Careers in Chartered Accountancy Vs Actuarial Science

“If you follow your heart and do what you like, you will always do much better, it doesn’t matter what your educational qualification is. ” ~Sundar Pichai

What do you want to become when you grow up?
The most common question asked to almost every child. Career is one of the most important decisions in an individual’s life and it must be taken by accounting various factors like interest, opportunities available, feasibility etc.

In this article I will be throwing light on two of the most essential professions in financial industry – actuaries and accountants.

Who are they?
An Actuary is a business professional who deals with the measurement and management of risk and uncertainty. These are true professional statisticians and the ultimate quants that use past data to predict likely future outcomes. Such skills make them exceedingly useful for insurance companies or other businesses that sell insurable products.

An accountant is a practitioner of accounting or accountancy, which is the measurement, disclosure or provision of assurance about financial information that helps managers, investors, tax authorities and others make decisions about allocating resource. Accountants service individuals, businesses and governments to help ensure that everything is running efficiently and accurately.

As far as the quality of work is concerned, both Actuary and chartered accountant are considered to be at par with each other. However, Actuary deals with the estimates of the future whereas chartered accountancy has much to do with the current working of an organization.

How can you become
An Actuary: To become an Actuary, the first step is to get a bachelor’s degree.  It’s not technically required, but any employer would be very unlikely to consider someone for an actuarial position if they didn’t have one. A degree in math, statistics, or actuarial science is most common and preferable.

The Actuarial Science course requires one to pass a series of 13 professional examinations in order to be fully certified. The thirteen papers are divided into 4 groups:

Core Principles: 7 compulsory papers
Core Practices: any 3 papers among the 3
Specialist Principles: any 2 among the 8 specialization exams
Specialist Practices: any 1 among the 5 Actuaries can work in the field before they’ve completed all the exams though. 

Usually, they’ll do more technical work at the beginning while they’re still passing exams. Actuarial Science is considered a highly professional and difficult course and is usually taken up by individuals who are already working in the industry with different qualifications and after the age of 20. But recently a different trend has been noticed in India where majority of the individuals studying the course are students pursuing graduation.

A Chartered Accountant:Similar to actuaries, accountants also need to get a bachelor’s degree.  It must be in accounting or business.  They also need to have completed a specific number of exams in accounting, auditing, taxation, and business.

It takes at least 4 years to complete the degree.

The CA exam is broken down into 3 stages A score of 40% is required in each subject and they have to attain 50% of the aggregate marks.

Stage 1- CS Foundation
Stage 2-INTER CA
Stage 3-CA Final

An accountant can work in the field before obtaining the CA designation.  In fact, they have to do their training and article ship for a period of 30 months before appearing for Final CA. Chartered Accountancy is a course that is studied along with graduation, although there can be exceptions.

Employment Opportunities and Outlook

For Actuaries
Actuaries are most commonly employed by insurance companies.  Almost any type of insurance will needs actuaries in the background to assess and manage the risk involved with providing that insurance.

They can also work for pension consulting firms, or the government in areas dealing with public healthcare/retirement systems (like OHIP and CPP in Canada, or Medicare and Medicaid in the U.S.). Any company that has some level of risk that it wants to manage is also a possibility.  This isn’t actuarial work in the traditional sense though.

There are fewer jobs for freshers at the entry level.  Once you gain some experience in an actuarial position, you likely won’t have a hard time getting other positions in the field.

You may have heard that the unemployment rate for actuaries is almost 0%.  They’re referring to fully-qualified actuaries.  There are many actuarial job candidates with some exams passed that are unable to find entry-level jobs.  Technical skills, a good GPA, and related experience all increase your chances of getting a job.

My personal opinion is that there will be more and more actuarial positions in the future, but since there are also more and more candidates applying for these positions it’s going to continue to be difficult to stand out as “one of the best”.  Due to this uncertainty, it’s important to have a back-up plan if you decide to become an Actuary.

For Accountants
Almost every company needs an accountant.  Many of them have an entire finance department with multiple accountants working together.  So, there are many thousands of CA jobs in India and abroad.

The large base of employers that need CAs means that there are jobs in most cities.

With the extensive opportunity paths open to CAs I’m led to believe that intelligent CAs with good communication and technical skills will be able to find a job.

Actuary Outlook v/s Accountant Outlook The demand for both actuaries and accountants looks high for the coming years.  However, the relatively small number of actuarial positions available compared to CA positions suggests that you’d probably have an easier time finding a job as a CA.  If you do go the actuarial route, you should have a back-up plan that’ll allow you to gain experience first and then hopefully switch to an actuarial job.

Common thoughts on Actuarial Science

  • Only people who love maths and statistics do Actuarial Science.
  • Actuaries earn very high salary around 1cr.
  • Actuarial science is too difficult a course to be completed.

To read all the myths and reality on Actuarial Science, click here.

Common thoughts on Chartered Accountancy

  • CA is an extremely tough course.
  • Once you become a CA, you will be highly respected. The truth is, a mere degree doesn’t earn respect, the kind of work you do wherever and whatever that be earns you respect.
  • Single strategy to clear CA final works for all.
  • Life of a CA student is very difficult with 7am to 10pm studying hours.

There is a common notion that people pursuing these courses don’t have a life because they study all the time , don’t have time for socialising and always think about numbers. This is not true. It is just that these people have a different definition of life, a different thing gives them happiness and they want a different thing from life.

People say, after having the degree in hand, the sky is the limit. Let us see what lies ahead for you.

For Chartered Accountants
There are a few courses which you can take up along with a job like CWA, CS, CIA, and CISA/DISA.

Dip IFRS –   It is a certification course offered by the ACCA Institute, London. It can help you if you are in audit/ accounting role in a company.
CIMA/ CMA → CIMA degree is offered by CIMA, London while CMA is offered by IMA, USA. These degrees will help you if you are working in controlling function. Also, these qualifications will be more useful if you are in Foreign MNC and in a business role.

Post qualification courses by ICAI → ICAI offers many post qualification courses which are useful for professionals in their respective service areas. Check more on this at The Institute of Chartered Accountant of India

Following are the areas where CA’s find opportunity: Banks, Public Limited Companies, Auditing firms, finance companies, legal firms, legal houses, patent firms, copyright registers.

For Actuaries
Data Science is a field in intersection with the course. People with inclination towards risk specialise doing FRM(Financial Risk Management) , people inclined towards finance also do CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst).

Finally, I believe
Accountants and Actuaries are both important in their own ways in the financial world, however, the roles and duties are broader for an accountant, and they are quite specific for an Actuary. One cannot replace the other. While certain job duties of management accountants overlap those of actuaries, the career fields remain largely distinctive.

The broad functions and skills of accountants help to ensure that they have a variety of employment opportunities available to them across all industries. However, actuaries who have skills that are in high demand are mainly employed in the financial services industry exclusively. Subsequently, job function, variety, and technical difficulty primarily sum up the differences between an Actuary and accountant.

Each of these can be a fantastic career for the right individual. Accounting jobs should appeal to those who are interested in finance or business management and who don’t want to deal with constant stress or job uncertainty. Those with a passion for statistics and computer modelling will be hard pressed to find a career better suited than as an Actuary.

Both fields require the ability to work through problems logically and deductively, but accountants normally have simpler and more commonly reoccurring issues. A lot comes down to the desire to perform complex mathematical problem solving. Accountants don’t need to use complicated math concepts like actuaries do, and many might find the intense data harvesting of an Actuary to be a little daunting or too monotonous.

If you are doing a course because that will give you a good life in future but you crib about having to study every night then my friend you don’t want to accept the pain of this journey. There is a different course or field of work for you because you will be able to happily accept the pain that comes along with that, you need to find that destination and start on that path.

If you have thought on working on your passion after you become a CA or an Actuary, then stop and get on with the field that excites you and you love. Don’t let the fear of not excelling stop you from switching careers. What you are made for is calling for you, trust it’s call.

There are many other opportunities available and it really depends on where you want to go and how do you see yourself in the future. If you look at examples like Harsha Bhogle, Suresh Prabhu, Piyush Goyal, Kumar Mangalam Birla you will notice that they identified the area in which they were interested and pursued their path with dedication and commitment.

Steve Jobs rightly said,
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.

Whenever the going gets tough and you feel like you are getting nowhere and you start doubting yourself and you feel like you are incapable of it, then remember

“He who has a why to live, can bear to live any how ” , says Friedrich Nietzsche.  Because it’s your ‘why’, your ultimate purpose that takes you forward in  the journey.You just have to follow your calling. 

Read all the latest articles on Actuarial Science New Curriculum Click

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