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Old 05-25-2013, 12:50 PM   #1
qwertie
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Default FAQ about (studying) Actuarial Science in Singapore

Introduction

Hello all! I have been asked quite a number of times by forum users who are keen on studying actuarial science in Singapore and want to find out more. In view of the rising interest in actuarial science, I have decided to write about the course of study and the outlook for working in the insurance industry.

Having studied in NTU, my advice and experiences will be skewed to the NBS actuarial science specialisation. I am aware that SMU and NUS do have some actuarial science courses. I welcome any SMU/NUS peeps to contribute to this thread if they have some knowledge about studying actuarial science in their respective universities!

Lastly, do note that much of what I have written in this thread stems from my own experiences and opinions, and I may stand corrected on certain issues. If you find any discrepancies, please do raise these up with me and I will review/clarify my post accordingly.

I hope that you will find this thread useful in helping you make a decision as to whether to plunge into the actuarial science sector!

1. What is actuarial science?

Actuarial science is the discipline that applies mathematical and statistical methods to assess risk in the insurance and finance industries. Actuaries are professionals who are qualified in this field through education and experience. In many countries, actuaries must demonstrate their competence by passing a series of rigorous professional examinations.

Actuarial science includes a number of interrelating subjects, including probability, mathematics, statistics, finance, economics, financial economics, and computer programming.

(taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actuarial_science)

2. How do I become an actuary?

Firstly, there are 2 main bodies governing the study of actuarial science worldwide. They are the
- Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IoA for short)
http://www.actuaries.org.uk/
- Society of Actuaries (USA)
http://www.soa.org/

Both systems are equally recognised and valued around the world, and each offers standardised exams that an actuarial student must pass before being awarded ‘fellow’ status. Of course, if one chooses to sit for the exams of a particular system, he/she must follow through the same system in order to reach fellow status. There is no such thing as ‘exam-hopping’.

How to become an actuarial student? There are many ways:
- Become a private candidate and study full-time at home
- Work in an (unrelated) company and study it part-time
- Work in a (related) company and study it part-time
- Take up the actuarial science undergraduate/postgraduate course (see following section)

What I mean by ‘related’ and ‘unrelated’ is the company’s relevance to the actuarial science industry. Related companies are mostly insurance companies (and also the Big 4*) that will actually sponsor your actuarial education, where all your notes and exams are paid for by the company. This is a very coveted route, as the study notes and exam cost a BOMB (e.g. for the IoA, just sitting for one exam will easily suck at least a hundred pounds from you). These companies also provide study support, where you can take (paid) study leave when your exam dates draw nearer. Of course, these benefits differ from company to company.

* The Big 4 (Ernst & Young, PwC, KPMG and Deloitte) are well-known for their accounting aspects, but what most people are unaware of is that they also have a (small) actuarial department where they recruit actuaries/actuarial trainees. This is because they require the expertise and advice of actuaries whenever they audit insurance companies. Some of them call it actuarial auditing.

Unrelated companies are any other company which do not provide study benefits to their employees, mainly because they aren’t related to the insurance industry in any way.

3. How do I get to study actuarial science in NTU?

As mentioned earlier, in NTU, actuarial science is presented as a specialisation under the Bachelor of Business. It can be taken as a single degree, or as a double degree together with accounting. For those new to the business degree in NTU, a brief outline of the course is reflected below:

- Single degree is a 3-year course, direct honours. For double degree, it is a 4-year course, direct honours.
- 1st year is a common year for all accounting and business undergraduates. They sit for the same modules.
- At the end of their 1st year, all business students will be asked to choose a specialisation. The available choices are
o Actuarial science
o Banking and Finance
o Marketing
o Human Resource Consulting
o Information Technology
o Tourism and Hospitality Management
- From their 2nd year onwards through to graduation, they read core modules specific to their specialisation.

There are certain criteria that must be met before one can specialise in actuarial science.
- Minimum of 'B' for AB103 / AB1202 (Statistical Methods), and
- Composite Average Marks in the following 4 courses
o AB102 / AB1201 (Financial Management)
o AB103 / AB1202 (Statistical & Quantitative Methods)
o AB106 / AB0901 (Principles of Economics: A Singapore Perspective)
o AA101 / AB1101 (Accounting I)

Remember, these are the minimum criteria. As the cohort size of actuarial science is restricted to 50 (mainly because we don’t have that many actuarial professors to teach us), if an oversubscription occurs, the criteria might become more stringent and only the people with higher grades get in.
Although you only need to get a minimum of B for the year one statistics module, I advise that one should only consider applying for actuarial science if he/she gets at least a B+ (though A- and above is better). Actuarial science is FULL of math and there is a strong emphasis on statistics. If you are not adept with it, you will face a lot of difficulty in handling the course.

Last edited by qwertie; 07-03-2013 at 11:59 AM.
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Old 05-25-2013, 12:53 PM   #2
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Default FAQ about (studying) Actuarial Science in Singapore (part 2)

4. What can I expect from studying actuarial science in NTU?

NBS follows the IoA system, and offers the potential to clear up to 8 CT papers. The IoA system is described below:

Core technical (CT) subjects (ALL are compulsory)

IoA papers = NTU papers
CT1 Financial mathematics = BA2202 Mathematics of Finance
CT2 Finance and financial reporting = AB1101 Accounting I + AB1201 Financial Management (NOTE: these are year one modules!)
CT3 Probability and mathematical statistics = BA2203 Statistical Modelling
CT4 Models = BA2204 Models
CT5 Contingencies = BA3201 Life Contingencies & Demography
CT6 Statistical methods = BA3202 Actuarial Statistics
CT7 Business economics = AB0901 Economics (year one module) + BA2201 Actuarial Economics
CT8 Financial economics = BA3203 Actuarial Aspects of Asset Valuation
CT9 Business awareness (this paper requires a year of working experience and an interview with an IoA person)

This table shows the corresponding NTU modules. They are directly linked to the IoA syllabus and are set by the NTU professors themselves. If you do well enough in the NTU papers, you will be granted an exemption from the IoA papers. This exemption means that it is as good as having sat and passed the IoA papers. Also, you do not need to pay any extra fees which usually happens if you take the IoA exams on your own.

Under the old system, exemptions were granted on a paper-by-paper basis, meaning that you are required to do well in every paper if you are gunning for full exemptions. But under the new system (which rolled out for the 2012 actuarial science batch), exemption is now awarded on a weighted-average basis. This means that even if one doesn’t do so well in a certain paper, but does excellently in another, the good grade for that paper will be used to ‘offset’ the poorer grade, and the student still gets exemptions for both papers. In other words, it is much easier to get more exemptions now. Future actuarial batches are very lucky!

(In case you are curious, I am under the old system so I don’t get to enjoy this new exemption method. T_T)

Core applications (CA) subjects (ALL are compulsory)
CA1 - Actuarial risk management
CA2 - Model documentation, analysis and reporting
CA3 - Communications

Specialist technical (ST) subjects (choose 2 only)
ST1 - Health and care
ST2 - Life insurance
ST4 - Pensions and other benefits
ST5 - Finance and investment A
ST6 - Finance and investment B
ST7 - General insurance: reserving and capital modelling
ST8 - General insurance: pricing
ST9 - Enterprise risk management

Specialist applications (SA) subjects (choose 1 only)
SA1 - Health and care
SA2 - Life insurance
SA3 - General insurance
SA4 - Pensions and other benefits
SA5 - Finance
SA6 – Investment

The CA, ST and SA papers are not offered by NTU. Most actuarial science graduates, if they decide to pursue a career as an actuary, will proceed to apply for jobs in insurance companies which will sponsor them for their further studies in actuarial science (as mentioned earlier).

However, there are a number of universities overseas that allow for students to become a full-time mugger. Some examples are the University of Kent in UK and the City University of London. They offer so-called masters courses in actuarial science, which basically covers the CA, ST and SA syllabus.

One pertinent question that most aspiring actuaries ask is, to be a part-time or full-time mugger?

The advantages of being a part-time mugger is that your studies are sponsored and you gain working experience at the same time, which helps you stay relevant and promotion opportunities are higher. Also, with every pass obtained, your monthly salary will increase by $100-$200! BUT, note that you have to work and study concurrently. It is very difficult and requires tons of self-discipline. Imagine working from 9-5pm and trudging home, but you can’t relax just yet! You have to spend the time studying for the actuarial exams (which in IoA, typically takes place twice a year during Apr/May and Sep/Oct). The possibility of failure and repeated attempts at the same exam is higher too. One thing to note is that your company might not sponsor repeated attempts!

The advantages of being a full-time mugger - not only do you get to study without distraction, you will also receive guidance and tutorials (i.e. extra practice) from your university professors. Therefore, the chances of scoring well enough to pass is definitely much higher. The downside is the cost of studying overseas, as well as the increased likelihood of sinking into obscurity, due to the lack of working experience during the course of your study. Companies might hesitate at employing graduates with a pocketful of exemptions (which means they have to pay a higher salary), but with a lack of working knowledge.

As you can see, relevant working experience is very important! This is why your first job after graduation pretty much determines your future career path.

What is a ‘safe’ grade that I should get for NTU papers in order to be granted the exemption?

At least an A- to be certain about obtaining the exemption, and with a 50% chance if you get B+. Virtually no chance if you score below B+. The criterion for exemption is very high! Note that coursework doesn’t count in the consideration for exemption. It only affects your NTU GPA. Typically, the weighting in NTU actuarial modules is like this:

- 10% class participation
- 20% mid-term test
- 70% final exam

The 70% final exam is the only consideration in awarding the exemption. It is possible to do badly for the first 2 coursework but ace the final exam and still get the exemption, although your overall grade might not look so nice.
However, our actuarial professors try to be friendlier in giving marks for coursework so that students can still score well in their cumulative GPAs. Therefore, mid-terms tend to be easy. Don’t let the easy mid-terms fool you into thinking that that is the standard of the final exams! The final paper is much more difficult and rigorous.

Additionally, approximately 30% of the cohort will obtain the exemption for a certain paper, from past records. To me, that is a pretty low figure and if you do some basic calculations, the probability of obtaining exemptions for all 8 papers are 0.3^8 = 0.00006561!!
\( o.O ; )/ But with the new system as mentioned above, hopefully the exemption rate will increase!

So when you decide to choose the actuarial science specialisation in NTU, you must be very certain about it and persevere. In every year, there are a few students who struggle so much with the demands of the course, that they drop out eventually. This is not ideal, as they might have delayed their graduation when they switch specialisations.

In the CT papers, the math that you will usually make use of are
- Integration and differentiation - be very good at this!
- Arithmetic and geometric progression
- Maclaurin’s series
- Statistics (binomial, poisson, uniform, normal, beta, gamma, etc + central limit theorem + confidence intervals + statistical tests such as Z test and T test)

I strongly recommend all incoming actuarial students to read up on their JC H2 mathematics before your 2nd year!!! Don’t be like me where I was hit in the face at full blast with complicated mathematics, with only my rusty JC math to combat the highly challenging syllabus. :/

5. What are the chances of scoring an actuarial trainee job with only mediocre results?

It depends on how you define 'mediocre'.

If you mean a low cGPA, cGPA technically doesn't matter because employers will be much more interested in the number of exemptions you have managed to secure in school. But cGPA correlates with the number of exemptions one has because to be awarded an exemption for the paper, it means that the letter grade scored is usually high (A- and above), which will definitely increase your cGPA. Then again, I have heard that a senior flunked his mid-terms, did well for the finals but still wound up with a B- and he still got the exemption. The university grading system isn't transparent, so it is quite difficult to determine the contribution of each assessment criteria to the final grade.

If you mean that you didn't manage to obtain many exemptions, my actuarial profs told us that graduating with 3-4 exemptions is already considered respectable by insurance companies and if students do proceed on to an actuarial career, they will just have to retake the ones they 'failed', with 'failed' being in inverted commas because the passing mark is way above 50% of the total marks. An IoA person told us that ideally people should score 65% and above to be considered for exemption. So even if you only managed to attain 3-4 exemptions in school out of the possible 8, this shouldn't affect your chances of securing an actuarial job much. Interview skills and resumes will come more into play here.

6. I heard that anyone of any discipline, particularly in the mathematical sciences, can work as actuarial trainees too. In that case, isn't my actuarial science degree not as valuable?

You are right that we face competition from graduates of other disciplines like mathematics. But we do have a distinct advantage over them in the sense that we already have a few exemptions and are more likely able to attain actuary status in a shorter time. You can compare this situation to that of accountants. While it is possible for non-accounting graduates to get offered accounting jobs as long as they take a part-time accredited accountancy course while working, accounting firms generally prefer their employees to have an accountancy degree. In other words, apart from medicine and dentistry, no one degree holds any monopoly over the related industry's workforce.

Last edited by qwertie; 06-01-2013 at 03:33 PM.
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Old 05-25-2013, 01:07 PM   #3
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7. What are the job prospects for actuaries in Singapore?

In the recent list of best jobs in the world, being an actuary came out tops! Of course, that survey was conducted in the US, so it might not be totally relevant in Singapore. But it is a well-known fact that once you reach fellow status (i.e. a full-fledged actuary), you are THERE. You have made it through the long and tedious route, went through the rite of passage, blah blah blah. In a nutshell, employment opportunities for actuaries are excellent, and your skills are transferable across industries and across international borders. What is more, you command a big fat pay!

In the insurance sector, it is mainly divided into 2 areas – life insurance and non-life insurance (i.e. general insurance, such as motor insurance, property & casualty insurance, travel insurance etc). In Singapore, the life insurance sector is much larger because of the larger market for it. It is also the most popular route for all aspiring actuaries. As an actuary, your skills are transferable across these 2 areas, so even though you have been in the life insurance sector since forever, you can easily hop over to general insurance with little difficulty.

The attrition rate for aspiring actuaries is quite high. Along the way, actuarial trainees get discouraged by repeated failures, coupled with the long working hours and average salary to boot. They then move on to other related sectors, such as the finance industry and go into investment banking, for example. Also, many actuarial science graduates do not find a job in the insurance industry upon graduation, either due to the small industry which in turn leads to the small supply of jobs, or because they are unwilling to pursue this long and difficult career path.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you have read through all the above and are still keen on pursuing actuarial science… congratulations! I wish you all the best in your endeavours.

Please feel free to PM me or drop me a reply in this thread if you have any further questions!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Oh, and do note that there is a club catered to the actuarial science population in NTU - the Quantitative Finance & Actuarial Science Club (QFASC)! http://www3.nbs.ntu.edu.sg/clubs/qfasc/

If you wish to be exposed to leadership opportunities and organising risk/insurance-related events, do consider joining the club!

Last edited by qwertie; 06-01-2013 at 03:29 PM.
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Old 06-01-2013, 03:31 PM   #4
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Hello again! I have received some private messages with further questions about actuarial science. For the benefit of all readers, I have updated my thread accordingly to include their questions and my answers.
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Old 07-03-2013, 11:58 AM   #5
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Hi all, I have edited my first post again, because I just realised that there are really only 2 bodies governing the study of actuarial science, which is the US's SoA and UK's IoA. Australia in fact follows the UK system, and it does not have a separate examination system.

Sorry for the misinformation!
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Old 07-04-2013, 11:49 AM   #6
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Hi! I think I know who you are, I'm from your batch too

Just wanted to give a minor correction, Australia does have its own exam system. They just outsource their Part I (corresponds to CT1-8), but Part II and Part III are entirely administered by Australia.

There are also other exam systems (South Africa, Switzerland etc.) with varying degrees of global recognition, but it's safe to say that the UK and US systems are the most recognised globally.

Great guide btw, thanks for putting in the effort
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Old 07-05-2013, 07:49 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thekang View Post
Hi! I think I know who you are, I'm from your batch too

Just wanted to give a minor correction, Australia does have its own exam system. They just outsource their Part I (corresponds to CT1-8), but Part II and Part III are entirely administered by Australia.

There are also other exam systems (South Africa, Switzerland etc.) with varying degrees of global recognition, but it's safe to say that the UK and US systems are the most recognised globally.

Great guide btw, thanks for putting in the effort
Hahaa, how do you know who I am? There are quite a number of 3rd (now 4th!) year acbs ppl in our batch. But, I think I know who you are! :P

Ah I see, many thanks for the information! But when I read the website, it seems like Part I & II are only available to those studying in Australia itself?

EDIT: Oh wait, I think I might have given myself away through the 'advertisement' for the qfasc. Haha
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Old 07-09-2013, 10:57 AM   #8
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Yup you're right, it's mainly for those in Australia. From what I see in the website, it seems like if you want do the Australian system in Singapore, you have to take/be exempt from CT1-8 to clear Part I, and then do the distance learning with Macquarie/U of Melbourne for Part II, then take the Part III exams in the examination centre in Singapore.

http://www.actuaries.asn.au/Educatio...on/PartII.aspx

Might as well just study in NTU
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Old 07-09-2013, 04:45 PM   #9
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hi. thx for the post.

do u mind sharing with us a little bit more on urself? such as where r u working, how did u get urself employed, wat internship experience u had, etc?

also, i read a rather old post from another forum that there is this guy who cleared 2 SOA exams n had a starting pay of $3300 (in 2008) and 2-3 years later his pay was slightly more than $4,200... are those figures still relevant?

lastly, wat would u advice someone like me, who is not studying a actuary degree, to do to boost my chance of employment into this competitive industry.
Im in stats and econs (year3), expecting to pass 3 SOA exam and complete 2 VEE credit by the time i graduate.
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Old 07-10-2013, 08:25 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darkzion View Post
hi. thx for the post.

do u mind sharing with us a little bit more on urself? such as where r u working, how did u get urself employed, wat internship experience u had, etc?

also, i read a rather old post from another forum that there is this guy who cleared 2 SOA exams n had a starting pay of $3300 (in 2008) and 2-3 years later his pay was slightly more than $4,200... are those figures still relevant?

lastly, wat would u advice someone like me, who is not studying a actuary degree, to do to boost my chance of employment into this competitive industry.
Im in stats and econs (year3), expecting to pass 3 SOA exam and complete 2 VEE credit by the time i graduate.
Actually, I should clarify that I am still an undergraduate and therefore have zero working experience in the actuarial industry. What I mentioned about working life in my post was information that I have learnt from seniors and uni professors.

As for the salary aspects, I can't really give an answer as it differs from company to company. I have a classmate who was recently employed by EY Actuarial Services (with exam benefits) but starting pay is similar to auditors, which is around $2700 a month. However, there will be exam increment and career prospects are definitely better than that of auditors.

Since you expect to pass 3 SOA exams before you graduate, I think you stand a good chance of being shortlisted for an interview
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