for students to branch into these fields at the end of any of the undergraduate years of study, as many of the subjects needed are common to those required for actuarial science. Most often such students complete the BSc degree outlined above and then choose to complete an Honours degree in Mathematical Statistics or Financial Economics, instead of Actuarial Science. Others choose not to study further at university, and continue with the Actuarial Society Examinations on a correspondence basis, or become a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), a part-time qualification offered by the (US-based) Institute of Investment Management and Research, or become a Chartered Enterprise Risk Actuary (CERA), a global risk management qualification. IF YOU ARE NOT SURE If any of Actuarial Science, Mathematical Statistics or Financial Economics appeals to you, then you can begin with the BSc(Actuarial Science) and have the option of shifting to the other fields in your Honours year. Page 4 of 6

5 WHY STUDY AT WITS? ACTUARIAL SCIENCE Wits has a number of particular strengths that enables it to compete with the best in the world. 1. Currently (2015), we have 10 Fellow actuaries on the permanent staff, the largest complement of any South African university. In addition, a further six Fellows are employed on a sessional lecturer basis. The actuarial lecturers have extensive practical experience and participate actively in professional, business and community affairs. We are thus able to expose students to a wide range of professional issues and practical case studies. 2. Wits is the only university on the African continent that offers exemption from 12 of the professional Actuarial examinations through a four-year study path. Nine of these subjects are offered in a three-year undergraduate degree at Wits, with the other three for which exemption is possible being covered in the Honours year of study. 3. Professional Statisticians in the School of Statistics and Actuarial Science give students a particularly strong statistical foundation for their actuarial courses, working together with the actuaries to provide courses tailored to the needs of both professions. This is emphasized as the School forms a cluster with the other mathematical science schools in the Faculty of Science. 4. Wits is in the commercial heart of South Africa, and it is to be expected that both staff and students are conscious of business issues and opportunities. A significant number of Wits actuarial graduates have started their own companies before they reached their mid-thirties. Many occupy senior management roles in organizations both locally and internationally. 5. The Wits degree has proved a sound foundation for the international actuarial examinations with over 520 graduates having qualified as Fellow actuaries since the course began in Page 5 of 6

6 WHAT DO OUR GRADUATES SAY ABOUT OUR INTERNATIONAL STANDING? From a graduate now with a New York merchant bank after an MBA at Chicago: Although I am not currently doing actuarial work, I feel that actuarial training is invaluable professional training for a career in business. In addition, I feel it is relevant in a global context...much of the training which I received at Wits has been extremely helpful in the US. Finally, I feel privileged to have received a Wits education. In my experience it holds its own with the best schools in the World. From a recent graduate working in a London based insurance company: From what I ve seen over here, the Actuarial Science Honours degree at Wits is in a class of its own! From the Managing Director of a consulting company in Botswana: With regard to my Wits education, it was exemplary. Especially when I compare what I knew when I left Wits (even after spending too much time with RAG and body-building) to what my UK and US students know. From a graduate responsible for equity derivatives structured product trading at a London bank: My Wits degree was a good foundation for introduction into the fixed-income trading world, and the rigorous statistics course was most valuable in general. From a graduate enrolled at an American university: The third year/honours programme at Wits is easily better than the first year of the PhD programme I am currently enrolled in, measured in terms of quantity of work covered, quality of teaching, and the standard of learning attained by the average student. More details can be found on the Wits web-pages, or by contacting the School of Statistics & Actuarial Science CONTACT DETAILS TELEPHONE: (011) (Ms. Palesa Sekabate) WEBPAGE: Page 6 of 6

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