PhD in Actuarial Studies

The PhD program in Actuarial Studies at the Research School of Finance, Actuarial Studies and Statistics (RSFAS) equips graduates with the necessary skills to undertake independent research and develop knowledge and expertise in a specialised research topic within the field of actuarial studies.

The program is focused on developing candidates for careers in academia, government or industry. Positions in government or industry may include researcher or analyst in the banking, insurance, data analytics, actuarial and management consulting or financial sectors; and researcher or policy adviser at institutions, including central banks, bank regulators, international organisations such as the World Bank, IMF, OECD and ADB, and government departments such as Treasury, Finance, Health and Education.

CRICOS #: 048345A

Duration: 2 to 4 years full time (4 to 8 years part time)

Before applying

Before you submit an application for entry to the program, you should:

  • ensure you meet the admission requirements outlined below
  • identify potential supervisors – that is, one or two actuarial studies or statistics academics at ANU who conduct research in your area of interest.

You can find information on researchers and their research areas in the ANU researchers database, and on the RSFAS Actuarial Studies faculty and RSFAS Statistics faculty pages.

While other ANU schools may recommend contacting potential supervisors before submitting an application, this is not required for entry into RSFAS’s PhD programs. Instead, you only need to list the name(s) of potential supervisors in your online application form.

Potential supervisors cannot guarantee entry into the PhD program. Admission will depend on the strength of your application relative to others in the pool.

After you’ve completed the steps above, you can proceed with an online application.

Application deadlines

The first semester of the ANU academic year starts in February, and the second semester starts in July. While all applications for first semester entry must be submitted before 31 October, international applicants wishing to be considered for an ANU scholarship should submit their applications before 31 August.

To be considered for a scholarship, your application must be accompanied by all the supporting documents listed below, including the referee reports. Request for referee reports are triggered and sent to your nominated referees at the time of submission of program application. It is thus important that you submit your application in advance (2-3 weeks) to allow time for your referees to provide their reports prior to the scholarship deadline.

If you’re currently completing an academic degree and haven’t yet received your final results and transcript, you should still submit all available documents before the deadline, and forward remaining results once you receive them. We won’t make a final decision on your application until we’ve received all the required documents.

Admission requirements

The admission requirements for the PhD program in Actuarial Studies reflect the advanced knowledge that candidates will need to undertake the coursework component of the degree, and the research experience and skills needed to successfully undertake and complete the research thesis.

The minimum qualification requirement for admission to the PhD program in Actuarial Studies is:

  1. an Australian Bachelor degree (or equivalent) with First Class Honours or Second Class Honours Division A in actuarial studies (or a related discipline), or
  2. another qualification (e.g. a Master degree) with a substantial research thesis component that the RSFAS HDR (higher degree by research) committee is satisfied is equivalent or superior to a degree mentioned in (a), or
  3. a combination of qualifications and professional experience that the RSFAS HDR committee is satisfied is equivalent or superior to a degree mentioned in (a).

Admission to the PhD program in Actuarial Studies is competitive and we can only admit a limited number of applicants each year. Meeting the minimum entry requirements does not guarantee you a place in the program.

If you don’t have sufficient research experience for entry into the PhD program, you might consider applying to the MPhil program. If you’d like to consider this pathway, contact the RSFAS HDR convenor for more information.

English language requirements

All applicants must satisfy the University’s English language admission requirements. An international applicant who is not a native English speaker may satisfy these requirements by submitting evidence of an IELTS overall score of at least 6.5, and with no component less than 6.0, or a paper-based TOEFL score of at least 570, with at least 4.5 in the essay component.

Application and supporting documentation

You must submit your application online via the ANU Application Manager.

In addition to the standard information required in the online application, you must submit the following supporting documents as part of your application:

  • a one-page statement of purpose outlining your motivation to undertake a PhD in Actuarial Studies at ANU
  • a research proposal – see details below, as well as these guidelines on how to prepare a persuasive research proposal
  • copies of written research work, e.g. honours or Master thesis, research project or published works
  • official TOEFL or IELTS results (where applicable) to demonstrate that you satisfy the University’s English language requirements.

Research proposal

The online application requires you to submit a research proposal. The proposal should set out an original research idea, provide an introduction or background to your research idea, clearly set out the research objectives, data and methods you expect to use, and explain why the research is important and the contribution it will make to the discipline. Among other things, the research proposal will require you to demonstrate an understanding of the key literature in your chosen topic area. As a guide, you should aim for between 1,500 and 2,000 words, including a list of key references.

The RSFAS HDR committee uses the research proposal as an indicator to assess the quality and originality of your ideas and your skills in critical thinking. Note that the research proposal does not restrict you to this field of study should you be admitted to the PhD program.

Offers of admission

The RSFAS HDR committee will review all complete applications submitted by the relevant deadline.

If your application is short-listed, you may be required to attend an interview (face to face or online).

We may send you an offer of admission if you satisfy the eligibility criteria and your area of interest matches those of RSFAS academics with supervisory capacity. However, since admission is competitive and supervisory capacity is limited, we won’t send any offers of admission until after the relevant application deadline, irrespective of the date when you submit your application.

Program structure

The PhD program in Actuarial Studies consists of two components – coursework and research.

Candidates undertake the research component after successfully completing the required coursework.

PhD coursework component

PhD candidates may be required to complete up to six semester-length courses during the first year of the program. Required coursework must be completed to a satisfactory level for candidates to progress to the research component. Courses may be chosen from a wide range of graduate-level courses in actuarial studies, statistics, finance, or suitable advanced courses from other disciplines. The specific coursework requirements will depend on each candidate’s background, and the courses will be chosen in consultation with the HDR convenor and the chair of the candidate’s supervisory panel.

PhD research component

Following the successful completion of coursework, PhD candidates undertake specialised research training and independent research.

Research supervisory panel

When a PhD candidate is admitted to the program, a provisional supervisor is appointed. The provisional supervisor has the responsibility of overseeing the candidate’s progress until a supervisory panel is chosen. During the first year, it is important that PhD candidates start developing their research topic ideas by consulting with their provisional supervisor and other academic staff within RSFAS.

Either in a candidate’s first year of study, or soon after completion of their coursework, a supervisory panel will be chosen. The role of the panel is to assist, advise, and provide support and encouragement to the candidate for a timely and successful completion of the research thesis. The HDR convenor will determine the composition of the supervisory panel in consultation with the candidate.

RSFAS actuarial studies seminar program

The RSFAS actuarial studies seminar program consists of regular seminars presented by national and international researchers. PhD candidates are expected to attend and actively participate in the seminars throughout their candidature.

Research integrity training

Within three to six months of enrolment, all PhD candidates must complete the Research Integrity Training and pass the exam. Completion of this course and exam is a compulsory milestone for all PhD candidates.

Thesis proposal review

During the second year, PhD candidates must submit a thesis proposal for review to their supervisory panel and present it as a seminar to the School. The purpose of the thesis proposal review is to assess the originality, significance, adequacy and achievability of the candidate’s thesis plan.

The proposal includes a description of the research to be undertaken in the thesis, and a summary of the thesis structure and time plan.

Successful completion of the thesis proposal review (as determined by the Delegated Authority following consultation with the HDR convenor and supervisory panel) is required to continue in the PhD program.

Annual progress review

It is University policy that each candidate’s progress be reviewed periodically. In each year of their program, PhD candidates are required to submit an annual plan and report as a basis for periodic progress review. This document provides details on work completed by the candidate since the previous review, current progress, and any problems that may impact their research. It also outlines the coursework and research the candidate intends to undertake in the following 12 months.

Oral presentation

In their final year, candidates are required to give a final oral presentation on their research, usually three months before submitting their thesis.

Read more about research candidate milestones.

Thesis submission and examination

The culmination of the PhD in Actuarial Studies is a written thesis which, upon completion, is submitted for examination. The thesis is examined by examiners who are experts in the relevant field.

For more information on the process, visit our page on submitting a thesis.


For information about scholarships available to HDR candidates, visit our page on scholarships and fees.

Job placement

Read details of some of our alumni’s recent job placements.

Current PhD candidates

See our list of current Actuarial Studies PhD students.