The decision to move into any new career is a significant one; however an actuarial career is in a category of its own. When professionals switch careers midstream and transition to actuarial careers they are choosing long hours and years of ongoing preparation, study, and exams on top of their normal workload. A typical guide to actuarial careers may discuss the basics of the career, but it is important to get right inside actuarial careers and understand the commitment you are making before you take the jump. Interestingly, when the Princeton Review polled actuaries about the requirements of study and work, none complained about the demands of preparing for exams. The Review concluded that people suited to actuarial jobs enjoy the challenge of the exams and do not find them as stressful as other people might.
What Does an Actuarial Analyst Do?
An actuarial analyst analyzes data and estimates risks and returns for the purpose of making specific financial planning decisions. This is a heavily detail- and number-oriented position; these positions also tend to require communication skills and the ability to work cooperatively with others. Meeting targets, conducting research, and reviewing information are integral aspects of the work of an actuarial analyst.
What Initial Qualifications Do You Need to become an Actuary?
Generally speaking, actuaries graduate from university with a bachelor's degree in actuarial science, mathematics, or in a business- or science-related field which has strong mathematical components. More recently, the industry has been open to hiring liberal arts students with a demonstrably high aptitude in mathematics who want to transition to actuarial careers.
How Do Actuaries become Certified?
If you want to become an actuary, you will need to pass a series of specific exams. The early exams are mathematical tests of skills including calculus, probability, and linear algebra and are designed to cull those aspirants who are not suited to the profession. The ongoing exams provide reasonable feedback on an actuary's progress. It takes between five to ten years to complete all the exams. Three professional associations administer these tests twice a year. They are the Society of Actuaries, the Casualty Actuarial Society, and the American Society of Pension Actuaries. Each of these societies provides actuarial certification in its own area of specialty.
What Are the First Steps to Starting a New Career as an Actuary?
If you are a career changer it is important to sit the first actuarial exam as soon as you can. By passing this exam, you signal to future employers that you have the potential to become an actuarial analyst. Most employers are looking for applicants who have passed at least one of the certification exams. In fact, most organizations who employ actuaries will hire trainees who have only done the first exam, with a view that they will train on the
job and study for the rest of the exams while employed. This is enormously beneficial to an actuarial trainee because it means that you will have organizational support to assist you through the examination process.
The series of actuarial exams you will need to complete do not require college coursework or the attendance at private training courses. They are designed to be completed via a self-study program. Your ability to pass these exams will determine whether or not you are able to work as an actuarial professional.
You will find a lot of useful resources to help you get an understanding of what is involved by simply doing an internet search on ''actuarial exams.'' There are Web sites which have online syllabus documents which will give you an overview of what is covered in a particular exam, with links to preparation aids. You can also download and practice on sample exams.
Once you have passed your first exam, you will need to find the right job opening to begin your career. Look for actuarial traineeship positions on specialist actuarial job sites. You can also do an Internet search for them to see what results come up. Look for sites which list the main employers of actuarial analysts and offer entry-level training positions. Some Web sites that offer a guide to actuarial careers also have links to job opportunities. Where actuarial careers are concerned, trainee jobs are not only the domain of the young; they are also the entry point for the profession for older career changers.
When you have done all the necessary preparation and have begun looking in earnest for actuarial jobs, you will need to do a traditional job search. Take advantage of industry specific, online job sites as well as larger generalist sites to look for suitable positions. You can visit the Web sites of potential employers and keep an eye on their job vacancies or contact them directly about their training programs or entry-level jobs.
Read through the selection criteria and job descriptions of the positions you find, even if they are in the wrong location, so that you can get a good idea of what most companies are looking for. Create your resume with these needs in mind. In other words, emphasize the skills, qualifications, and experience that are most relevant to them. Your letters of application should directly address the selection criteria for specific jobs you are applying for. Finally, be ready to give an answer as to why you want to change your career and become an actuary. Make sure you have researched inside actuarial careers and have an intelligent and credible answer.
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