Actuarial Science BSc

  • UCAS code GG13
  • Duration Up to 4 years
  • Delivery type Full Time
  • Study location Edinburgh


The Course

If you enjoy maths and are looking for a degree that will prepare you for a rewarding career, both intellectually and financially, then this might be the programme for you. It's one of only a few to be accredited by the UK actuarial profession. Good performance means exemptions from professional examinations (CT1-CT8), giving prospective actuaries an advantage over those on other mathematics programmes. At the same time it opens doors to the wide range of careers available to maths graduates. Opportunities are available for a year out to participate in an industrial placement for students from the UK or EU. The opportunity to participate in an exchange year in Canada or Australia is open to all students.

Career Prospects

Employment prospects are good, with excellent financial rewards - our students readily find work as trainee actuaries in the UK or overseas.  More details on the actuarial professional exemptions are available in our leaflet about actuarial professional exams.  Graduates are also well-equipped for more general careers like accountancy, banking, stockbroking or teaching. 

Teaching Excellence and Student Satisfaction

30% of our teaching staff are qualified actuaries, the others are leading Mathematicians, Financial Mathematicians and Statisticians, who are nationally and internationally recognised for their research.  This expertise ensures that what we teach you is current, applicable to the real workplace and current economy.  95% of our 2015 graduates reported in the National Student Survey that they were satisfied overall with their course.

Results from the latest  Destinations of Leavers of Higher Education (DLHE) survey reveal that 85% of our Mathematics and Statistics (including Actuarial Science) graduates are employed with a graduate position and/or undertaking further study.  Our graduates go on to work for companies such as Swiss Re, Standard Life, Towers Watson, Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays Capital, Scottish Widows, Ernst & Young and many more.  Graduates are employed locally in Edinburgh, London and throughout the world. 

Watch a video

Visit our YouTube channel to watch short videos from our students and graduates, and see an example of a lecture at Heriot-Watt.

Student Actuarial Society

Heriot-Watt has a very active Students' Actuarial Society which won several awards at a recent Heriot-Watt 'Oscars' ceremony. This body is completely managed, enthusiastically and professionally, by our students.

Programme content

Level 1

Introduction to Statistical Science; Calculus; Algebra; Professional Development Planning; Finance; Economics and practical work.

Level 2

Probability and Statistics; Actuarial and Financial Mathematics; Linear Algebra; Real Analysis; Multivariate Calculus; Introduction to Numerical Methods and practical work.

Level 3

Financial Mathematics; Survival Models; Portfolio Theory; Life Insurance Mathematics; Applied Statistics;Stochastic Processes and a project.

Level 4

Risk Theory; Financial Risk Management; Pension Funds; Life Office Practice; Financial Economics; Further Stochastic Processes; Bayesian Inference and other statistical topics.

More in-depth information on the content of the courses listed above, how they are assessed and the learning outcomes can be access via our current student portal.

Your career

Graduate profiles

Deirdre Cloake

  • Degree BSc (Hons) Financial Mathematics with Honours of the First Class
  • Present job Graduate Trainee, HSBC
Deirdre Cloake

Why did you choose Financial Mathematics at Heriot-Watt?
I have always had a huge interest in the financial world and mathematics and I wanted a degree that allowed me to study both. The Financial Mathematics degree differs from courses that study separate mathematical and finance modules as it directly applies and links mathematics to the finance world. This appealed to me greatly. I chose to study Financial Mathematics at Heriot-Watt as the university has a great reputation in this field.

How do you feel your programme has prepared you for your career?
My course has given me a great understanding of how the financial markets work and the mathematics that is used daily in the market. This will obviously be invaluable when I start work in the financial sector.

Who would you recommend your programme to?
I would recommend the programme to anyone who is interested in both mathematics and the business world and want to work in a high-powered financial job such as investment banking.

What were your favourite aspects of student life at Heriot-Watt University?
Edinburgh is a beautiful place to live and going to Heriot-Watt University meant that I could experience that first hand. . The student social life in Edinburgh is fantastic and it was definitely one of my favourite aspects of student life at Heriot-Watt University.

How long did it take you to find a job? Tell us a bit about it?
I did an internship in the summer between third and fourth year. The internship was for a major bank in London and I really enjoyed putting the skills that I had learned in university to use in the finance industry. I was offered a place on their Corporate Banking Graduate Programme to train me for a career in corporate and structured banking. This is an 18-month programme where I will complete three six-month placements, one which will be abroad, and I will study for a Diploma in Corporate Banking.

Claire Yule

  • Degree Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Science with First Class Honours
  • Present job Trainee Actuary, Standard Life, Edinburgh
Claire Yule

Why Heriot-Watt? I was in the fortunate position when applying for university in that I knew I wanted to be an actuary. With that in mind, I looked for a programme that was accredited by the Actuarial Profession as I was keen to achieve exemptions from some of the professional exams and make the process of qualification a little easier. I visited twice, at the main open day and an applicants visit day, and fell in love with the place. I spent 1st year living in halls, which is the best way to meet people and settle into university life. Living on campus everything is right on your doorstep, but you're also very close to Edinburgh and everything that it has to offer.

The Programme The programme is undoubtedly tough, but the staff are really friendly and approachable. Also, be sure to pay attention in every class - believe me everything you're taught here has a purpose.

Career planning It's a good idea to look for an internship. This is the best way to find out what working as an actuary is really like. I interned with Deloitte in both their Life Insurance and Investment practices, and it helped me to decide that I wanted to work in Life Insurance. Heriot-Watt has a great careers service that can help you to prepare for finding graduate work. Remember that employers are looking for a rounded person, so during your time at university it's really good if you join societies or sports teams, as these experiences are invaluable when you're in interviews. I got involved with our Students' Actuarial Society, which is one of the most active groups on campus. After graduation I started work as a trainee actuary with Standard Life, an Edinburgh based asset management company. I was keen to remain in Edinburgh, and the job allows that as well as developing the Life Insurance interests I got from my internship.

Would I recommend Heriot-Watt? I had an amazing 4 years at Heriot-Watt. Academically, I'm leaving with 8 exemptions from the professional exams, which will save me some time qualifying as an actuary. I've also had a really strong grounding in core actuarial subjects. I've made friends for life and grown so much as a person. I'd recommend it to anyone.

Laura Walton

  • Degree BSc (Hons) Statistics with Honours of the Second Class Upper Division (Now BSc Statistical Modelling)
  • Present job PhD student with the University of York, collaborating with BioSS and SAC based in Edinburgh
Laura Walton

Why did you choose Heriot-Watt?
I had decided that I wanted to move to Edinburgh to attend university, and Heriot-Watt is one of a few universities in the UK that provides a statistics degree. My decision was also based on the fact that Heriot-Watt has an excellent reputation in the field and I felt that I would be getting a respected degree at the end of my four years.

Who would you recommend your programme to?
I would recommend this programme to someone who has a keen interest in statistics, or someone who is considering a mathematics degree but does not want to focus on pure maths. This degree does allow you to be flexible with your module choices, especially in fourth year.

What were your favourite aspects of student life at Heriot-Watt University?
One of my favourite aspects of student life at Heriot-Watt University was living in halls in first year. I got to meet a lot of different people, both from my course and from other courses which gave me the chance to make friends with people I might not have come across otherwise. I would definitely suggest living in halls in the first year, if not for the fact that it is so handy just to be able to walk to lectures in the morning, then because there is always something to do and never a dull moment! Another good aspect of being a student at Heriot-Watt is the social life. Edinburgh has quite a diverse range of clubs and bars so whatever your taste in music you are bound to find somewhere that suits.

What are you doing now?
When I went into fourth year I thought I had better start working out what it was that I wanted to do after I graduated, because I still didn't really know. I spoke to one of my dissertation supervisors and he suggested doing a PhD with an organisation he used to work for since I had such a keen interest in mathematical biology and epidemiology. Even though I thought it was a bit of a crazy suggestion for me, I looked into it and found a position advertised.

Entry requirements

The University offers as its normal entry routes:

  • entry at Level 1, mainly for students with Scottish Highers (or similar)
  • entry at Level 2, mainly for students with A-levels (or similar).

There is nevertheless considerable flexibility, depending on the level of qualifications, for entrants with A-levels to opt to enter at Level 1 and for Scottish students to enter at Level 2. Direct entry into Level 3 is also possible for students who already have certain HE qualifications.

Level 1 entry

  • Highers AAAB including Mathematics at A
  • A-Levels ABB including Mathematics at A
  • Int. Baccalaureate 28 points with higher level Mathematics at 6

Level 2 entry

  • A-Levels AAB including Mathematics at A
  • Advanced Highers ABB Including Mathematics at A plus excellent Highers or Scottish Baccalaureate
  • Int. Baccalaureate 30 points with higher level Mathematics at 7
  • Additional information To find out about the difference between the 3 and 4 year honours programmes, please read our leaflet to help you decide which route is best for your qualifications and experience so far.

Tuition fees

Tuition fees for 2016 entry (by residency status)
Status*Scotland / EU**England / Northern Ireland / WalesInternational
FeePaid by SAAS£9,000£13,500

* Your residency 'status' is usually defined as the country where you have been ordinarily resident for the 3 years before the start of your programme. Find out more about tuition fees.

** European Union countries, not including England, Northern Ireland or Wales.

Scholarships & bursaries

Featured scholarships

Bursaries for students from England, Northern Ireland or Wales starting undergraduate degree programmes in 2016

In addition to government maintenance loans and grants towards the costs of fees and living costs, we are offering generous financial support to attract and support eligible students from England, Northern Ireland or Wales:

View our full range of undergraduate scholarships.