An internship is essential for aspiring actuaries. Even if an internship is not a mandatory part of earning your degree, you may have a challenging time finding a job after graduation without one. If you are offered an actuary internship position, take it seriously and prepare to prove your technical skills. Make the most of your opportunity to ask questions about the internship and the career path.
It’s Not “Just” an Internship
If you approach your interview with the mindset that the job is “only” an internship, not a permanent full-time position, you could be hurting your chances at success. Internships are very serious matters for actuaries. The Casualty Actuarial Society and Society of Actuaries, the two professional organizations that sponsor certification programs, urge all aspiring actuaries to complete at least one, if not two, internships during their education. While it is crucial that prospective actuaries begin taking certification exams during college, these organizations note that completing an internship is just as valuable for students as passing a second certification exam.
Another benefit of completing an internship during school is that this hands-on experience can help you decide what sort of actuary work you want to do, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. While most actuaries work in the field of insurance and finance, they can pursue different areas, such as pensions, health insurance, life insurance and casualty insurance. Working in one or more of these practice areas as an intern can help you narrow down what you would like to do with your career after you graduate.
A company several states away may pay to fly you out to their office for an interview and even pay to put you up in a hotel. Your prospective employer makes a considerable investment in interviewing interns, so you should take the interview seriously.
Your Technical Skills Matter
As a student, you may still have a lot to learn, especially if you are still in the early years of your education. However, if you want to attain an actuary internship at a top company, you will have to prove that you already have the technical skills you need to succeed not just in the internship, but in the career. Insurance and finance companies often hire students who have interned with them on a permanent basis once they graduate. These companies don’t want to invest the time and money into training students who will abandon their plans of becoming an actuary once the career path inevitably becomes difficult.
How will your interviewers judge your technical skills? For one thing, they will consider how much progress you have made, if any, on passing your certification exams. Some companies will only hire interns who have already passed at least one exam, but others have more lenient requirements and will consider candidates who are gearing up for their first exam. If you don’t yet have any certification exams under your belt, be prepared to talk about what you do have. You should be able to talk about the technical skills you are learning in your current actuarial science classes, such as such as R programming language, the principles of financial mathematics and probability and mathematical statistics.
Your interview may also include brain-teaser questions that test your analytical skills. Whether you’re asked to estimate the number of golf balls in the air at once or the number of windows in New York City, how you reach your answer matters more than the answer you give. While you can only prepare for questions of this nature so much, you should expect to have to break out your best reasoning and analytical skills and apply them to a scenario like these at some point during your interview.
Technical skills aren’t the only factor that matters. You should also expect to answer plenty of behavioral questions about what you have done or would do in different work scenarios.
Ask Your Own Questions (About Passing Exams)
You have probably heard that you should always come to an interview prepared to ask questions as well as answer them. Having insightful questions for your interviewer proves that you put forth the effort to learn enough about the company to come up with thoughtful questions. However, for candidates for actuary intern roles, the interview offers an excellent opportunity to learn more about a big challenge that you are facing: the actuary certification exams. While you certainly want to express your interest in the company and the internship role, don’t hesitate to ask your interviewers about their own experiences becoming a certified actuary. Your interviewer may be able to share exam study tips and schedules with you that can offer you more to think about, help guide your approach to preparing for exams or even help you avoid common mistakes.
Because actuarial certification exams are so difficult, not every aspiring actuary winds up working in the career path. Asking questions that show your commitment to passing the exams can impress upon your interviewer your determination to work in the field.