I’m an actuary, not an actuarist!
The actuarial profession is growing rapidly, as is the public’s knowledge of what actuaries do. The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries describes actuarial work as using ‘mathematical skills to help measure the probability and risk of future events. This information is useful to many industries, including healthcare, pensions, insurance, banking and investments, where a single decision can have a major financial impact.’
What kind of academic background do most actuaries have?
In order to enter the profession, most actuaries will have achieved an A level or a Higher in maths or an equivalent qualification, and a numerical degree (normally 2:1 or higher).
What do you do on an Actuarial Internship?
Actuarial internships typically involve the same projects and roles as graduates actuaries – highlighting to interns the challenges they might face as a full-time actuary. By doing this, opportunities are provided to work on projects from the client’s or firm’s offices around the country.
Routine tasks on Actuarial Internships
- Day to day tasks such as managing emails and attending meetings with project teams.
- Speaking to colleagues and ingratiating yourself with the firm’s culture.
- Scanning documents, formatting presentations and documentation.
- Extracting and manipulating data from systems e.g. to produce triangles of claims data.
- Reading slides from past training sessions or online documents from regulators. (These tasks are occasionally given when colleagues are extremely busy or there isn’t enough work suitable for an intern.)
Challenges on Actuarial Internships
There are a range of challenges that actuarial interships offer. These include:
- Understanding the technical side of what is being discussed whilst taking meeting minutes, not being afraid to ask questions and being proactive afterwards to cement any new knowledge
- Building new and using existing spreadsheets and models
- Presenting and justifying work to a manager, team or senior member of the department
- Understanding and using technical methods.
Interesting opportunities and unexpected responsibilities
On an actuarial internship you will be involved in the same projects as other junior staff. Responsibilities may include researching information about clients and the current issues affecting them, or an analysis of some part of the firm’s business (for example methods used to model unusual contracts) to identify trends. In addition to attending training sessions and workshops (for example about Solvency II, reserving, calculating pensions liabilities) you will attend meetings with clients and organise the department’s exam result celebrations.
Through these opportunities you will gain the same respect given to full-time junior staff and vital experience of working in an office environment.
Old skills developed:
- Use of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
- Research using the internet and firm’s own internal databases.
- Time management to meet deadlines and the relative amounts of work required to meet them.
- Interpersonal skills.
New skills learnt:
- Actuarial techniques specific to the role.
- Justifying and explaining work to others.
- A mix of on-the-job training and potentially a structured scheme provides the opportunity to develop a range of technical skills specific to the industry in which the team specialises and softer skills e.g. writing and delivering presentations.
- Other training is focused on topics such as money laundering or health and safety, awareness of which is required in any occupation.
After actuarial internships
If you perform well during the internship, you may be offered a graduate job but if this doesn’t happen you will still have gained invaluable training and skills that can be used at university, in other jobs and in the future. In the worst-case scenario, it is another line for the CV, some pocket money, the beginnings of a network and a taste of what being an actuary involves.