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Master of Actuarial Studies

Challenge yourself with a combination of actuarial studies, economics, finance and mathematics, for a colourful career in financial or non-financial industries.

  • Overview
  • Structure
  • Entry requirements
  • How to apply
  • Student experience
  • FAQs

Why choose this master’s degree?

  • A specialist degree in actuarial studies for those wanting to enter the financial services, insurance or superannuation industry in a quantitative role
  • Develop the technical expertise needed to pursue the role of an actuarial analyst
  • Internationally recognised degree that is well-regarded by industry
  • Professional recognition: Gain exemptions from the Foundation Program and university accredited components of the Associateship Program of the Actuaries Institute’s professional examinations and VEE credit from the Society of Actuaries (USA). The School of Risk and Actuarial Studies is also recognized as a Center of Actuarial Excellence by the Society of Actuaries.
  • Recognition of prior learning: Up to 4 courses (24 UOC) may be awarded based on previous actuarial, statistics and/or business studies.
  • Centrelink approved program: Student income support is available to study this degree (for domestic students only)
  • Note: Graduates without a bachelor degree in actuarial studies should consider the Master of Actuarial Studies (Extension) to potentially gain exemptions from Foundation Program and university accreditation components of Associateship Program of the Actuaries Institute’s professional examinations

Who is this degree for?

  • You have a strong background in actuarial studies, econometrics, mathematics or statistics. This degree will prepare you for an actuarial career. If you have an undergraduate degree in Actuarial Studies this degree will allow you to fast-track your professional accreditation and obtain university accredited components of Associateship Program and Fellowship Program ERM (Enterprise Risk Management) module (until 2020) exemptions from the professional examinations of the Australian Actuaries Institute.

Job and career prospects

  • Actuarial analyst
  • Business consultant
  • Investment banker
  • Asset management trainee
  • Credit analyst
  • Insurance analyst
  • Risk assessment officer
  • Superannuation advisor
  • Wealth management analyst

The Master of Actuarial Studies is a 1.5 year degree program consisting of 12 courses (72 UOC): 4 core courses, plus 8 elective courses.

Core courses

ACTL5101 Probability and Statistics for Actuaries

This course covers probability and statistics topics relevant to actuarial studies with applications in insurance and related areas. Topics covered include probability generating functions, moment generating functions, marginal and conditional distributions, independence and convolution, conditional expectation and compound distributions, sampling distributions, estimation methods, hypothesis tests, regression and analysis of variance.

ACTL5102 Financial Mathematics

This course develops the financial and actuarial mathematics required for the analysis of financial and insurance transactions. Topics covered include: mathematics of compound interest, valuation of cash flows of insurance contracts; analysis and valuation of annuities, bonds, loans and other securities; yield curves and immunisation; introduction to stochastic interest rate models and actuarial applications.

ACTL5108 Finance and Financial Reporting for Actuaries

The aim of the course is to provide the future actuary with a basic understanding of corporate finance and financial reporting. The course will cover the instruments used by companies to raise finance and manage financial risk and will develop an understanding of how to interpret the accounts and financial statements of companies and financial institutions.

ECON5103 Business Economics

An introduction to economic analysis and policy, with particular application to decision-making in business. The course provides students with the tools to use economic principles in decision-making and an understanding of the broader economic environment in which business decisions must be made.

Students of Master of Actuarial Studies and Master of Actuarial Studies (Extension) may select electives courses from the following approved risk & actuarial courses:

Elective courses

Choose eight from the following

ACTL5002 Superannuation and Retirement Benefits

This course provides a comprehensive analysis of the economics and finance of retirement income provision. It is designed to provide students with a solid understanding of the theoretical and public policy issues associated with the design and implementation of policies for retirement income provision in Australia and internationally. Topics covered include: demographic trends and the economic impact of population ageing; rationale for public provision and/or regulation of private retirement income provision; retirement income provision in Australia; the taxation and regulation of retirement savings and benefits; the structure, performance and efficiency of the superannuation industry; and international comparisons in policy design and implementation.

ACTL5004 Project Report - Actuarial Studies

Students complete a project under the direction of a supervisor.

ACTL5100 Actuarial Theory and Practice A

This course develops the theory and practice underlying the actuarial management of risk-based and other products offered by financial institutions. The course draws examples from actuarial practice and discusses implications for life insurance, general insurance, superannuation, asset-liability management and other areas where actuaries are involved in product design, pricing, reserving, investment and surplus management. The course emphasises recent developments in actuarial theory.

ACTL5103 Stochastic Modelling for Actuaries

This course provides an introduction to the stochastic models used by actuaries to model both liabilities and assets and illustrates their applications in actuarial work. Topics covered include the terminology of stochastic processes; main features of Markov chain and application to experience rating; Markov process models and application to survival, sickness and marriage models; simple time series models including random walk and auto-regressive models and their application to investment variables; properties of Brownian motion and applications to investment variables; methods for simulation of a stochastic process. Students will be required to implement models using spreadsheets and programs in a numerical computer package such as Matlab.

ACTL5104 Actuarial Statistics

This course covers survival models, their estimation and application to mortality and other decrements. Specific topics include: the concept of a survival model and actuarial notation; estimation of lifetime distributions; multiple state models; maximum likelihood estimation of transition intensities; construction of multiple decrement tables; the binomial model of mortality and its estimation; models with transition intensities depending on age and duration; the census approximation and formulae; statistical comparison of crude rates with standard table; graduation of crude estimates and tests of fidelity and smoothness; analysis of mortality/morbidity and the main forms of selection; models for projection of populations. The analysis of data using spreadsheets developed during the course will form part of the course assessment.

ACTL5105 Life Insurance and Superannuation

This course covers the actuarial mathematics and models for use in the analysis and actuarial management of life insurance and superannuation contract. Topics covered include: the main forms of life insurance and annuity contracts, disability and long term care contracts and superannuation fund benefits; actuarial notation and the life table; moments of the value of the benefit payments; Thiele's differential equation for policy values; stochastic modelling of claims and benefit payments; gross premiums, net premiums, policy values and reserves; allowing for expenses and inflation; use of discounted emerging costs and profit tests; asset shares in life insurance; termination and alteration values; cost of guarantees; joint life functions; actuarial valuation of disability insurance contracts.

ACTL5106 Insurance Risk Models

This course covers the actuarial mathematics, statistics and models used in non-life insurance actuarial practice. Topics covered include: basic concepts of decision theory and Bayesian statistics; loss distributions and reinsurance, risk models including compound Poisson; estimation of aggregate claims distribution; probability of ruin; premium rating and credibility; experience rating systems; and claims reserving for loss run-off data.

ACTL5109 Financial Economics for Insurance and Superannuation

The aim of this course is to introduce the mathematical and economic models of financial economics used by actuaries and to overview their application to asset-liability management. The topics are illustrated with applications to the valuation, actuarial and risk management of insurance and superannuation contracts especially those with embedded options and financial guarantees.

ACTL5110 Actuarial Data and Analysis

This course covers the actuarial professional syllabus for data analysis including techniques for mortality, health, and insurance data used in actuarial analysis and decision-making. The course covers aspects of data analysis including exploratory data analysis, data checking and cleaning, and data visualization; classification and prediction with regression and generalized linear models; descriptive, inferential and predictive analysis and models; and statistical and machine learning including supervised and unsupervised learning.

The course also covers ethical, regulatory and professional issues, and risks and risk management associated with using data and data analysis. A particular focus will be placed on communication of technical results for business applications.

ACTL5200 Actuarial Theory and Practice B

This course, along with ACTL5100 Actuarial Theory and Practice A, develops the theory and practice underlying the actuarial management of risk-based and other products offered by financial institutions. The course draws examples from actuarial practice and discusses implications for life insurance, general insurance, superannuation, asset-liability management and other areas where actuaries are involved in product design, pricing, reserving, investment and surplus management. The course emphasises recent developments in actuarial theory.

This course, along with ACTL 5100, corresponds to the Part II courses of the professional examinations of The Institute of Actuaries of Australia.

ACTL5301 Models for Risk Management

This course explores quantitative methods of risk measurement and modelling in financial institutions, including insurers, reinsurers, superannuation funds, and banks, and the major types of risks encountered therein. Topics covered include: risk measures; multivariate models for risks; copulas and dependence models; extreme value theory and tails of losses; time series techniques. The links between the different modelling tools are explored, and are further illustrated with models used in different risk types.

Together with ACTL5302 it is designed to cover the course topics for the professional actuarial Enterprise Risk Management / CERA qualification.

ACTL5302 Risk and Capital Management

This course covers the motivations and techniques for risk and capital management in financial institutions, including insurers, reinsurers, superannuation funds, and banks and the major types of risks encountered. Topics covered include: economic and regulatory capital; regulatory frameworks for banks and insurers; quantitative and qualitative issues of measuring and management of market risk, credit risk, interest rate risk, operational risk, liquidity risk and model risk, with particular emphasis on data issues met when quantifying those risks; scenario analysis and stress testing methods.

Together with ACTL5301 it is designed to cover the course topics for the professional actuarial Enterprise Risk Management / CERA qualification.

ACTL5303 Asset-Liability Management

This course covers the knowledge, skills and judgement necessary to understand investment and asset liability modelling with an emphasis on practical issues. It covers the design and monitoring of investment strategies for a range of liability profiles including life insurance, general insurance and superannuation funds. There is an emphasis on investment and asset issues of relevance for the management of liabilities.

The course has been designed to cover the International Actuarial Association syllabus covering Investments and Asset Analysis and the Institute of Actuaries of Australia Investments professional syllabus.

ACTL5306 Retirement Saving and Spending over the Lifecycle

This course examines saving and spending decisions by individuals and households over the lifecycle in the context of national retirement savings and incomes policies. We examine the economic and financial risks facing both individuals and product providers, as well as behavioural explanations for deviations from economic rationality and the lifecycle model.

Topics covered include: a taxonomy of the lifecycle; lifecycle theories of consumption and saving; investment strategy, human capital and the retirement decision: risks facing individual retirees and providers of retirement income products (investment risk, longevity risk, interest rate risk, inflation risk, replacement risk); market failure in the retirement benefit market; behavioural explanations for non-rational behaviour including myopia, procrastination, mental accounting, complexity, framing, loss aversion etc.

RISK5001 Fundamentals of Risk and Risk Management

"This course aims to introduce students to the complex and diverse range of risks that organisations must manage in today's increasingly global environment. The course discusses the complex nature of the words 'uncertainty' and 'risk', and how their many definitions and interpretations impact risk management. Subsequent lectures demonstrate why organisations must manage risks and what is different in the way they approach risk management today, compared to the past. The fundamental role risk culture and communication play in ensuring an organization’s ability to manage risks at Enterprise level is emphasised, and various frameworks for risk management reviewed.

The course aims to enhance students' ability to think 'outside the box' and encourages them to find solutions to complex problems, given limited information. Class debates and case study lectures are used to achieve these student attributes"

RISK5002 Risk Tools

The course reviews key concepts of statistics and looks at a number of data sources used to analyse risks in various disciplines. Applications such as forecasting, modelling extreme events and dependencies are illustrated through their implementation in a number of practical problems. These are aimed at making students aware of the power of statistics in quantitative risk analysis, and its areas of applicability. Traditional risk measures and models routinely used to analyse financial, insurance, environmental, health and safety, engineering reliability and security risks data are reviewed. Emphasis is placed on the use of these tools in practical applications, which is achieved through the presentation of real-life examples. Simulation is discussed as a tool to analyse risks in complex systems, where data is not available.

RISK5003 Risk Decisions

This course aims to introduce students to the field of decision analysis. At the end of the course students should be able to develop solutions to basic decision problems involving uncertainty, using specialised, free-ware software. An intuitive exposition into Bayes’ theorem is given through a number of simple-to-follow problems involving information update in light of new evidence, to show the importance of this theorem in making decisions about risk. Students learn about subjective probabilities and various formal methods of expert opinion elicitation. Two specific decision tools - Bayesian networks and Multi-criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA), are examined in detail.

Bayesian networks, which display graphically the interrelationships between variables, allow for their dependencies to be accounted for in a manner reflecting their causal relationships. This permits the evaluation of predicted consequences associated with different interventions, before these are actually implemented. MCDA allows decisions to be made when the decision-maker is faced with multiple and conflicting objectives where trade-offs must be made, which is most often the case in the real world. Netica and SuperDecisions are free-ware software implementing Bayesian networks and MCDA, respectively, which students will use during the course to solve decision problems from a range of application fields.

Finally the course will discuss current issues in behavioural risk management and the value of first-line employees’ experience, such as their ability to identify ‘early warnings’ about risk, and what an organisation can do to encourage such employees to speak up without the fear of retribution. The aim is to demonstrate the benefits of front-line employees taking charge of local risk management issues and the importance role risk culture plays in allowing this to occur.

RISK5009 Risk Management Strategies

This course covers innovative risk management strategies using capital and insurance market techniques including those used in the alternative risk transfer (ART) market. Topics include: product types; securitisation; pricing risk-linked securities; credit risk; weather and energy risk; modelling individual risks; industry specific case studies; portfolio considerations; accounting, regulatory and legal issues.

Note: Students have the ability to choose a maximum of 4 non actuarial courses to complete the program. Enrolment into the courses, are subject to approval from the School of Risk & Actuarial and the disciplinary school offering the course.

A list of approved courses (from the viewpoint of the School of Risk and Actuarial Studies) is listed below.

ECON5106 Economics of Finance

This course is concerned with developing the economic principles underlying the pricing of financial assets and the management of financial risk in an uncertain world.
The course begins with a discussion of stock market indices, the concept of market efficiency and fixed interest securities. We then study decision making under uncertainty, portfolio theory and the capital asset pricing model.
An important part of the course is concerned with how to price a contingent claim, for example, an insurance policy or a financial option. Many new financial products can be viewed as contingent claims. By applying contingent claims analysis, the arbitrage-free price of a new financial product can be ascertained.
We will also consider how to value the capital structure of a firm using contingent claims analysis. The course concludes with a brief discussion of binomial option pricing.

ECON5206 Financial Econometrics

This course is concerned with the special statistical characteristics that arise when modelling time series data, such as commodity prices, interest rates or exchange rates. Topics include key characteristics of financial data, concepts of volatility and risk, modelling time varying volatility (ARCH models), and modelling relationships among financial series. The knowledge and methods acquired in this course are particularly useful and sought after in the public and private finance sector.

ECON5248 Business Forecasting

This course looks at the use of econometric and statistical techniques relevant to forecasting in a business environment and computer implementation of the methods. Short-term forecasting using time series analysis, long-term forecasting with S-shaped growth curves and trend analysis. The study of applied work is emphasised in this non-specialist course.

ECON6003 Econometric Analysis

This course is designed to provide a rigorous foundation of modern econometrics for applied research in economics. The first part of the course covers classic econometric concepts and techniques, such as moment estimation, maximum likelihood, least squares regression, and hypothesis testing and inference. Where necessary some statistical theory as well as basic matrix algebra will be taught. The second part of the course builds on these sound fundamentals of econometric theory. Topics covered could include instrumental variables, generalized method of moments (GMM), the bootstrap, quantile regression, or panel methods. Students will be required to use statistical packages to conduct econometric data analysis.

FINS5513 Investments and Portfolio Selection

Develops a basic conceptual framework to understand modern investments. Students learn to evaluate alternative investment strategies, develop a more complete understanding of the risk-return relation, and discuss recent developments in investment management. Surveys various financial markets and provides a review of the instruments used to allocate capital and manage risk. Topics include measuring risk and return, designing portfolios, pricing risk, valuing equities, valuing fixed income securities, hedging with derivatives. Students are assessed through a variety of means; including quizzes and exams, computer exercises, and case study discussions.

FINS5514 Capital Budgeting and Financial Decisions

Capital budgeting and financial decisions is primarily concerned with the major financial decisions faced by the firm. These decisions can be broadly classified as the investment decision, the financing decision, the dividend decision and the restructuring decision. This course will examine the main theories and empirical evidence surrounding these decisions and to use this knowledge to help solve typical ‘real’ finance problems.

FINS5517 Applied Portfolio Management and Modelling

Provides the foundation for the analysis of active funds management: the dynamic management of equity and fixed-income portfolios. Emphases are model construction (including forecasting), data analysis, the use of derivative securities (such as options, futures, FRAs, swaps), both international and domestic diversification benefits, performance and risk measures, and risk management and control.

FINS5530 Financial Institution Management

The application of modern finance theory and financial modelling techniques to financial decision-making and risk management in financial institutions. Includes: (i) Uniqueness of financial institutions; (ii) Application of portfolio, arbitrage pricing, option pricing and corporate finance theories to the management of assets, liabilities, capital structure and off-balance sheet operations; (iii) Interest rate risk management and financial futures; (iv) Liquidity risk management; (v) Loan portfolio management, credit evaluation models, loan pricing and credit rationing; (vi) Capital adequacy and prudential regulation and management.

FINS5535 Derivatives and Risk Management Techniques

Focuses on approaches to valuing standard and non-standard derivatives and on using derivatives for hedging. Theoretical, with some practical examples. Topics considered include: Forwards and futures pricing and hedging, swaps and swap valuation, numerical procedures for option pricing and hedge ratio calculation, continuous time (Black-Scholes) pricing of options and hedge ratio calculations, and introduction to exotic options.

FINS5536 Fixed Income Securities and Interest Rate Derivatives

Studies pricing, hedging and risk management of fixed income securities and interest rate derivatives. Includes: term structure dynamics (including bond price lattices, spot and forward rate models), analytical and numerical techniques, duration measures, interest rate derivative securities (including options, futures and swaps), the interaction between interest rate risk and credit risk, mortgage-backed securities and value-at-risk, the concepts of general collateral, an accessible treatment of the arbitrage-free models of the term structure, including the concept of state prices and no-arbitrage.

RISK5007 Operational Risk Analysis and Mgmt

Operational risk is a relatively new area of study, and is now recognised as one of the major risks for institutions. This course will consider the nature of operational risks, how they arise, quantification issues and management. The course will make extensive use of recent papers and articles on the topic as well as case studies to assist learning.

To be eligible for the program, you must have:
  • A recognised bachelor degree (or equivalent qualification) with a credit average (65% or higher) as determined by the UNSW Postgraduate Coursework Entry Calculator; and
  • A major (at least seven courses) in actuarial studies; or
  • A major (at least seven courses) in econometrics; or
  • A major (at least seven courses) in mathematics or statistics

The UNSW English Language requirements also apply to this program.

Note: No other requirement (such as GMAT, GRE, personal statement, academic referee) is considered unless otherwise specified.

Additional requirements

Applicants are expected to have a mathematical background equivalent to a full year of calculus and linear algebra at first-year university undergraduate level at above credit grade, as determined by the UNSW Postgraduate Coursework Entry Calculator.

Applicants who do not meet all of the entry criteria need not apply.

Note to Term 2 (July) applicants: Applicants planning to study this program in Term 2 need to have the required background in actuarial studies. Those with a very strong background in Econometrics, Mathematics (including Financial Mathematics) or Statistics may be allowed to commence the program in Term 2, as determined by the UNSW Business School. Please contact us prior to lodging an application to determine if you have the required background to study this program in Term 2.

Recognition of Prior Learning

  • Up to 4 courses (24 UOC) may be granted (towards the 4 core courses) based on your previous studies in actuarial studies (bachelor or higher)
  • Additional credits (up to 2 courses) may be awarded based on an incomplete postgraduate degree and/or professional examinations for the Fellowship of the Institute of Actuaries of Australia, the Institute of Actuaries (UK) or the Society of Actuaries
  • You will be notified of the credits in your official letter of offer.

Students who are not graduates of Australian or NZ universities

For students who have studied at overseas universities, the normal minimum academic requirement is the equivalent of a credit average grade (65%) from an Australian university, as determined by the UNSW Postgraduate Coursework Entry Calculator. Details on assessment will be determined by your grading system so it is important that this is attached with your transcript when you apply.

Note: Applicants from non-211 universities in China wishing to study Postgraduate Coursework in the UNSW Business School, must achieve a minimum overall average of 88 in their current university’s grading system. This is equivalent to an 85% Australian scaled average using the calculator.

We will use the National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition (AEI-NOOSR). They are the government body that provides official information on the comparability of overseas qualifications with Australian qualifications using the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) as our benchmark.

In those countries where an equivalent grade has not been established, the following will be taken into consideration:

  • The standard and content of the undergraduate program completed, and
  • The standard of the institution from which the qualifications were obtained
  • Indian universities award different types of bachelor and master degrees, with different requirements in terms of length of study. At a minimum, applicants would be required to have a 3-year bachelor degree or professional bachelor degree and provide all individual marksheets.
  • Iranian universities award different types of bachelor degrees, with different requirements in terms of length of study. At a minimum, applicants would be required to have a 4-year bachelor degree.

Application checklist

Before you apply, ensure that you:

  1. Choose the right program that matches your interests and career aspirations
  2. Meet the entry requirements of the program
  3. Check if you are eligible to apply for credits or advanced standing based on recognition of prior learning (RPL) for this program
  4. Note: You can apply for credits during the online application process

  5. Have the various supporting documentation for your application. E.g.

   a. Official academic transcripts
   b. Proof of completion of qualification
   c. Proof of identity and citizenship
   d. Proof of relevant work experience (if required)

    You can upload the above documentation during the online application process

How to apply

You can apply for this program online:

There are three intakes per year:

  • Term 1 (February): 30 November
  • Term 2 (June)*: 31 March
  • Term 3 (September): 31 July

*Please note that not all programs have a Term 2 intake.

Late applications may be accepted after the closing dates subject to the availability of places.

Need help?

Still need help finding the right postgraduate business program for you? Contact us now.

We know you're busy balancing postgraduate study with your personal and other work commitments. So UNSW Business School's dynamic learning spaces, facilities and student support helps you make the most of every day on campus.

Expand your professional network

Your postgraduate cohort is more than a valuable future business network – you'll make lifelong friends in class and at a range of social events. Join a student club – there are more than 180 social, cultural, sports and professional clubs to choose from. The Graduate Student Association is a great place to start.  Find out more

All the support you need to achieve

If it has been a while since you last studied, you may need to brush up on your skills. We'll help with study skills workshops and Career Mentoring programs. Our Meet the Executive series offers unique behind the scenes business insights and the Business School's LEAD Business Leadership program, as well as many other orientation, leadership and mentor programs, can open the door to new opportunities. Find out more

Stay active on campus

Exercise boosts your mental wellbeing and can help you deal with exam or assignment pressures. It's easy to stay fit with state of the art sporting facilities on campus, including a 50m indoor pool, fitness centre, squash courts and a range of competitive sports teams. Find out more

Everything you need in one place

The UNSW Kensington campus is like a village hub, with cafes, bars, banks, a post office, medical and dental centres as well as retail outlets. It's a short bus trip to Sydney's CBD, many beautiful beaches, the SCG and Centennial Park, and movie theatres at Fox Studios. Find out more

Make the most of every opportunity

Your postgraduate degree is a unique chance to get a new perspective on life. So get involved – as well as student clubs and social activities there are internships, volunteer projects, competitions and international exchanges on offer. It's a great way to further develop your leadership, project management or specialist skills.

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Quick facts for students

Program code
Masters Degree (Coursework)
Total Units of Credit (UOC)
Study Mode
Face to face
1.5 years full-time, 3 years part-time
Commencing terms
Term 1 – February
Term 3 – September
Course fee*
Program fee (total)*
* Fees are indicative only

​​​​​​​Area of Study

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