Do you want to increase your chances of getting an actuarial job? It’s not really as easy as you may think to get a job. You can’t just pass a few exams and suddenly have 2-3 easy job prospects.
So in this post (and corresponding video above), I’m going to give you 7 actionable tips that you can do in order to increase the likelihood that you’ll find an actuarial job.
Tip # 1: Pass Exams
You probably could have guessed this one. The number of exams that you’ve passed is one of the first things employers will want to know about you.
So how many do you need?
There’s no specific number. It’s unlikely that you’d get an actuarial job with no exams passed. And probably even one isn’t enough.
So I recommend getting at least 2-3 exams done if you want to be competitive in the job market. That doesn’t mean that you should apply for actuarial jobs if you only have 1 exam passed but just be aware that it may hold you back.
Things are a little bit different in Canada. The job market is more competitive and most actuarial majors graduate school with 3-5 exams already passed. So, if you’re searching for a job in Canada you’d be best off having about 4 or 5 exams.
For most people, Exam P, FM and IFM will be the first 3 exams since they’re the only 3 that are jointly offered by the SOA and CAS (the two major actuarial societies in the U.S. and Canada).
If you’ve passed those three exams and aren’t able to get a job, it’s probably not your exams that are causing a problem for you. So you’ll have to improve your chances by doing these other things that I’m going to tell you.
Tip # 2: Improve Your Technical Skills
If you’ve watched any of my YouTube videos or read some other blog posts, you’ve probably heard me talk about actuarial technical skills quite a lot. As an aspiring actuary, you definitely need to know how to use Excel, Access, and VBA. The Python programming language is really good to know as well.
Life insurance actuaries also use a program called GGY AXIS. AXIS is also really good to know, but it’s probably not something you’ll be able to learn without having an internship or a job already. The license for it is very expensive so it’s something you’d only get the chance to use at work.
There are two really good places I’ve found that you can learn these technical skills. There’s a free way and a paid way.
The Free Way
Skill Share offers hundreds of hours of video courses on Excel (beginner, intermediate, advanced), Access, VBA, Python, R programming, and SQL. It’s an awesome resource. You can get free access to the Premium courses for 2 months by signing up through this link.
Some of the courses include:
• Excel: Top 50 Formulas in 50 Minutes
• Introduction to Pivot Tables in Excel
• Learn Python in 3 Hours
• Build a Complete Bond Pricer in VBA
The only downside about this method is that they don’t apply the concepts specifically to actuarial work, but that’s not really necessary. If you know how to use them in any context you can easily apply them to actuarial work when you need to.
The Paid Way
The other way to learn these skills is to get the TIA Technical Skills Course. It covers all the same skills that I mentioned above but it applies them specifically to actuarial work. At the time of writing this, its about $200.
Tip # 3: Understand Insurance, Annuity Products and Investments
Since you’re going into an insurance-based position, it will be really helpful to have a reasonable understanding of how annuities and insurance works. This includes life insurance, health insurance, and property and casualty (P&C) insurance.
If you have a pretty good understanding of the basics of how that all works, which you probably learn from some of your earlier exams, it’s really going to help you get an actual position. Imagine being able to confidently talk about insurance and annuity products with your interviewer. That would be impressive!
On Exam FM, you’ll learn about bonds, shares, swaps and loans, which would also be beneficial in an actuarial role. In my valuation position, it was extremely helpful to understand these investment options so that I could properly model them in AXIS.
Tip # 4: Upgrade Your Resume
This is one that a lot of people have problems with.
I’m not talking about specifically what jobs and past experiences you have on your resume, but rather I’m just talking about the overall format of it and the wording you use to show that your past experiences are relevant to an actuarial position.
A lot of the time, job applicants just list all the different tasks that they completed. It doesn’t show the employer the results or impact that they had. It doesn’t show the employer the skills that they gained that are specifically relevant to an actuarial position.
Actually, I have a course about how to build your resume for an actuarial position. It’s here if you’re interested in creating a resume that will make you stand out in a competitive job market, even if you don’t have much relevant experience.
Tip # 5: Improve Your Interview Skills
This one can be a bit harder to do than some of the others because it’s hard to improve your skills when you’re not getting interviews, right?
And actually, it’s not just your interview skills that you should improve, but your communication skills in general. It’s a pretty well-known fact that actuaries aren’t the most social people. We don’t generally like to talk a lot and we’re not very good at communicating. So it will really help you get an actual position if you’re well-spoken and able to hold a conversation with an interviewer even though you don’t know them well.
So how do you do this then?
Some of the things you could try are to get an actuarial friend or just someone else that you can practice interviewing with. That would be awesome experience for you, and it would allow you to practice answering questions on the fly.
It might feel a little awkward at first, but it’ll help so much in the interview process that it’ll be worth it. Think of the long-term gains!
There’s also a public speaking group that may help, and there are tons of them all over Canada and the U.S. It’s called Toastmasters. I’ve personally never participated in it, but it’s something that I’ve considered in the past, and I think it would be a really, really great experience for someone looking for an actuarial position.
As you move up in your actuarial career, speaking will become more and more apart of your job so it’s great to have this skill down early.
Tip # 6: Get an internship or job in a related position
A big mistake that lots of people make is to only apply to actuarial positions. Instead, you should continue to apply for those positions but you should apply to lots of other positions too, as backups. At first, the exact position that you get isn’t the most important thing here. The important thing is that it’s in an office, with a corporate employee structure. That’s all!
However, there are some positions that would obviously be better than others. For example, anything in the financial industry (banking, investments, etc.) would be great. A position in underwriting or data analysis would give you lots of great experience and background knowledge too. Almost any position in an insurance company would beneficial because you’d be learning about the different nuances of insurance, annuities and pensions for example.
Tip # 7: Expand Your Job Search
Many people are really narrow in their actuarial job search. They apply to jobs only in a very specific geographical area, or they apply to only one very specific type of job.
To be the best actuarial candidate possible and to give yourself the best chance of making this career work out for you, you have to really be open to change when you’re searching for your first actuarial job. You may have to go 30, 100, or maybe even 500 miles away from where you’re currently living. But, it’s really going to have a huge impact on the rest of your career. It will be worth it.
The thing is, that you don’t have to be at this position for years and years. If you just get 6-12 months of quality experience, it’s very likely that you’ll be able to later find something closer to the area where you’d prefer to live.