Job market

Risky business: becoming an actuary

The actuarial profession is a big draw for Warwick students and there are many others who might be interested but don’t have a clear picture of what’s involved. Thanks to a guest post from Michael Hennessy, Marketing & Editorial Assistant at Inside Careers, we’ve got a concise and precise summary of the profession, including useful hints and tips.

Of the main professional services offered by The Big Four – accountancy, tax, consulting, technology and actuarial – the latter tends to be the least familiar to career-planning students. To quickly summarise, then, actuaries explore emerging risks and assess the potential costs associated with them. They subsequently advise businesses on the safeguards that should be put in place to minimise these costs.

What skills do you need to become an actuary

The profession is almost exclusively the domain of numerate graduates. An actuarial science or MORSE degree might provide you with some exemptions from the necessary professional exams, but you will still be eligible to enter the profession if you’ve studied maths, statistics, economics, engineering, physics or chemistry.

However, while you may feel secure in your ability to comprehend complex mathematical forecasting, your clients may not. You’ll need solid communication skills when explaining your findings and suggestions to clients and colleagues alike.

Tenacity will ensure that you rise to the demands of the exam process, but an inquisitive nature will help mean you learn from experienced colleagues along the way.

Actuarial internships

As with other highly competitive financial professions, the internship is the most effective way of securing an actuarial graduate job. Whether you’re a doing a three or four year course, you want to spend the summer before your final year gaining experience at a firm with actuarial services.

Where internships in many industries are undertaken with successive recruiters in mind, actuarial internships are much more likely to lead to a job offer with the very same firm. For actuarial recruiters, internships aren’t so much stamps on your professional passport; they’re more like a ticket to your career destination.

Alternative work experience

While the penultimate year summer placement would be the ideal centrepiece of your CV, places are competitive. If you don’t manage to secure one, there are still alternative forms of work experience that can greatly improve your prospects.

Around a third of actuaries work within the insurance industry, where they determine the cost of insurance premiums and advise companies on pensions plans. Seek out formal work experience programmes with insurers, and consider creating your own opportunities by approaching them speculatively. You can use our employer directory as a jumping off point and also check your own vacancies database, myAdvantage.

A work experience placement in insurance can provide you with invaluable insight into the industry. It might not give you sustained access to actuaries and their work, but it presents a great opportunity to network. You could gain similar “parallel” work experience from a placement at a consultancy or an investments firm. Both are types of business that employ actuaries.

Learn from your peers

Take it from Emma and Mallika  your fellow Warwick alumni making headway in their young actuarial careers. They have the following tips to share with would-be actuaries:

  • Do your research. Spend some time looking at the website of the companies you’d like to target and keep an eye out for relevant actuarial stories in the news
  • Work on your communication skills , as a great part of the role is explaining results and methods to non-actuaries.
  • Practise your interview technique. A mock interview can help highlight areas you need to work on.
  • The qualification process is long and requires a great amount of dedication, so make sure you are comfortable with giving up your social life for large chunks of the year.

The early years are demanding, but bolstered by excellent pay packages and a fostering mentality from senior staff. All this and you get to go home at five o’clock – most days!

If this post has sparked your interest then head over to http://www.insidecareers.co.uk for more in-depth information on actuarial and other financial careers.

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