The application season for summer internships begins the preceding fall, typically starting in September and lasting until February. Highly competitive paid summer internships sometimes see deadlines as early as November. Acceptances generally begin rolling out in January, so it’s important not to wait until the last minute to apply. You don’t have to wait until the application information is posted for the current cycle if you want to start preparing. Looking up companies’ postings from previous years will help give you a sense of their specific timelines, required qualifications, and what the intern’s responsibilities will be.
While a high GPA is important, the best way to demonstrate both your intellectual capacity for actuarial work and your dedication to joining the field is by passing exams. Though not ubiquitous, some companies require that a candidate pass at least one exam in order to qualify for their internship program. In general, you can expect to spend 200+ hours over the course of 3 – 4 months studying in order to pass Exam P.
Quality time spent is as important as quantity, so prepare to set aside enough quality time to give yourself the best chance. The importance of passing exams cannot be overstated. Beyond the internship, when it comes time for your first full time job, you will be hard pressed to find a position that does not require at least two exams passed.
To give your application a competitive edge, make sure you can express your technical ability. The three main data analytics tools used by actuarial employers today are:
SQL/SAS – Have been the market leaders in the commercial analytics space. SAS is generally regarded as intuitive with great technical support, but with the drawback of being the most expensive of the three. SQL is regarded as having more flexibility and variety of analytical uses.
R – The open source counterpart of SAS. Due to the nature of being open source, the latest techniques get released quickly.
Python – Currently, the most popular programming language overall and one that is in high demand with actuarial employers.
While proficiency in any one of these will not make up for a lack of exams or a low GPA, they may make an already strong candidate even more impressive.
In a world moving towards automation, emotional intelligence is one of the most valuable skills one can cultivate. Daniel Goleman, American psychologist, was the first to popularize the term “Emotional Intelligence”, quantified as EQ (Emotional Quotient), in the 90s. He outlined the five components of emotional intelligence as:
- Self-Awareness – the ability to recognize and understands ones emotions
- Self-Regulation – the ability to control impulses and express oneself appropriately
- Motivation – having an interest and ability to learn and improve
- Empathy – the ability to understand other peoples emotions and reactions
- Social Skills – the ability to maintain friends and relationships through finding common ground with others
Why is this pertinent to getting an actuarial internship? Particularly in the STEM world, companies are finding that an employee’s EQ is the best predictor of job performance. You will most likely encounter an EQ assessment in the form of behavioral questions during an interview. These questions will likely be about a personal experience or hypothetical situation that may resemble challenges you’ll likely face in that role in order to assess your ability to collaborate, communicate effectively, and be aware of both your own emotions and the emotions of those around you.
Networking and Extracurricular Activities
As a college student, you should be encouraged to take advantage of the resources that are available to you – not only your professors and colleagues, but also the third parties that come to campus by way of career fairs and networking events. These are excellent opportunities to grow your list of contacts, as well as expand your knowledge about the actuarial profession. Speaking with actuaries from different disciplines may give you a better idea of what subject matter is the most exciting to you or what exam track to follow. Recruiters, both in-house and third party, may be able to give you an idea of what a company’s functions are and what the culture is like. Sufficed to say, attending these events will both expand your network and give you access to a wealth of industry knowledge.
Extracurricular activities don’t have to be geared towards professional development, either. Excelling in a sport or hobby is a great way to show perseverance and dedication and holding an executive position in a club or society shows the maturity and capability to be a leader, all while honing your soft skills and showing your personality.
It takes a lot of dedication to become an actuary. But it’s worth it! Actuaries tend to enjoy their work and the field has a high satisfaction rating. That the pay is better than most other professions is a plus, too, of course. All the time you are spending to develop and hone your skills, pass the exams, and search for an internship will all be worth it!
About author: Elizabeth Owen, Recruiter, Ezra Penland Actuarial Recruitment