As the saying goes, it is not just about what you know, it is also who you know. That is often true for not just landing your dream actuarial job, but for any kind of job you are looking for. If you don’t know anyone, it’s as a good time as any to start networking. Networking can mean talking to your profs, attending job conferences and reaching out to other actuaries on Linkedin. When connecting with others on linkedin, some people frown upon connecting with others you might not know personally. It think that defeats the purpose of networking. While you shouldn’t just reach out to anyone and everyone, you should at least try and connect with people of similar interests, education and background. A good start is to ask about their transition from a student to a professional, the challenges they faced, and what they would change if they could rewind to the time they were a student.
Getting your first actuarial job ( or any professional job for that matter ) is the ultimate catch 22. Companies and hiring managers are looking for people with experience. However, everyone needs to start somewhere and if you don’t have experience it can be frustrating to just get your foot in the door. Getting an actuarial internship is a crucial step towards becoming an actuary. During an internship you learn skills not taught in any classroom setting, start to build your professional network with other coworkers, and get a taste for what it feels like to works as an actuary. Often interns also end up working for the company after they graduate. If they do end up working elsewhere, the references and connections are crucial to getting a job at a different firm.
Being proficient in just Excel/Vba/Access does not cut it anymore. While it could be true that actuaries do get by with just those tools, they should be the starting point. Technical knowledge is power and having that power delivers more efficient ways to solve a problem. This allows you to do more of the critical thinking, and less of the day to day grunt work. If Access is not yet outdated today, it most surely will in the very near future. That is not to say these tools will go completely extinct, but overtime you should always be on the lookout for more powerful tools and better solutions. Some tools to looks into are:
One thing to remember. There is no one tool or software that does everything well. Some programs are better than others and preference and costs are crucial factors to consider as well.
It is not so important what programming language you know, but that you know and understand the basics. Saying you know 52 different programming languages might sound impressive to someone that doesn’t know programming. Understanding the fundamentals and then branch out to a select few for different purposes once you understand the basics. A good all purpose programming language to start is Python, because it is relatively easy to learn compare to languages like C++ or Java. It can also be used in a wide variety of applications and has a extensive library for data analysis. It’s also one of the most popular. SQL is a database language that every actuary/data analyst should know. Actuaries deal with lots of numbers and lots of data, and SQL is what stores and retrieves all this information. In other words, SQL is the language that lets you manipulate and manage databases.
It is crucial that once you understand the basics you need to go and practice the concepts you learned. Knowing the rules is just the start. Put your skills to the test and practice solving problems with your newfound knowledge. Now go build that cool python project you been thinking about.
While it is true you need to pass the exams in order to become an accredited actuary, this is the least important of the 5 points mentioned toward becoming a successful actuary. Passing exams does not guarantee any actuary job, even if you pass all of them on your first try. While it is crucial that you have a solid understanding of the actuarial topics, most of what you learn in textbooks you will never apply in the real world. Gaining internship experience and networking is far more important. Moreover, being an excellent exam taker and a successful actuary professional doesn’t have a high correlation. Exams don’t test real world situations and topics are often outdated and never used in day to day work.. Insur Tech, and data scientists are on the verge of taking over the industry and profession in the years to come and actuaries need to develop skills that align with these industries. The future successful actuary will be a hybrid between insurance professional and data scientist who isn’t resistant to change.