If you’re considering a career path as an actuary, you’ve probably wondered how difficult it’s going to be to get a job.
So, is it hard to get an entry-level actuarial job?
The entry-level actuarial job market in Canada and the U.S. is fairly competitive right now. For many, it’s hard to find a job but there are things you can do to improve your chances. Getting an actuarial internship, for one, will help substantially.
Now, let’s talk about why this is, and how you can make yourself stand out.
Why is the job market competitive?
More and more people are becoming aware of the actuarial career path. It provides a great annual salary, low stress, and a good work-life balance (once you’re fully qualified). It’s also a very mathematical career that offers challenging and fulfilling day-to-day work.
So, because of all that, and that fact that it’s often ranked as a top career choice, more people have decided to pursue it.
The problem is that the rate that new entry-level actuarial jobs are opening up is much slower than the rate that new people are pursuing the career. Hence, we’re left with lots of candidates, but far fewer jobs.
In Canada, the job market is even more competitive than in the U.S.
Current Entry-Level Standard
Right now, in late 2018, most entry-level actuarial applicants have a bachelor’s degree and have passed anywhere from 1 – 3 exams.
The U.S. candidates with the best chance of getting hired have at least 2 exams passed, some technical experience, and at least one actuarial internship.
But, the majority of candidates don’t have an actuarial internship or any experience working in an office. They often don’t have much on-the-job experience with programs like Excel either. These kind of things are highly valuable to an actuarial employer though.
Like I mentioned above, the job market in Canada is more competitive than in the U.S. Most good candidates have 3-5 exams passed and often have multiple actuarial internships (or co-ops as they’re often called in Canada).
How to be Competitive
If you start working towards an actuarial career and take the proper steps early on, you can put yourself in a very good position for getting an entry-level job.
Most people think that they need to immediately jump into an actuarial job, but oftentimes that doesn’t work.
It’s far more likely that you’re going to need to get experience in a related job first before being able to land a job as an actuary. That’s why it’s a good idea to get a related job early on, while you’re still writing your first few exams.
While you’re in that related job (more on that below), you can simultaneously get experience and pass 2-3 exams. Then after 1.5 to 2 years you’ll be well qualified for an actuarial position. Ideally, that “related job” will also require you to use Excel.
If you can get on-the-job experience using Excel and a programming language like VBA (Excel’s programming language) then you’ll be well ahead of most other candidates.
If you’re still in school, then actuarial internships are the best way to get experience early on. But, if you can’t find an actuarial internship then look for internships in a related field.
Lastly, to give yourself the best chance of getting a job, you should be flexible in where you look for them. Not only the industry (life insurance, property insurance, retirement benefits, etc) but also the location. If you’re willing to move (possibly temporarily) to get an entry-level job it will greatly improve your chances of finding one.
Related Actuarial Jobs and Internships
Basically any job that will allow you to analyse data, work closely with actuaries, and/or significantly increase your understanding and knowledge of insurance would be a great stepping stone to becoming an actuary.
Data Analyst – In this type of position, a company would hire you to collect and analyse large amounts of data. Your findings could be used to increase sales, reduce costs, price new products, and so much more. This type of position would be great for an aspiring actuary because actuaries are, in a sense, insurance data analysts.
Underwriter – Underwriters are responsible for approving and classifying insurance applicants. This type of position would be great for an aspiring actuary because they’d work closely with pricing actuaries and they’d develop a great understanding of the ins and outs of insurance products.
Risk Analyst – A risk analyst is responsible for overseeing a company’s asset portfolio. They’ll analyse it for potential risk, and help mitigate losses. Insurance companies invest millions of dollars into asset portfolios so this type of work would be great, especially for anyone interested in becoming a valuation actuary. In some insurance companies, risk analysts will work closely with investment actuaries.
If you can’t find a job like one of the above (and even if you do), you’ll have to make sure that your resume clearly shows how the skills you developed at your job are related to an actuarial position.
Will you be able to get an actuarial job?
It’s probably fairly clear here that there’s really no guarantee that you’ll be able to get an entry-level job. They’re competitive! I do personally believe that there is a good chance you will if you take the actions mentioned above though.
But, either way, it’s still good to have realistic expectations.
You may need to stay in your related job for longer than anticipated. But, never stop looking for the actuarial job. Keep improving your skills and making yourself more and more qualified.
Also, make sure that you have a great resume that is easy to read, clearly shows the skills you’ve developed and how they’ll be relevant to an actuarial job. It’s very common for a poor resume to prevent great candidates from getting an actuarial job.
When that time comes, I do have an actuarial resume course that can help you get that set up properly.
Eventually, you should be able to get interest from actuarial employers!
How many exams are needed to get an actuarial job? In the U.S. you’ll probably need 2-3 exams to get a job. In Canada, 3-4 exams would make you a competitive candidate. However, in either country you should start apply to jobs after you’ve passed your first exam.
Is the actuary job market saturated? Yes, the job market in Canada and the U.S. is saturated. There are far more job applicants than jobs. But if you use the approach that I’ve mentioned above you should be able to break into the market.