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The Independent Online
Name: Fiona Talbot

Age: 24

A-levels: Chemistry (A), Maths (B), Biology (B)

University: Graduated from the University of Liverpool in 1996 having obtained a first from her joint honours degree in maths and economics.

Job: Trainee actuarial consultant, William M Mercer, London

"I had three amazingly happy years in Liverpool. I applied to loads of companies through the university careers service and, in February 1997, I was invited for an interview by William M Mercer. The day after my interview they offered me a job!

"They said I was going to be trained to deal with company pension schemes, looking at the statistics, and making predictions which form the calculations of a pension scheme. The training didn't start until September so I took a holiday for six months! I figured I could afford it as the starting salaries were good. My opening salary was pounds 18,500 and this rises gradually.

"Training takes between five and six years for most people. Mega-brains take as little as three years, but that's rare. Everyone though has to have at least a 2(i) degree in maths. Most of them here have firsts. The company goes round many of the universities giving seminars offering prospective graduates the chance to meet them.

"I loved Liverpool and university life. Now it's set me up here in London and, once I'm qualified, I'll be able to earn loads! Consultants can start on around pounds 50,000, while the sky's the limit for top consultants."