We Asked Our Interns How to Stand Out as an Actuarial Student

If you’re a college student pursuing actuarial science, you probably have two key goals: exams, and internships. Both are essential ways you can distinguish yourself from others when you’re pursuing your first job as an actuary. We asked our current roster of interns here at Coaching Actuaries what they learned about the exam process and the importance of their internship experience. Here’s what they had to say:

Aim to Pass 2-3 Exams By the Time You Graduate

Most actuarial science graduates enter the job market having passed at least one exam. But in order to stand out from the crowd, passing 2 exams (usually P and FM) gets your foot in the door. However, passing a third exam can make a huge difference.

“Passing your second exam shows you’re really committed to pursuing a career in actuarial science,” says Parker, who just finished his internship last month and now works at Milliman’s Chicago office. “But passing a third exam shows that you move at a faster pace and you’re willing to work pretty hard. Beyond three exams is just icing on the cake at that point. After that, your qualitative skills matter a lot more than just having a lot of exams.”

Develop Your Soft Skills

Communication and relating to other people is essential. That’s true not just for actuaries, but the entire business world. You will make a better impact on recruiters if you have strong soft skills and you can communicate concepts and ideas clearly, than simply passing exams.

“By the time you get the interview, your resume has been looked at, and everyone knows you can do all the technical things,” says Austin. “They’re just trying to figure out if they can stand being around you every single day.”

Build Relationships

We’ve all heard how important it is to network, but it’s not always clear as to how to actually do it. Here are some of our interns’ stories of how they got their internships, either with Coaching Actuaries or with other companies. 

Derek: “Speak up in class. I was in Tong’s class at Drake University, and I would speak up a lot during class and contribute to the discussions that were going on. Later, I got an email one day from Tong asking if I wanted to work at Coaching Actuaries.”

Austin: “Sometimes you just have to ask. I was looking around for internships, and I had taken a class with Tong, and I knew he worked at Coaching Actuaries. So I just asked him if Coaching Actuaries ever had interns, not knowing whether or not something was even available.”

Riley: “Your friends can help you, too. I had a really awesome friend who was working here (it was Austin!), and Tong had asked him if he knew anyone that would want to work at Coaching Actuaries. I couldn’t pass that up.”

Parker: “Go to fairs and build relationships over time. Whenever company recruiters would come to campus, I would always make sure to take some time to go up and talk to them, and discuss what they did. You get a better understanding of what they do and if you would be a good fit for them. And it’s usually the same person who comes each year, so you get a better understanding of who they are as a person as well.”

Every successful person has their own story of how they got where they are, but some of our interns’ takeaways are universal. If you understand the work, how to look beyond the details to understand a company’s big picture, and how to communicate all of it clearly, you’ll shine bright in the job market and throughout your career.