Ergonomist

Salary and conditions

  • Range of typical starting salaries for new ergonomics graduates: £20,000 – £25,000.
  • Range of salaries with around five years’ experience: £25,000 – £40,000.
  • Senior ergonomists can earn up to £60,000.
  • Salaries vary significantly between large industrial companies and universities. Earnings in consultancies are equally variable. Those with an ergonomics degree in addition to relevant experience from a previous profession can earn higher salaries than those stated above.
  • Ergonomists generally work office hours, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, but overtime and weekend or shift work may be required depending on the employer and the project.
  • Working environments can differ enormously. However, the work often involves a combination of office or laboratory-based activities and field work/externally based tasks.
  • Self-employment/freelance work is possible for those with experience in a specific area.
  • There are many opportunities in the field to undertake individual research. This usually involves liaising with other freelance ergonomists.
  • Because of ongoing developments in technology and design, ergonomists must be prepared to continue learning throughout their careers.
  • Jobs are available in most areas but mobility may be necessary to secure promotion.
  • The work can be stressful because of the demands of the clients and professionals in other fields.
  • The work often involves interacting with a range of people within a team of professionals and/or working with clients or with individuals in the process of assessing workplace issues.
  • Travel within a working day and absence from home at night can be frequent but varies according to the focus of the role. Overseas work or travel is occasional.

Job description

Ergonomists are concerned with the safety and efficiency of equipment, systems and transportation. They use scientific information to ensure the health, comfort and protection of the people using them and due to the nature of the work can find themselves in a wide range of environments. According to the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors , ‘Ergonomics is the application of scientific information concerning humans to the design of objects, systems and environment for human use.’

By scientifically studying the relationship between people, environments and equipment, ergonomists can use their findings to improve human interaction with processes and systems. Areas of work include product/equipment design, production systems, information and advanced technology and transport design.

They may work in consultancy, research, development or teaching and may also be called human factors specialists

Typical work activities

An ergonomist’s work activities vary widely but are always based on ensuring that a system or product meets the needs of the user and will usually include:

  • investigating the physical capabilities and limitations of the human body;
  • analysing how people use equipment and machinery;
  • undertaking workplace risk assessments;
  • assessing work environments and their effect on users;
  • utilising assessment results to identify areas for improvement;
  • designing practical solutions to implement these improvements;
  • producing user manuals to ensure the best use of new systems or products;
  • producing reports of findings and recommendations;
  • writing proposals and compiling statistical data;
  • using detailed knowledge of the human body to improve the design of products, such as cars and leisure facilities;
  • interviewing individuals and observing them in a particular type of environment, as part of the research process;
  • liaising with staff at all levels of an organisation to undertake research;
  • visiting a wide range of environments, such as offices, factories, hospitals and oil rigs, in order to assess health and safety standards or to investigate workplace accidents;
  • providing advice, information and training to colleagues and clients;
  • acting as an expert witness in cases of industrial injury;
  • developing a clear understanding of how specific industries and their systems work in a short space of time;
  • managing sections of projects;
  • presenting to clients, conferences and professional societies;
  • identifying opportunities for new work.

Entry requirements

There are two common routes to qualifying as a professional ergonomist:

  • a BSc in Ergonomics recognised by the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors;
  • a relevant postgraduate qualification (MSc or PhD by course or research).

For entry via the postgraduate route, a degree in a relevant subject is required. Examples include:

  • engineering;
  • computer science/software engineering;
  • mathematics/physics;
  • operational research;
  • physiotherapy/occupational therapy;
  • medicine;
  • design;
  • sports science;
  • psychology;
  • biology.

Some distance learning courses, leading to a relevant postgraduate certificate, diploma or MSc are also available. Visit the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors  website for more information.

A high standard of academic qualifications is usually sought by employers.

Some courses include a year of practical experience. The choice of course and the type of pre-course qualification you have may affect the type of areas in which you can specialise as a professional ergonomist. The Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors’ website has details of recognised and qualifying courses. As there are more places on postgraduate courses, more graduates will enter the profession with a Masters.

Entry is not possible with an HND only.

Applicants with a relevant postgraduate qualification will have an advantage, particularly if this is combined with related work experience, specifically in industry.

Whilst pre-entry experience is not required, work in a relevant environment can be useful. Employers usually favour candidates with some level of industrial experience.

Potential candidates will need to show evidence of the following:

  • a good level of numeracy;
  • the ability to understand technical concepts;
  • an interest in people’s behaviour in different situations;
  • problem-solving skills;
  • a systematic approach to studying people in their work environment and producing research;
  • the ability to work well with people at all levels;
  • good communication and negotiation skills.

Membership of the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors is open to anyone but those who are qualified and experienced gain entry to the professional register, which is sent out to employers and profiled on the institute’s website. Membership can also be a useful way of forging professional contacts. The institute also runs a work experience scheme, ‘Opening Doors’, which operates an online placement service, available to student members. Use projects on degree courses to develop areas of specialty and to create opportunities for holiday work. Sandwich options on degree courses are also very useful. A valuable way to gain greater insight into the profession is to talk to working ergonomists. Contact the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors for more information about speaking to professionals in the field.

The hardest job to get is the first one, meaning that initially competition is high but there is a great demand for ergonomists with over three years’ experience. This field welcomes mature candidates and is open to those starting new careers. A high proportion of ergonomists enter the profession in their 30s and 40s and come from a range of backgrounds, including physiotherapy, psychology and engineering.

For more information, see work experience and internships and search courses and research.

Advertisements

Tax adviser

Salary and conditions

  • Range of typical graduate starting salaries: £20,000 – £32,000.
  • Newly qualified chartered tax advisers (CTAs) can expect a salary in the range of £26,000 to £37,000.
  • Subsequent salary progression for CTAs is in the range of £30,000 to £55,000 and at management level between £50,000 to £100,000, with the potential for some principal/technical directors to earn up to £150,000.
  • Salaries vary widely depending on employer, type of specialization and area of the country. Salaries are towards the higher end of the scale in London and the South East.
  • Typical benefits packages include 30 days’ holiday, pension and private medical insurance.
  • Working hours are mainly 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, possibly with some extra hours and work at weekends during busy times such as end of the tax year. Some firms have introduced flexible working hours. Working with private clients may involve home visits, sometimes out of hours.
  • Work is often in a team environment.
  • Once qualified, and with several years’ experience, self-employment is possible. Self-employed tax advisers usually deal with individuals, self-employed traders, partnerships and small companies.
  • Career breaks and part-time work are commonplace.
  • The majority of trainee opportunities are in London and other major cities, though opportunities exist throughout the UK.
  • The work involves working to deadlines, which are usually absolute as tax return deadlines are non-negotiable.
  • Local travel within a working day is normal for client visits.
  • Absence from home at night and overseas travel are occasionally needed and more likely for senior managers. There may be opportunities to work overseas for a multinational company or for a UK-based company with offices abroad.

Job description

A tax adviser uses their knowledge of tax legislation to provide advisory and consultancy services to clients, ensuring that they pay their taxes in the most efficient way and benefit from any tax advantages and exemptions. They keep up to date with changing tax laws and explain complicated legislation and its implications to their clients, in simple terms.

They create tax strategies for their clients and plan their financial futures. They carry out detailed computations to calculate tax liability, submit tax returns by the relevant deadline and deal with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)  on behalf of their clients. Some also offer other accountancy services.

The work is highly detailed and complex and can be challenging and rewarding. Clients can include large and small companies, partnerships, trusts and individuals.

Typical work activities

There are two main areas of work:

  • Tax planning – staying abreast of changes in tax law and structuring clients’ affairs lawfully to minimise future tax liabilities. Tax planning is normally carried out by tax professionals operating within an accountancy practice or lawyers working within law firms.
  • Tax compliance – ensuring a client meets all tax obligations by preparing and submitting tax returns, tax computations and any other necessary forms. Dealing with tax authorities. This work is usually undertaken by accountancy practices.

Initially a graduate within a tax advisory role career might focus on compliance activities, for example, completing tax returns and calculating amount payable, with movement towards consultancy and specialisation as their career develops.

The work of a tax adviser will depend on the nature and size of the employer. Larger accountancy firms tend to adopt a structure that permits greater specialisation. For example, new graduates in large organisations may be employed to undertake research about a particular specialist area on behalf of more experienced colleagues.

Typical work activities include:

  • researching, analysing and interpreting changing tax legislation;
  • meeting with clients and collating information;
  • working with tax law and revenue provisions;
  • preparing and submitting compliance (tax) returns;
  • liaising and negotiating with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC);
  • providing consultancy services to high value private clients;
  • advising on tax liabilities;
  • establishing and structuring family trusts;
  • estate planning and advising on tax residence and domicile matters;
  • providing guidance on indirect taxation issues such as VAT, customs planning and environmental taxes.

Some self-employed tax advisers also offer their clients a range of accountancy services, such as bookkeeping, payroll and VAT.

Entry requirements

Graduates in any discipline can qualify as a tax adviser. However, the following degree subject areas may increase your chances:

  • accountancy and finance;
  • business/management;
  • economics;
  • law;
  • mathematics/statistics.

Actuary

Salary and conditions


  • Typical starting salaries for graduates fall generally within the range of £25,000 – £35,000. Starting salaries vary according to location. For example, salaries are likely to be higher in the London area.
  • Typical salaries for newly qualified actuaries in insurance companies may vary between £40,000 and £55,000. Salary progression is dependent upon the individual, performance, and the development of a career path. Increments are usually paid for examination success.
  • Typical salary at senior level/with experience, e.g. after 10-15 years in the role: over £60,000. There is a wide range of salaries for experienced actuaries, but high financial rewards and excellent benefits packages are common.
  • Salaries in excess of £100,000 are typical for senior actuaries.
  • Working hours typically include regular extra hours, but not necessarily weekends or shifts. In traditional areas of employment, long hours are less likely for more junior staff, e.g. graduate trainees, as they will be devoting time to study for professional examinations.
  • Self-employment and freelance work are possible but very unusual, as most actuaries are employed by large financial institutions.
  • Flexible working conditions can be negotiated with some employers, e.g. part-time work and career breaks, but this is usually dependent on the employer and individual’s circumstances.
  • Jobs are quite widely available in most large towns and cities of the UK, although London has the largest proportion of jobs.
  • Actuaries are usually expected to maintain a smart business dress code but this varies between employers.
  • Examinations are an important part of an actuarial student’s training, and study during this period may impact on your social and personal life.
  • Opportunities to travel vary between employers. For example, an insurance company with offices around the UK and/or outside the UK may require actuaries to travel from time to time. Visits to corporate clients may also be necessary, e.g. for those working in reinsurance. The amount of travel varies according to the type of actuarial work and the regional area.

Job description

Actuaries evaluate, manage and advise on financial risks. They apply their knowledge of business and economics, together with their understanding of probability theory, statistics and investment theory, to provide strategic, commercial and financial advice. The core of actuarial work lies within pensions and insurance, where professionals are most likely to start off. Some actuaries may move on to investment banks at a later stage.

Actuarial work can be diverse and ranges from highly technical roles developing complex financial products in investment banks or pensions and insurance companies to consultancy roles for those seeking a client-facing career.

Actuaries need to apply their mathematical, economic and statistical awareness to real situations in the financial world and be able to communicate the difficult topics to non-specialists. Strong communication skills are becoming an increasingly important part of the actuarial profession, and it is essential that actuaries are able to discuss complex topics in a simple way to assist their clients effectively.

Actuarial trainees may begin work as trainee pensions consultants or risk analysts while at the same time studying for professional exams. Senior actuaries can be found in consulting firms as partners, in large banks as chief risk officers or in board-level positions in insurance companies and other financial services organisations.

Typical work activities

Actuaries apply financial and statistical theories to assess the likelihood of a particular event occurring and the possible financial costs.

Specific tasks vary but work may include:

  • analysing statistical data in order to calculate, for example, accident rates for particular groups of people;
  • using mathematical modelling techniques and statistical concepts to determine probability and assess risks, such as analysing pension scheme liabilities, to price commercial insurance;
  • monitoring risk within trading positions in investment banking to ensure excessive risks are not taken during the fast pace of trading;
  • presenting reports, explaining their implications to managers and directors, and advising on risk limitation;
  • advising on issues such as the selection of investment managers or the administration of pensions and benefits;
  • working with IT professionals to develop systems to ensure compliance with the requirements of regulatory bodies;
  • communicating with clients and carrying out relationship management, including with investment managers, financial directors and external stakeholders;
  • supervising staff;
  • working with mergers and acquisitions on some occasions.

Specifically, actuaries in their day-to-day work may be responsible for the following:

  • developing new financial products;
  • conducting valuations of assets and liabilities;
  • advising on investment strategies and assessing the profitability of an investments portfolio;
  • calculating funding rates and considering assumptions for pension scheme liabilities;
  • analysing risks related to locations for catastrophe claims;
  • measuring, monitoring and mitigating portfolio and enterprise risks;
  • overseeing asset and liability modelling, product development and profit testing;
  • preparing presentations, reports, valuations and quarterly updates.

Actuaries may also be involved with the acceptance of proposals for new policies, with legal and taxation matters affecting life assurance, or with the investment of funds.

Entry requirements

Although this area of work is open to all graduates with strong numerical skills, the following degree subjects may increase your chances:

  • actuarial science or actuarial mathematics;
  • mathematics or statistics;
  • economics;
  • engineering;
  • business or finance;
  • science, e.g. physics and chemistry.

The majority of UK entrants to the profession are graduates with a first or second class honours degree. Some employers require specific degree subjects or an MSc in Actuarial Science. Graduates must have a minimum of grade B in A-level mathematics and a grade C in another A-level subject.

Employers of actuaries typically look for a 2:1 or above, ideally in a numerate subject such as mathematics, statistics or economics. Eligibility of other qualifications, including those from outside the UK and Ireland, can be checked with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, also known as The Actuarial Profession. Entry with an HND only is highly unlikely.

Details of postgraduate diploma and MSc courses in actuarial science accredited by The Actuarial Profession are available on their website. The Directory of Actuarial Employers in the UK and Ireland has a list of companies that may offer sponsorship for postgraduate study.

A degree, postgraduate diploma or MSc in actuarial science may give exemption from core technical subjects and allow qualification in a shorter time. It is also possible to get exemptions having studied a numerical degree such as mathematics or economics, provided modules include some focus on statistics and probability. Details are available from The Actuarial Profession .

Although pre-entry experience is not a requirement, talking to people in the job and, if possible, acquiring some work experience will prove invaluable. Some companies offer work placements or internships for students interested in becoming actuaries. Internships and placements can potentially be helpful in securing a graduate job, however this is dependent on the organisation. It is also useful to speak with people in the profession by approaching them at careers events or work shadowing where possible.

Candidates will need to show evidence of the following:

  • a high level of numeracy;
  • good communication skills, including the ability to convey complex information to clients;
  • analytical and creative problem-solving skills;
  • IT skills;
  • the ability to write clear reports;
  • the ability to take responsibility;
  • self-discipline and determination and an appreciation of the demands of studying while working;
  • sound judgement and a genuine interest in business;
  • genuine commitment to an actuarial career.

The Financial Mathematics Exam , offered by The Actuarial Profession to university students and people working in financial services, provides a useful starting point for those considering a career as an actuary. A Certificate in Financial Mathematics, often referred to as CT1, is awarded on successful completion. The certificate also goes towards completing the professional qualification.

For more information, see work experience and internships and search courses and research.