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Actuary or Engineer for INTP as career?

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#1
In a bit of a unique situation. I'm from the UK so if you didn't know already the education system narrows down on a few discipline areas in post 16 education. I take physics, maths, further maths, chemistry and Latin. (Dropping Latin due to workload from maths sadly, as I enjoy the culture a lot).

As an INTP who has INTJ tendencies (basically I am driven by goals but too lazy to pursue half of them). I always wanted to study theoretical physics but later found the job insecurity to be too large a con to ignore.

Back when I was 13 I wanted to do something for a science project, whose title was to invent something new. I wanted to focus on reusable spacecraft, but when I Googled for ideas, immediately found that SpaceX existed. I now really want to become an aerospace engineer to work for SpaceX, but I fear I won't make a good engineer because I'm very theoretical and not practical. (Proof: every single time I try to do a chemistry experiment I knock over test tubes, mess up the heating time, get the wrong temperature, etc.) So I thought: hey listen, physics might end you up at McDonald's but you could do an actuary conversion, since it's basically being paid to do exams and maths problems and those are what I am good at. And the best part of choosing this route (theoretical physics degree and then actuary) is that I get to study physics at university and that has been my long term goal for years upon years. (I was googling Cambridge physics interview questions aged 14).

The only problem? I detest banks and corporations. Call it the 'Tyler Durden' effect if you may. I do not want to be part of a system dumb and corrupt enough to single handedly cause the 2008 global recession. I don't know if this is naivete, and I can get over this hatred of people who wake up every day to make profit and go to sleep thinking about how to triple said profit and get mental money boners. I only want to go into this because it's my only choice after a physics degree other than begging/ teaching (which yes are on the same boat to me. I hate children). I've a bit of research about being an actuary and it doesn't sound too monotonous but I don't know, can't trust them when they could just be there for money.

Apologies for the essay. If you're still here any thoughts?
 
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#2
I don't know too much about engineering, but from what I understand you will have to specialize in some very narrow field. Physics and math might give you a more diverse set of possible paths.

I can give a couple of thoughts on the financial route though. I work as a quant in the financial sector, but I have never worked for a bank. I detest corporations myself, and sort of detest banks as well. I have worked on the so-called buy-side of the financial sector (banks are sell-side), which is comprised of funds, hedge funds, proprietary-trading firms and analytics companies. The good thing about these is that their existence is fully predicated on the quality of their ideas; no one would bail out a hedge fund using tax-payer money. In general, the whole sector which deals with markets is a very meritocratic and open-minded culture, because there is money directly at risk there, and money is a great equalizer – everyone understands that in the end, bad ideas will lead to getting wiped out. So if you can provide good, creative ideas, you will be highly valued as an individual, so I find it very rewarding in that sense.

I'm not sure how I would rate the insurance business on the morality scale compared to the rest of the financial sector. I went to an interview at an insurance company once. One of the optimization problems they were dealing with was figuring out how much they could raise the insurance premia of their customers while still not losing too many of them. They would for example raise the premium more for customers they considered undesirable. I'm pretty sure that wasn't the worst case of morally dubious things they were doing.

Also, I would say that actuary is a very specialized vocation which might be hard to convert into other things later. The physics->finance route is much more general.
 

Cognisant

Condescending Bastard
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#3
Engineering is a lot less Tony Stark and a lot more cubicles and spreadsheets, on a good day it's cubicles and CAD modelling but the things you'll be modelling will primarily be the small parts of a larger machine.
 
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#4
I don't know too much about engineering, but from what I understand you will have to specialize in some very narrow field. Physics and math might give you a more diverse set of possible paths.

I can give a couple of thoughts on the financial route though. I work as a quant in the financial sector, but I have never worked for a bank. I detest corporations myself, and sort of detest banks as well. I have worked on the so-called buy-side of the financial sector (banks are sell-side), which is comprised of funds, hedge funds, proprietary-trading firms and analytics companies. The good thing about these is that their existence is fully predicated on the quality of their ideas; no one would bail out a hedge fund using tax-payer money. In general, the whole sector which deals with markets is a very meritocratic and open-minded culture, because there is money directly at risk there, and money is a great equalizer – everyone understands that in the end, bad ideas will lead to getting wiped out. So if you can provide good, creative ideas, you will be highly valued as an individual, so I find it very rewarding in that sense.

I'm not sure how I would rate the insurance business on the morality scale compared to the rest of the financial sector. I went to an interview at an insurance company once. One of the optimization problems they were dealing with was figuring out how much they could raise the insurance premia of their customers while still not losing too many of them. They would for example raise the premium more for customers they considered undesirable. I'm pretty sure that wasn't the worst case of morally dubious things they were doing.

Also, I would say that actuary is a very specialized vocation which might be hard to convert into other things later. The physics->finance route is much more general.
Thanks for the reply. After writing two different PS's and finding the physics one much more convincing, I decided to apply for physics/physical NatSci like I always wanted to (at least for the meantime! Until my brain changes its compass). The insight here is pretty useful, so I might hold the gun on jumping straight in to becoming an actuary (although what aided my decision in the end was having a peek at the past papers for the actuarial exams, and liking the content in them).

And on a discussion note, it's interesting to see that there's a market like the one you work in. I guess I was lured by media into thinking that all of finance is somehow one large purgatory where everyone could be replaced by robots but isn't because of dogma.
 
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#5
Engineering is a lot less Tony Stark and a lot more cubicles and spreadsheets, on a good day it's cubicles and CAD modelling but the things you'll be modelling will primarily be the small parts of a larger machine.
Thanks for the insight; cubicles and CAD sounds alright, spreadsheets not so much. I have had some exposure to the engineering circles over the past months however and decided that I'm still unsure, so will apply for physics most likely and then go from there.
 
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#6
I’d advise against engineering, unless you desperately want to do some specific thing. If you’re not 100% sure, it’s much more beneficial to start off in something much more broad and specialise later. The trade off is that it’s much more practicable to narrow down from a broader field than it is to transition from a very specific field.

If you do an undergrad in something more broad like physics, you can always narrow down and do a masters in aerospace engineering or something.

Furthermore, starting from a more conceptual standpoint will allow you to understand the big picture before specialising. It’s much harder to step out of the detailed work and see the bigger picture than it is to do the opposite.

(I’m biased because I work directing a lot of engineers, and in my experience, they are so focused on their specialised field, that they don’t understand how what they are working on fits in with the bigger project. Engineers who do are few and far between, and very valuable)
 
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#7
And on a discussion note, it's interesting to see that there's a market like the one you work in. I guess I was lured by media into thinking that all of finance is somehow one large purgatory where everyone could be replaced by robots but isn't because of dogma.
It's simply changing – like many sectors currently – into a more technological, data-driven sector. People who know math and statistics become more in demand.
 
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#8
Oh god, so much useful insight in this post. I am studying to be a chemical engineer and I have a big feeling that I should have chosen something related to statistics or programming...
 
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