“The best pace is a suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die.”
Imagine, you graduate college/university with no actuarial exams. Alternatively, imagine you graduate with a complete actuarial designation, but zero work experience. The best position to be is clearly somewhere in the middle, but where!?
There is no one answer to this question. Wait… there actually is! Wait for it… here you go…
IT ALL DEPENDS!
Now that you are completely dissatisfied with what you read so far, it is time to delve deeper into this issue.
In reality, we weren’t really kidding when we said that it depends. We will now attempt to cover some situations below and give you our take on it.
[the usual disclaimer about opinion being our own etc…]
World 1: You are studying actuarial science (or something related) at a college/university:
The goal is to be at least half-way done with the exams. It depends on where you live, but for example in the US, you need to have at least 3-4 exams done by the time you graduate. These also tend to be the cheapest ones and the goal is to get your future employer to cover your a$$ for the remainder.
Now, don’t forget that you also need to have some experience behind your belt, but this is a subject for a different blog post.
Once you graduate and get that job, you need to keep up the pace of continuous exam passing. Even if you do not score the job straight out of college, do not slow down your exam pace. The benefits of this, aside from getting closer to your designation, are the bonuses and salary raises! Typically, when negotiating a contract, your future employer will tell you what the carrot at the end of the stick is – pass next exam, get 5% more in salary, pass the one after, get ten grand or something like this. These numbers were pulled out of my hat, so do not take them as a benchmark.
World 2: You are an experienced professional, thinking of switching to become an actuary:
Let’s assume that you have some related experience, working for some firm in the financial sector. IMHO, you need to be more than half way done with the exams. You need to sit at that interview and show that you are almost there and that you have some related finance tools behind your belt.
This was my case – I worked in corporate finance and was taking actuarial exams on the side. I then had to move and that was the perfect opportunity for me to switch into the actuarial field. I sat at that interview and had (I am following the CERA designation from the SOA) three exams, Operational Risk module and all VEE.
World 3: You have your high school equivalence diploma and have been working at Burger King for the past 5 years:
Who cares that you never went to university! It is not a requirement, after all. All you need to show is that you can pass exams and have some related experience. What if you were the bookkeeper at your local Burger King – yeah! If you were not, you need to hustle. Get a related job, volunteer for the local actuarial society, get an actuarial mentor, go for that unpaid internship. One of these days, someone will offer you the job.
I think the optimal pace, just like for the career-switcher in World 2, is to be more than half-way done by the time you get that first actuarial job.
Bottom line, you need to hustle!!! Work for free, volunteer, contribute, write, blog, assist, help… One of these days you will be noticed for your persistence – this is when you need to be able to back things up with experience, knowledge and exams!
Image Credits: Wikipedia
Quote Credits: Steve Prefontaine, American middle and long-distance runner.