The necessity of gaining internship experience while in school varies depending on your subject of study. In some disciplines, like medicine, you may need to spend years gaining clinical experience as part of an internship or practicum, while in other disciplines, they are entirely optional. For students of actuarial science or math majors considering an actuary career, an internship may or may not be required for graduation. However, the experience is so valuable for future success in this occupation that it would not be an exaggeration to say that getting an internship could make or break your actuary career.
The Value of Internship Experience
Some actuarial science programs unambiguously require an internship to graduate. Others allow actuarial science majors to choose between an actuarial internship and another type of capstone class or project. Even in degree programs that do not require actuarial science students to complete an internship, advisors and instructors strongly encourage students to do so, because it is indisputable that gaining hands-on actuarial experience offers a great deal of value.
One way an internship can benefit you is by giving you a chance to experience the kind of work actuaries do. Many actuarial science majors choose the career path based on their academic strengths in math and perks such as the six-figure median salary and faster than average rate of job growth, but how will they know if they really enjoy the work of an actuary until they get to experience it firsthand? The experience you gain as an intern helps you see not only whether you will like being an actuary but also what kind of work you want to do. Although most actuaries work in the finance and insurance industry, working in different areas of finance and insurance affects what your day-to-day job tasks entail and the long-term path of your career. Your internship experience can help you determine which track is right for you, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.
Much of the significance of an internship is due to its effect on your future employment prospects. Actuaries are in high demand, and it isn’t unusual for an internship to ultimately result in a full-time job offer. In fact, actuarial science students sometimes have full-time jobs in their field lined up many months in advance because their skills and attitude during an internship impressed their employer. Even if the company you are interning with doesn’t have any permanent openings available, working alongside established actuaries gives you an opportunity to begin networking with professionals in the field. You might even find a mentor who can offer you advice and encouragement as you embark on this career. When applying for other actuarial jobs in the future, you have real experience to include on your resumé and to draw from as you answer interview questions.
The Society of Actuaries (SOA) says that while progress on passing certification exams is the most important factor in new actuaries getting a job, it is just as impressive to pass only one exam and have internship experience as it is to pass two exams but have no experience.
Getting an Internship
Students face a great deal of competition for actuary internships, especially for those with companies that are known to offer good wages for interns, perks like paid housing and exam preparation benefits for their permanent employees. To get chosen for an internship, you should take the time to develop an actuarial science resumé that highlights your strong GPA, progress in passing certification exams, technology skills and relevant college coursework.
Take advantage of any internship and career help your school has to offer. You might be able to have an expert help you with your resumé and cover letter (often at no cost), meet with recruiters at internship and career fairs and network with alumni who have gone on to become actuaries.
Start looking for an actuary internship early. Recruiters may even be visiting your campus in the early weeks of the fall semester to find candidates for internships taking place the following summer. Consider opportunities away from your home or school if needed.
Making the Most of Your Actuary Internship
Once you accept an actuary internship, you want to take advantage of all it has to offer. Remember that actuarial science is a multidisciplinary field and try to learn as much as you can about each of the different angles of actuary work during your internship. Ask questions and show that you are eager to learn and to grow your skills. As you get to know the experienced actuaries you are working with, create connections that expand your network. Talk about the projects these actuaries are working on and the company’s goals and procedures. You might even ask them questions about their professional journey, including what they enjoy about working as an actuary and what were the best and worse choices they made along the way.
While internship experience helps with finding your first actuary role out of school, it is more than a point to pad your resumé or an item to check off a list. You benefit from internships in informal ways, as well, including seeing how professionals communicate, work as a team and handle conflicts and roadblocks that arise.
While one internship is valuable, ideally students should try to take part in two internships during their college education, the SOA reported. Getting hired for a permanent full-time actuary position without any kind of internship experience is very difficult.