First Job > Long Term Preparation

There is no turning back in becoming an Actuary, you are either an FSA or you are not. Therefore, from the moment you decide to pursue this career, it might take 5 to 10 years to the point you finish all the requirements. All the education and examinations provide you with a strong and solid technical background on actuarial. But it is the working experience that makes you an Actuary! Therefore, landing on an actuarial job becomes the key in this journey. I have seen students who give up mid-way simply because they could not get into an actuarial firm regardless how good he or she is in school and exams. That is why I place such a great importance on this section-how to get a job. Prepare a good resume, good cover letter and get ready to smoke the interview!   

In order to stand out from the crowd during the interview, you need to be all-rounded:

  1. Academic – Study the right courses and acquire the correct skill set
  2. Internship Experience – Try to work in actuarial related job during summer holiday or co-op term to get some first-hand experience
  3. Extra-curriculum – Expose yourself to activities outside of class and work on improving your communication skills, leadership skills, time management skills, and stress management skills.

And all these should start on the first day you decided to become an Actuary!

Academic
  1. Take the core subjects as suggested by the faculty advisor. For example, calculus, statistics, life contingencies, actuarial modeling, lost model, and all other actuarial exam related courses. Getting on the Dean’s List and scholarship will be a plus!
  2.  If possible, take some business courses such as accounting, management theory, organizational behaviour, marketing, operation management, business law, and so on. I was a graduate from Business School majored in Actuarial Mathematics and I found that my foundation in business studies from school was very helpful in my daily work. The reason is simple, actuary serves the financial world! We need business background to translate the actuarial findings into business implications.
  3. Finally, if you have some spare credit to spend, try other subjects that interest you the most so that your university study will not be too boring.
  4. Of course, write SOA exams! And of course, pass them!
Internship Experience
  1. Try to work in actuarial related role during summer or co-op term to get some real life working experience. Try to learn the work ethics which is very different that from your school life.
  2. Besides, while working and obtaining experience, you also get the opportunity to know the Actuaries working in the company. This will not only expand your network in the field but also provide a great chance for you to learn and obtain mentorship, which is invaluable in your career development. I have to admit without all the mentors I have had throughout my actuarial studies and career, I wouldn’t have gone this far. And I know that there is still a long way ahead of me!
  3. Try to explore to as many actuarial fields as possible before you nail down where you want to go after graduation. For example, try to work in life insurance company, reinsurance company, pension consulting firm, p&c insurance company, life consulting firm and so on. If you somehow like or stuck in the same company for two or three terms, try to work in different areas such as valuation, pricing, risk management, asset liability management and so on. You will get a better picture at what the real world is like.
Extra-curriculum Activities
  1. Having good grades and rich experience will make you a good candidate. But what makes you an excellent candidate is the quality of leadership skills, creativity, innovative, time management skills, project organization skills, stress management skills. These qualities can be cultivated through extra-curriculum activities. 
  2. One good example is to get involved in the actuarial student club in your university.  But hey, here is a catch! Do not just become a member of the club but be actively involved in organizing activities to build up your leadership and organization skills.
  3. Maintain your hobbies and interests as they will prove as an invaluable asset for you in the future.
  4. Try to get involved in some volunteer job as this can also train your organization skills.
  5. Sports are very important too. It shows your teamwork! Try to get involved in some sport because I don’t think a weak body can support the highly demanding exam process!
  6. One last suggestion I have is a brave one. Start up your own part time business while you are at school! This will really give you the greatest challenge and exposure before you graduate and definitely shape your professionalism and business savvy. What you will learn is not limited from the textbook, you learn about marketing, organization, business law, pricing, client relationship, communication, strategic planning, and so on! I have to attribute this last bullet to one of my best friend (an Actuary of course). He managed to start up a part time business while he was at school; juggling with study, SOA exams, and part time business at the same time and ace them all. And now I can see that he has done very well in his actuarial career and I have no doubt of a bright future for him!

But if you ask me the priority of these three,

  1. Academic (35% weight)
  2. Working experience (35% weight)
  3. Extra-Curriculum (30% weight)

 

 
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