Saturday, 7 April 2012

Warwick (MORSE) or Cass (Actuarial Science)?

This question has been revolving in my mind for a few weeks and now I'm still contemplating over this. People have been saying it ultimately boils down to what I want to do, and it's really up to me to choose which one to go. But I will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of both schools and courses, and I believe this would be really helpful for anyone having the same dilemma with me.

I would start the evaluation with MORSE (3 years) at Warwick. Its optional modules are enviably interesting and broad, a course structure that one wouldn't be able to learn in Cass. Stars, Galaxies, Number Theory, Particle Physics and Quantum Mechanics, just to give a few examples. It provides me a greater exposure to various topics in maths and physics, aside from probability and statistics that primarily involved in Actuarial Science. The reputation of Warwick as one of the top 6 universities in the UK also provides many career opportunities as graduates from MORSE are often sought after by the employers in financial market, although I'm bonded with the Bank. 

The disadvantages of studying MORSE? If you're certain to be an actuary in future, MORSE would be a slower course for one to finish the exams and qualify as an actuary. MORSE only provides 3 papers exemption from the professional actuarial exams set by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries UK. Therefore if you chose to be in actuarial field upon graduation in MORSE, you will be required to take slightly longer time (probably 1-2 years longer) compared to Actuarial Science graduates at Cass. 

The advantages of Cass are obviously the number of exemptions given to students and its location at the heart of London. London is the biggest forex market and one of the biggest financial markets in the world, so I can expect to find internship to work with various firms be it actuarial firm or investment bank. Cass provides maximum number of 8 papers exemption from the professional actuarial exams. I can expect to meet many people with similar interest in the financial market at Cass, as it is one of the top 5 business schools in the UK. I'm personally interested in derivatives pricing, hedging and trading, so I might be able to meet some peers with the same interest too, at Cass. 

Yesterday after Easter service, I met with a church member Daniel Lee, who is also so happened to be my senior. He graduated from Actuarial Science at Cass, and working in the Bank Negara now as a qualified actuary specialised in life insurance. He told me being an actuary is very flexible, enabling you to go into any career in the financial market, as you are equipped with 3 major advantages. First, you will be equipped with technical skills. Second, you will be able to approach complex problems rigorously and creatively, in other word, you're a problem solver. Third, you will be able to communicate well with non-actuarial people, to explain actuarial premiums well to them. These are the qualities actuaries have that make them valuable in the financial market. 

I mentioned about my interest in derivatives pricing, hedging and trading too. What he said were something rather sticky in my mind. He burst my bubble by stating I would not be able to find this kind of job scope in the Bank as Bank does not offer such job, at least not in the next 5 years. He also advised me not to narrow down my mind so fast to decide to go for that field, and asked me to finish the degree first. By then I would have some better perception on what I really want to do with my career. He asked me not to shut off the possibilities of specialising in something that I might not find it interesting now such as life insurance, general insurance and other specialisations in the actuarial field. I was interested to specialise in finance and investment area, until I found out that the specialisation involved in actuarial science is not exactly tentamount to the actual definition of finance and investment. 

He said, if I really want to go for derivative pricing, quantitative modelling, hedging and trading, I can pick it up later on upon graduated from my undergraduate degree, while working. I might not have sufficient mathematical capacity equipped to learn up these skills fast as compared to Phd holders in maths and physics (should I go for Cass), but I have the advantage of being an actuary to approach complex problems creatively and solve it. Now my problem is, I don't know how far MORSE can equip me with such mathematical capacity. I don't know to what extent MORSE can broaden my career pathways. I don't know how far MORSE's course structure can outweigh its opportunity cost of shorter qualifying period should I go for Cass. 

His last advice was, just go for any degree be it MORSE or Actuarial Science, both are fine. Try out everything first before deciding on specialisation. My concern? Time period of qualifying and intellectual stimulation that the undergraduate degree can provide. Both are extremely hard and hectic with lots of workloads and assignments. 

Anyone cares to help? 

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