Choosing a career is a difficult decision. And sometimes there are a few professions that appeal to you, but you aren’t sure which one to choose.
If you are studying a maths based subject, there are many professions that are open to you and you may be weighing up your options, and two of these options may include accountancy and the actuarial professions.
Both of these professions are interesting, challenging and hugely rewarding, but there are some key differences which means they may be suited to different people.
So what are those differences? And which profession is better? We look at each profession in detail, including their key differences, who they are best suited to and which one is best.
Accountant vs. Actuary; What is the difference?
Let’s start which what each profession is, and the differences between the two.
Accountants are essential to any business. They monitor and record money flowing through a business or an organisation. They analyse profit and losses, and evaluate the health of their client, be it a company or an individual, and provide the information their client needs to make business decisions.
There are two types of accountancy; Management and Financial, and both are as important as each other.
Management Accountants provide financial insight internally, of which could include aid for decision making, budget analysis and forecasting. Financial Accountants, on the other hand, provide information externally to shareholders, investors and creditors.
There are many areas you can specialise in, and depending on which area of specialism you go into, you could be involved in a range of tasks including;
- Delivering responsive financial audits
- Researching and communicating financial data and advice
- Taking control of managing financial systems and budgets
An Actuary on the other hand, analyses data to solve real world problems. Actuaries use past data to predict and measure emerging risks, then help to reduce those risks by putting financial safeguards in place.
Actuaries work with a lot of data, and depending on where you work, you could be involved in predicting how much money an insurance will have to pay out for a natural disaster, advising a company on their pensions plans or managing financial assets and liabilities.
So, to summarise the two, Actuaries measure the financial impact of decisions that may or may not have been made yet, or events that have yet to occur. An Accountant, however, report on the financial impact of decisions that have already been made and events that have already happened.
Accountancy vs. Actuarial Qualifications
With both of these professions, you will have to work towards fully qualified status. Both qualifications take around three years to complete (providing you pass the exams first time) if you go in on a graduate scheme after university.
If you are looking to become an accountant, there are a few qualifications you can take. If you are looking to become chartered, then you will be working towards your ACA qualification. This is a three year course where you will achieve chartered accountant status at the end. You can find out more about the ACA qualification here.
If you want to go into management accountancy, then you will need to work towards your CIMA qualification. You can find out more about CIMA and their professional qualifications here.
To become an actuary, you will work towards your qualified actuary status through the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. Again, this will take around three years to complete if you go in as a graduate. You can find out more about the actuarial exams you will have to take here.
Regardless of whether you become an accountant or an actuary, you will have to do further exams when you leave university. So if you thought you’d never have to do an exam again after university, you may want to look at a different career path.
Accountancy Graduate Scheme vs. Actuarial Graduate Scheme; Entry Requirements
This is where there are some key differences between the two professions.
Most Accountancy graduate schemes require you to have a second-class degree or higher (this can be lower second class for some employers) in any discipline, and often a certain number of UCAS points (sometimes employers require a B/6 in Maths at A-Level). There are some accountancy employers that will look for a degree in a numerical based subject, but often there is no discipline requirement for those looking to become an accountant.
However, if you want to become an actuary the profession demands a high level of academic attainment. Most actuarial firms require at least a 2.1 in a numerical based subject as well as a minimum amount of UCAS Points. Most employers recruit graduates with degrees in maths, statistics, actuarial science, economics and STEM degrees. You can find out more about actuarial postgraduate courses here.
So if you have a numeric degree, then you may be more suited to becoming an actuary. However, if you have a degree that is not numeric, then you are more likely to be suited to becoming an accountant.
Accountant vs. Actuary; Who earns more?
Money isn’t everything, but it is pretty important. So who will earn more, the accountant or the actuary?
Both professions come with high financial reward, and like all professions, how much you earn depends on how far you move up the career ladder.
Depending on your level of education (if you are a school leaver or a graduate) you could be earning anything between £12,000 and £30,000 a year as a trainee accountant. Once you move further up the career ladder, you could earn £75,000 as a qualified accountant and upward of £200,000 in a senior level role such as audit partner or managing director.
As a trainee actuary, you can expect to earn around £28,000 which will increase to upwards of £35,000 once you qualify. A partner of an actuarial firm could earn upwards of £300,000.
So it’s fair to say that both professions come with great financial reward. Of course, financial reward doesn’t come by itself and you will have to work hard to make your way up the career ladder. You can read some of our senior accountancy and actuarial profiles to see how senior level professionals made their way up the career ladder.
Accountant vs. Actuary; Which is better?
In conclusion, there is not one profession that is better than the other. They are both suited to different people, with different degrees and different strengths.
Both professions offer great financial reward and excellent career progression. They both require you to do at least three years of further study to become qualified, so demand commitment and hard work from an early stage.
If you have a numerical degree and enjoy working with lots of data, then you may be more suited to a career in the actuarial profession. If you do not have a highly numeric degree and enjoy working closely with clients then you may be more suited to become an accountant.
Hopefully this article has given you an idea of the differences and similarities between the two and helped you decide which one may be better for you. If you require more information, you can have a look at our two guides to Chartered Accountancy and the Actuarial Profession.