Actuarial Exams to clear before your first job. The BIG Dilemma!
Just entered the field of Actuaries or having cleared a few Actuarial exams and confused about how many papers you actually have to clear before landing onto your first job? Then, I hope this article might help you with it.
The Myth of Actuarial Exams:
First of all, let me clear hover created that clearing more Actuarial Exams than desired will make you overqualified. I don’t know from where this mythology started, maybe because people who usually get called from Aon or Mercer are those having 3 or less Actuarial exams (which also changed during this year) but does other companies also follow the same criteria as Aon or Mercer? Definitely NO.
Yes, from my experience I could say that pursuing Actuaries will make you overqualified for many other jobs in Insurance market or simple analytical roles because you will remain a liability for a company which hires you as you will leave them as soon as you find an opportunity in Actuarial Sector. This is the reason why most of the time you have to remove Actuarial qualifications from your CV while applying for simple analytical roles.
You will never get overqualified in Actuarial Sector as long as you focus on your CT subjects before your first job. Just don’t be a genius enough to even think clearing all 15 papers before your first job, then only god almighty could help you finding a job without experience.
Heart of the matter:
But question still remains the same, how many?
Well, this is interesting. Your career in Actuaries doesn’t depend on ‘How Many?’, but on ‘Which Ones?’ In India, Actuaries are usually hired by Life Insurers, General Insurers and firms dealing in Employee Benefits (whether they are small consultancies or MNC’s). Globally, there are many more areas where Actuaries are demanded for, like Investment Banking or ERM. Apart from basic papers of CT1 and CT3, the following Break-down will help you in understanding which papers you should clear before entering your particular field of Interest (Decided that yet?, I guess Not!):
- General Insurance: Most of the General Insurance firms look out for the candidates who have cleared CT6. Having knowledge of CT4 will give you an added advantage.
- Life Insurance: For entering into a life insurance firm you should have CT5 into your pocket. Warning: CT5 from IAI is named as “General Insurance, life and health contingencies”, but has nothing to do with General Insurance sector, so don’t fall into the trap if you are someone interested in General Insurance field.
- Employee Benefits: There is no such paper in CT series except for topic of Pensions in CT5 which will help you with EB. People with even 0 papers in the past has got hired by the Employee Benefits firms, but clearing basic papers will give you an added advantage.
(Note: If anyone knows an Actuary in India working in Investment Banking, please connect me with him/her, so that I could gather more knowledge regarding the same.)
If you have already cleared the papers required for a particular field then also you should never rest! Demand-Supply market has changed in past few years and Competition is now getting tougher and tougher. The following points will make you a more desirable candidate than your competition:
- Conceptual Knowledge: Cleared a paper? Good for you! But how many of you just studied for the sake of passing? If you are someone having a good hand on the concepts of the papers rather than their mathematical formulas, then you will definitely have an edge. Ever wondered why we are given a ‘Table’ containing few of the important formulas in our examination? Because memorizing a formula was never a requirement in our field rather understanding that formula is and where it is used. So, while studying for a paper, always ask yourself questions of ‘How?’ and ‘Why?’.
- Software-skills: Trend has changed in Actuaries where previously organizations used to train you with software used. Now-a-days, Conceptual knowledge with basic software skills is what desired for entry-level opportunities. At least, Excel is something you should all be familiar with. Advantage of having knowledge of any of the additional software like VBA, SQL, R, etc will definitely help you with your first job.
- Communication: Have a good conceptual knowledge and software skills? But what good it is if you could not sell it. Having a great confidence level with proper presentation skills is what recruiters look into at entry level. Since, our profile is of Managerial level, how could someone who lacks in confidence would be able to meet requirements of this dynamic world? Marketing is everywhere and here if you have to find your first job, you have to sell yourself.
- Connections: Actuarial field is still a growing field in India but still lacks opportunities at fresher level (though opportunities are always there). Having a good network is very important because many of the jobs in Actuaries are filled up by internal hiring and secondly, if you are someone having a connection who could refer you for a particular position, your resume will always be considered first by HR department (But still you need enough talent to get a call).
- Be Dynamic: Apart from your academics, one should have enough exposure to other activities in life (not life insurance) as well.
In my opinion, even if you have cleared 5-6 Actuarial exams while graduating you should not stop yourself from doing more while you are not able to find an appropriate opportunity for yourself. “Learning should never stop”. Global General Insurers and Re-insurers look out for the candidates who have or nearly have cleared CT series of Actuarial exams. Yes, don’t forget the concepts of the papers you have cleared on the path as it will again be tested in your technical interview(s) and with everything remaining the same, you will have an edge over someone with less number of papers.
You may argue that our salary hikes in many firms depends upon the number of papers we clear while working. But do you even have an idea how tough it will get once you have a job? Also, as I said, competition is tough now and to make yourself adaptable to the competition, focusing on concepts and continuously developing yourself according to the needs of the market should be your primarily task.
Utilize your time, never stop learning and make yourself relevant to the industry’s requirement. No one could then stop you from achieving the greater heights in your career if you are serious about the profession!