5 Tips for Starting your Actuarial Career

The CAS University Engagement Committee contacted DW Simpson, and invited them to write a blog post to provide you with information and tips to help you with your search for an actuarial position. We thank DW Simpson’s Adam Noreen, Actuarial Recruiter, for writing this post to share with members of CAS Student Central.  

Over the past three years working as an actuarial recruiter, I have successfully assisted numerous entry-level actuaries in securing their first full-time positions. Here are my five tips for successfully making you a more marketable candidate:

1. Pass at least one actuarial exam 

Math Exam3.jpgThis may be obvious to many, but your first barrier to entering the actuarial field will be completing at least one actuarial exam. Just about every full-time actuarial opportunity is going to require a minimum of one exam passed, and you will be even more marketable with 2-3 under your belt.

In the United States, companies tend to want a good balance of actuarial exams and hands-on experience, so I do not suggest passing more than three exams, prior to securing your first full-time position. after three exams, it can sometimes pose a challenge for hiring teams as far as how they can fit you into their compensation structure, which is often organized around a balance of exams and experience.

2. Seek actuarial internships

What Drives P and C Industry.jpgRegardless of being a current student, new college graduate, or career changer, actuarial internship experience will be a valuable addition to your background. I recognize that most internships are offered to current college students. However, on several occasions, I have worked with career changers who have been able to secure internships, even 10+ years out of college. While many internship descriptions may list “must be a current college student,” this is not always the case; it is still worth putting in an internship application, if you have the time, as you never know when a company may have flexibility. Keep in mind that most actuarial internships will also require at least one actuarial exam passed.

3. Sharpen your technical skills

Coding.jpgJust about every actuarial job description that you review is going to include a combination of programming/computer skills. While Excel tends to be the number one utilized computer skill in the actuarial field, basic Excel skills are not really going to cut it anymore, if you want to be competitive. In addition to Excel, there tends to be quite a bit of demand for the following skills: Access, Visual Basic/VBA, SQL, SAS, C++, and R.

If you are a current college student, it may be worth including some Computer Science courses as electives, so that you can gain a bit more programming knowledge. On the flip side, if you are fresh out of school (or a career changer), and you feel that your technical skillset is not up to par, I suggest taking the time to gain a basic working knowledge of as many as the above skills as possible. You do not necessarily need to be an expert with each of these skills, but it will be quite valuable to have a foundational knowledge of each skill. Doing some basic internet searches will yield many free and paid resources.

4. Tailor your resume and cover letters

Resume 3.jpgIt is quite common for job seekers to write a cover letter template, switch out the company name and position title, and click “submit.” This is a missed opportunity to explain your specific interest in the company and role, and hiring teams may see this as a lack of effort and interest.  Do some research, and explain why this company and position make sense for you, long term.

In terms of resume formatting, I suggest keeping it clean and simple. Flashy fonts and colors may distract the individual who is reviewing your resume. Rather than spending time on creative formatting, put your efforts into including as much specific information as possible, in your resume, about your actuarial exams, computer skills, education, actuarial or related work experience, etc. I also strongly suggest including any work experience that you may feel is “irrelevant.” Perhaps you are working at a coffee shop or as a tutor. Either way, adding this information serves two purposes: it shows that you can multitask (especially if you are working during school and taking exams at the same time), and it also fills out any potential employment gaps that would otherwise be there if the experience was not outlined.

5. Prepare to interview 

HiRes.jpgOne of the most common reasons that candidates do not move forward after an initial phone interview is that they did not appear to be knowledgeable about the company and position they are interviewing for. Make sure to thoroughly review the company’s website days before your interview, and print out a copy of the job description to have handy for your interviews. Take the time to draw parallels between your background (academics, work experience, technical skills, etc.), and the role you are applying to. It may also be helpful to write out a list that answers “Why am I interested in this specific company and role?” and also “Why am I a good fit?”  Make sure to know the lines of business that the company works with.

Prior to the interview, I suggest searching the internet to see if there has been any recent news about the company you are speaking with. If there is anything particularly positive (recent awards, new exciting products, financial successes, etc.), it is always impressive to be able to cite the recent news as a reason to why you are very interested in the company. The key is to really do your homework on each company you interview for.

Adam Noreen.jpgAdam Noreen is an Actuarial Recruiter at DW Simpson. He has been assisting entry-level candidates and career changers for approximately three years, in securing their first actuarial and analytics positions. Contact Adam at adam.noreen@dwsimpson.com

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Managing Pokémon Risk – Part I

You’re a university student, walking down a sidewalk in your neighborhood, your eyes fixed intently on your smartphone screen.  You move your phone slowly from side to side, surveying the landscape.  “If there’s anything here, I’ll find it,” you think to yourself.

MewTwo.jpgSuddenly, you see something, just ahead and to the left, on the periphery of your screen sensor.  You instinctively shift your direction slightly, and slowly close in on the object.  You switch to virtual camera mode — and there it is, standing over six-feet tall:  a bi-pedal feline.  Right in front of the window of a well-landscaped brick ranch home, just standing there like he owns the place.  Not believing your luck, you blink and then refocus.  Your eyes were not deceiving you.  It is indeed one of the rarest (and strongest) of the Pokémon:  Mewtwo.  You simply must have it!  But before you attempt the capture, you’d like to get much closer…

There are, however, some potential problems.  The home’s yard is fenced in.  On the fence gate is a large sign:  “No Trespassing.  Beware of Dangerous Dog.”  And the Mewtwo appears to be standing in a nicely-manicured flower bed.

Yeah, like any of that is going to keep you from your quarry!

Shattered Window.jpgYou throw open the unlocked gate and step into the yard, breaking your ankle on a loose cobblestone.  Undaunted, you limp purposefully toward the Mewtwo, trampling several expensive flowers and small ornamental shrubs.  You fling your Pokéball, and score a direct hit – the Mewtwo is yours!  In your ecstasy, you raise your arms in triumph, accidentally letting go of your phone, which flies into and shatters a window on the home.

This awakens the “Dangerous Dog,” a pit bull named Stormy, who jumps out the window at you, trying to defend her turf.  You stagger through the open fence gate and escape out into the street, causing the driver of a passing car to swerve and hit a tree, damaging his car and breaking his wrist. The dog has followed you out the gate and, distracted by all the commotion, locates an easier target, and bites a nearby pedestrian on the sidewalk.


Embedded in this hypothetical scenario are lots of risk and insurance issues.  Let’s start a Student Central dialogue – please respond by commenting and sharing your thoughts on what kinds of insurance policies might cover which damages and injuries.

In a week or two, I’ll come back with a second post, summarizing my own view of some of the scenario’s risk and insurance implications – and perhaps highlighting some of your more perceptive comments!

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