I started this year talking about the motivation to move roles, as well as the value of analysing what you want from your next move. Now it’s time to talk about expanding your skills or even changing career track. In my role, I work extensively with the actuarial community and it’s interesting to see that there are many actuaries actively exploring how they can expand their skills. Many are looking to apply their talent to new areas within financial services or even further afield to other industries. One area of particular interest is the emerging field of data analytics and data science.

Data Science and Actuarial – Data Analytics as an alternate career path

Data analytics is an obvious alternate career choice for actuaries given that it is centered on maths, statistics, databases and programming. However it is not a guaranteed transition – let me explain.

At a junior end, both actuaries and data scientists can have similar profiles. Both have a high mental agility, achieve success at Leaving Certificate showing a particular talent for maths, and then continuing to a primary degree. Those entering the actuarial profession typically complete degrees with maths as the focus, whereas those that enter the data sciences area tend to be focused on maths, computer science, data-science specifically or computational maths. Of course there are examples of individuals from other quantitative subjects such as physics or engineering entering both sectors. Of note though, is that a data scientist graduate can typically apply their skills to practically any industry. Whereas the actuarial graduates are in the main valued by the financial services and specifically the insurance industry.

As their careers develop, actuaries build a wealth of knowledge specific to the insurance industry. It therefore comes as no surprise that those who have successfully transitioned across to the data analytics area to date have done so primarily within the financial services and insurance industry.

Education background for Actuaries and Data Science

If you are an actuary looking to move into the data analytics area, the other option you could consider is to go back to college and get a postgraduate qualification or masters in the subject. Most of the roles that we get for this area ask for a degree in a quantitative discipline, and it is noted that companies are much more likely to seek candidates at either a masters or PhD level in the data scientist area compared to actuarial. However on saying this, if you have transferable modelling experience or a significant technical element to your role, then may be able to transfer into data science if you get in early.

Technical skills in demand for Actuaries switching to Data Science

Actuaries who have transitioned to the data analytics area generally have had a strong IT element to their role. This includes experience with SQL and Excel, including VBA. Data visualisation skills such as Tableau or Microstrategy. The majority have experience with programming or statistical analysis tools for predictive modelling such as R, SAS or even SPSS. They also have other programming ability in particular with Python, Java, C or C++. In addition Radar or Emblem skills are seen as an advantage, particularly as much of the demand for transferring actuaries into this field has been generated by general insurance companies. The demand is primarily driven by the pricing teams here.

In summary if you are an actuary and you have database skills such as SQL, a statistical modelling tool like R or SAS, and the ability to program, you will be in a stronger position to transfer into data science.

The future of actuarial skills within data science

Actuaries have been using predictive modelling techniques for many years and have advanced modelling skills to offer the data analytics industry. However predictive modelling techniques are advancing at a very high pace, with the introduction and incorporation of more sophisticated data science and machine learning techniques. The upskilling of the actuarial industry will need to continue to keep up with these new developments to ensure the longevity across all current actuarial teams. Perhaps the introduction of a data science module within the actuarial qualification may help to market these skills to a wider audience?

And there lies the crux of the matter. In our experience companies outside of the financial services industry are not aware of the talents that the actuaries can bring to the emerging data analytics world. There is a fantastic opportunity for industries to benefit from hiring actuaries and perhaps this article will reach hiring managers outside of the financial services industry and open some doors.

If you are a hiring manager looking to recruit either actuaries or data analytics individuals with an actuarial background then please feel free to get in touch through https://raretec.ie or feel free to contact me directly at jacqui.vanteutem@raretec.ie or on 015311400 or 0862931015.