Work experience for aspiring actuaries: a full guide

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You’re probably focused on doing well at school and deciding which university to go to, but there is another event in your life you should prepare for. To succeed in any industry having relevant work experience is essential if you want to stand out. 

Completing work experience or an internship scheme will give you the chance to get inside experience of working as an actuary and will help you decide if you really enjoy the job enough to do it full-time. Work experience can also help you make vital connections with professionals in the industry and will show you have the initiative, determination, and commitment to make a career as an actuary work.

What work experience should I look for?

The work experience you apply for should be relevant to your future career as an actuary and should give you the chance to take part in some of the normal day to day tasks of an actuary. The experience you get should make you feel more at ease in a professional environment, allow you to help solve actuarial problems and tasks, and connect you with industry professionals who can help further your career.

What’s the difference between work experience, an insight day, and an internship?

Opportunities like work experience, insight days, and internships can all help you on your journey, but are all slightly different:

Work experience usually lasts a few days and is spent shadowing a senior member of staff. It’s best to apply for work experience when you’re in school or the first year of university as it will give you a chance to decide whether you definitely want to follow a career in actuarial science.

Insight days are offered by some employers who may not have the time to shadow someone on work experience but want to welcome promising students in school or first year of university into their company. These events are usually far more structured and can often involve talks and workshops on the industry. These initiatives may be hard to find so it’s best to contact employers directly for more information.

Internships are often 6-8 weeks long and take place over the summer. You’ll be able to work on projects with other actuaries but will often be mentored and given training sessions to help you. You should start applying for internships at the start of your second year at university in September. Many employers use internships as a way to evaluate candidates for future positions so it’s important to apply and make a good impression.

How do I find internships and work experience?

It can be hard to apply for work experience as some placements aren’t listed. Ask your school careers advisor if they know of any actuarial work experience placements. Also look out for actuarial firms at any careers events you might attend. For more information on work experience, the Actuarial Careers Guide lists which employers are currently offering internships.

Which companies should I contact?

The work actuaries do in different fields from pensions to insurance and investment can all be very different. If you’re not sure which area you would like to focus on, apply to work experience opportunities with different firms to get a better understanding of the industry. Again, check out the Actuarial Careers Guide for more information.

How to apply for work experience

To apply you usually need to send in a CV and covering letter or fill in an application form. On your application include your qualifications to demonstrate you meet the minimum requirements set out in the job description. You should also explain why you want to pursue a career in actuarial science, what skills you have that apply to this career (numeracy, communication skills, strategic thinking), and talk about your relevant interests. For example, if you help out at an after-school club, you can talk about it in your application to demonstrate your work ethic and organisational skills.

What will I get out of work experience?

Work experience in any form offers an invaluable insight into the working world. Make the most of your work experience by making connections with your colleagues. Ask questions and make sure you show interest in the business. Remember an internship is a key to your future career. Stay in contact with the people you met, ask for a review of your time there from your mentor, and apply for any jobs going at that company.

What if I struggle to get work experience?

If you are unable to find work experience at an actuarial firm don’t worry as some employers are often quite busy and struggle to reply to the number of requests they receive. If you find it hard to get a response from employers or receive rejections, try and find work experience in the financial services, such as in an insurance firm, bank or investment company. Even though you may not be doing actuarial work once in the office, you can get an insight into the working world and ask for further experience in the field you’re interested in.

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