MSc Actuarial Science

The course

Full-time, Part-time, Per course
Course type
Entry date

You've completed a degree that shows you think logically (eg mathematics). But now you want an exciting career with an excellent salary and a great work life balance. Get there fast with our MSc in Actuarial Science.

Podcast series: A Future Made

In Search of the African Einstein

In this episode we turn the spotlight on Africa to find out how an inspiring partnership between the University and the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is changing the lives of students and academics alike, and has sparked a quest to find 'the next Einstein' within Africa.


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Actuaries are members of a prestigious profession, known for its challenging entry requirements and impactful work. Our MSc in Actuarial Science provides you with a fast track into the profession by providing up to six exemptions from the exams you must pass to become a fully qualified actuary.

Actuaries are experts in risk management. Most actuaries work in the areas of life insurance, general insurance, pensions, and investment, but also more widely in fund management companies, sustainability, banking, hedge funds, consultancies, software developers and regulatory authorities. As experts in data science, actuaries are increasingly in demand across the world.

The actuarial career is also fun because you can apply your mathematical skills to solve problems and plan for the future.

Salaries are typically high and the work-life balance can be excellent. A newly qualified actuary in the UK usually earns between £50,000 and £60,000 each year. Salaries increase to significantly higher levels in the years after qualification.

Our MSc in Actuarial Science takes you through the first six exams with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) in the UK and so accelerates your journey to becoming an actuarial professional. The exams are mathematical in nature and develop your skills in applying statistical and financial models to plan for the future.

Our MSc programme is distinguished by our University’s 50+ years at the heart of the actuarial profession, by being delivered by qualified actuaries with industry experience along with high-flying actuarial researchers, by our high student satisfaction and by our location in Edinburgh, one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

Scholarships for 2024/25

Introducing an exciting lineup of new scholarships for the academic year 2024/25:

  • International Actuarial Impact Award: a £5,000 fee reduction for all international students only.
  • UK Actuaries of the Future Award:  a 50% fee reduction for all UK students.

The scholarships are automatically awarded once you have applied for the course and will be part of the offer letter sent to you if your application is successful.

Heriot-Watt University

Heriot-Watt University was the first in the UK to offer a degree in actuarial science (back in 1972). We have been leading the way in the UK ever since and built a wonderful teaching team of world-renowned academics and experienced industry professionals. Each year we enable between 100 and 200 students to gain exemptions from actuarial subjects. We also understand that you need to be ready for the business world and able to interview well. We develop these softer skills too, so you will become a rounded professional.

Heriot-Watt is the first university in Europe to be awarded the Centre of Actuarial Excellence by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) of North America.

We score excellently in student surveys of teaching quality and our research output is world class.

Student Actuarial Society

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

September 2024 entry

The deadline for applications from UK students is 30 August 2024. For EU and overseas applicants, we guarantee to consider applications submitted by 2 August 2024.


Center of Actuarial Excellence

The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) in the UK sets exams that must be passed to qualify as a Fellow of the IFoA and become fully qualified as an actuary.

Our MSc in Actuarial Science is fully accredited with the IFoA which means that the subjects you study on our program lead to exemptions from the corresponding subjects with the IFoA.

These are (with IFoA subject codes in brackets):

  • Actuarial Statistics (CS1)
  • Risk Modelling and Survival Analysis (CS2)
  • Actuarial Mathematics (CM1)
  • Financial Engineering and Loss Reserving (CM2)
  • Business Finance (CB1)
  • Business Economics (CB2)

These six exemptions put you well on your way to full qualification and demonstrate your actuarial ability to potential employers.

Center of Actuarial Excellence

Heriot-Watt University is recognised as a Center of Actuarial Excellence by the Society of Actuaries (SOA), North America. We are the only Center of Actuarial Excellence in Europe and one of only 30 other schools worldwide with this designation. With roots dating back to 1889, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) is the world's largest actuarial professional organisation with more than 28,000 actuaries as members.

Watch a video

Visit our YouTube channel to see videos from our students and graduates, as well as an example of a lecture in Life Insurance Mathematics.

Course content

The main course teaching takes place in two semesters.  All courses are optional so that students who have passed some actuarial exams do not need to repeat material.

In order to be eligible for exemptions from all of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) subjects CM1, CM2, CS1, CS2, CB1 and CB2, all optional courses must be taken.  However it is possible to reduce your workload by taking a subset of these options.

The courses are listed below with the corresponding IFoA subject code in brackets.  For some exemption subjects, multiple courses are required.

Semester 1

  • Financial Mathematics (CM1)
  • Life Insurance Mathematics 1 (CM1)
  • Economics (CB2)
  • Finance and Financial Reporting (CB1)
  • Statistical Methods (CS1)
  • Stochastic Modelling (CS2)

Semester 2

  • Life Insurance Mathematics 2 (CM1)
  • Financial Economics 1 (CM2)
  • Financial Economics 2 (CM2)
  • Data Analytics and Time Series Analysis (CS2)
  • Survival Models (CS2)
  • Risk Theory (CS2)

Semester 3

In semester 3 students undertake two actuarial/business-related case studies or a single longer project with a supervisor from a company in the UK financial industry. 

It is possible to study part-time (over a period longer than 1 year) but this option is only available to those students who don't need a visa to study in the UK.


Career prospects and salaries are excellent for graduates of our specialist actuarial science programmes – 93% of recent graduates have secured employment or gone onto further study within six months of graduating. Of those employed, 96% are in professional-level jobs.

Recent students have gone on to work for industry-leading organisations including Standard Life Aberdeen, Lloyds Banking Group, Deloitte, KPMG, PwC, Prudential, Royal London and many more.

Entry requirements

The programme is primarily intended for graduates with a strong numerate background. Our normal minimum entry requirement is the equivalent of a UK 2:1 degree in mathematics or statistics, or a related discipline with a high mathematics or statistics content (such as economics or physics).

The degree is challenging and it is necessary to be able to work hard and to have a strong drive to succeed.

English language requirements

Important: If your first language is not English, or your first degree was not taught in English, we'll need to see evidence of your English language ability.

The minimum requirement for English language is IELTS 6.5, we also accept TOEFL (scores of 79 and higher).

We offer a range of English language courses to help you meet the English language requirement prior to starting your masters programme:

  • 20 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.0 with no skill lower than 4.5)
  • 14 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.0 with minimum of 5.0 in writing and no skill lower than 4.5)
  • 10 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with no skill lower than 5.0)
  • 6 weeks English (for IELTS 5.5 with no skill lower than 5.5)


Tuition fees for entry
Status Full-time Part-time Per course
UK £27200 £13600 £3400
Overseas £27200 £13600 £3400


  1. Your residency 'status' is usually defined as the country where you have been ordinarily resident for the three years before the start of your course. Find out more about tuition fees.
  2. Fee per course (module). Refer to the Course Content to see how many courses comprise the full programme.
  3. Overseas includes applications from European Union countries who do not hold Pre-Settled or Settled status in the UK. Read more about the application process for EU nationals.

Additional fees information

Contact us for the fee for the Diploma in Actuarial Science.  This option is available only to UK and EU students

Scholarships and bursaries

We aim to encourage well-qualified, ambitious students to study with us and we offer a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries to achieve this. Over £6 million worth of opportunities are available in fee and stipend scholarships, and more than 400 students benefit from this support.

View our full range of postgraduate scholarships.