Most future actuaries start their journey by passing an exam. That’s probably because when you first look into the actuarial career, it can seem like all you hear about are exams, exams, exams!
Unfortunately, exams are not a great way to start off your actuarial journey. It can make the whole process take way longer than it needs to, and you’ll come out of it less qualified.
So many future actuaries waste a ton of time studying for their first three actuarial exams before they even start working on their real-life skills. That’s a big mistake!
Here’s what most future actuaries do:
- Spend 6 months studying for their first exam
- Spend 4 months studying for their second exam
- Spend another 4 months studying for their third exam
- Try to apply for actuarial jobs… and hear nothing from employers (or get one of those awful rejection letters)
- Spend a few months learning Excel and a programming language
- Apply for jobs again, but still hear nothing back
- Finally get a stepping stone position
- After 4 months (or longer!) in their stepping stone job, finally get an actuarial job offer.
Phew! This whole process ends up taking them 20 months, or more! That’s almost two years spent just to get your very first actuarial job. There has to be a better way!
Can you streamline this process to get all the skills and experience faster?
Yes!! In fact, that’s exactly what we do in the Actuary Accelerator Community (AAC). It’s part of our proven method that helps future actuaries get hired, fast!
This is the exact method that Emma used to get her first actuarial job with only two exams passed and NO internship! She shares the technical skills that helped her get noticed, her work experience, and even her interview tips! If you want to all hear about that plus what it’s like as an entry-level actuary, watch this video.
You can use this tried-and-true AAC method to become a more qualified candidate, faster. It’s a no-brainer! Here’s what you should do.
1. Learn Excel
Knowing Excel is critical for any actuary! You want to start your actuarial journey by getting really comfortable with Excel, which usually takes about two months.
It’s not enough to just take a course. You’ll also want to do practice projects to learn how Excel functions work in real life. These practice projects will prove your technical skills to employers and make you a stronger candidate!
2. Find a Stepping Stone Position
Getting a stepping stone position is the best way to get related experience that actuarial employers will value. You’ll need to use the technical skills you just learned to get this job, which is why you should do that first!
Stepping stone positions are non-actuarial jobs that help you gain skills and experience relevant to actuarial work. That way, you can get experience that actuarial employers will value before you’re qualified for actuarial work.
Real-world experience will help you prove your worth to actuarial employers. They’ll see that you can apply your technical skills to solve problems and do great work for other companies, so you can do it for them too!
3. Pass Actuarial Exams
Once you’re settled into your stepping stone position, you can start studying for actuarial exams. It’ll probably take you about 6 months to pass your first one and 4 months to pass your second one.
Here’s the best part. The whole time that you’re working on those exams, you’re also getting 10 months of related experience!
Using this strategy, you won’t be wasting any time on your actuarial journey. You’re overlapping your related experience with passing exams, so you can become a top actuarial candidate way quicker.
With this method, you can become a top candidate in 12 months instead of 20+, and get 6 more months of related experience!
The reason this approach saves so much time isn’t just because you’re doing two things at once. It’s also because you usually don’t need to pass that third exam to get hired!
You’re becoming a top candidate by getting more hands-on experience instead of more exams passed. That gives you more time to learn actuarial terms and concepts, improve your communication skills, and get real-world experience with your technical skills!
Members of the AAC have proven that these factors are way more important than just passing another exam. Those extra 6 months of experience are more valuable because they help you hone skills that you’ll use every day on the job… unlike the math from actuarial exams, which you might use once in a while.
I know that this advice probably goes against what you’ve heard. As soon as you say you want to be an actuary, someone will tell you to take an exam… but it’s just not the most efficient strategy.
I don’t want you to waste your time like that!
Now, some of you are still in school, and you’re probably wondering how this strategy applies to you.
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget you!
How can I work on my actuarial career while I’m in school?
I know how future actuaries are. You’re driven, determined, and you won’t stop until you achieve your goals. Those are amazing qualities to have… but they mean that you can get in over your head, trying to do everything at once. Sound familiar?
Lots of future actuaries in school are trying to pass exams, get internships, work a part-time job, play a sport, volunteer… and it’s just too much. You can do all of these things at once, or they’ll all suffer.
That’s exactly what happened to me when I was in school. I tried to do way too much at once, and it impacted every area of my life. I failed actuarial exams, got low grades, and missed out on quality time with my friends and family.
If that’s how you feel, you have to change your approach!
That’s why I recommend focusing on your GPA while you’re in school, even if it means that you don’t take a single actuarial exam!
This advice might confuse you because you’ve probably heard me say that your GPA doesn’t really matter when it comes to getting an actuarial job. It’s true. After all, I was able to get hired with only a 2.3 GPA.
If that’s your situation, you can still become a top candidate and get hired as an actuary!
But… employers do look at GPA when they’re hiring entry-level candidates! So, if you’re still in school and can devote your time to a better GPA, it will give you an advantage. You need a high enough GPA to qualify for some internship opportunities, and some employers will instantly decline anyone with a GPA below 3.0, or sometimes even 3.2.
Since the entry-level market is so competitive, employers can be really picky about things like GPA.
You can always pass actuarial exams later on… but you can’t go back and change your GPA.
There’s another benefit to having a high GPA for future actuaries in Canada at CIA accredited universities. If you’re at one of these schools, you can get credit for some of your actuarial exams just by getting high enough grades in certain classes. Awesome right?
A program like this is coming to the US soon too. Students at SOA Centers of Excellence will have a chance to get credit for exams through their classes. These programs are a great opportunity for you, because you can focus on your GPA and get credit for your actuarial exams!
Even if you aren’t in one of these programs, taking exams later on isn’t the big deal you might think it is. You can always pass exams in an internship or stepping stone position, over the summer, or after you graduate. Employers don’t care when you take your exams, as long as you pass them!
One thing to keep in mind is that some internships might require you to have one exam passed. So, if you want to qualify for more internship opportunities, you can do that by passing your first exam. After that, you can worry about the rest of your exams later.
What if I still end up with a lower GPA?
If you’re reading through this in a panic because you’re about to graduate with a low GPA, don’t worry! You will still be able to get an actuarial job.
You’ll just need to do some things to compensate for that! You do that by (you guessed it) becoming a top candidate!
When you already have all the skills and qualifications that actuarial employers are looking for, your GPA barely matters at all. Some employers might turn you down for GPA alone, but lots of them won’t! Most employers know that GPA doesn’t tell the whole story, and it isn’t possible for everyone to come out of school with a 4.0.
A high GPA is a benefit, not a requirement!
So, whether you’re a career changer, a fresh graduate, or a student who can’t wait to start your career, I hope these tips helped you! Remember that even with a less-than-ideal GPA, you can always become a top candidate and get hired as an actuary!
Do you need help becoming a top candidate? You should join the Actuary Accelerator Community (AAC)! AAC members get access to tons of resources, from technical skills courses to study materials, interview training, and resume tips! You’ll even gain access to a supportive private WhatsApp group and a forum where you can get all your questions answered.
To learn more and join, just go here!