Advancing your education

Actuarial Science – where you can be a student and professional all at once

On an early summer morning in June 2013 as I walk in for my  first class meet at Columbia, glimpses of the last few months and the next year and a half flash in front of my eyes. It’s a surreal feeling being a student again. Just a few months back I was an education consultant with Innervision Inc., helping students make those crucial decisions for their higher education. With every student I met then, my personal resolve to pursue a masters course in a field of my choice strengthened. One fine day, my wife and I gave it a good thought and decided to take the deep-dive.

With six years of experience working in the technology and education space, the decision to start my masters in Actuarial Science was obviously a calculated move. Actuarial Science was at a pretty nascent stage in India then and we were strongly recommending it to students with a good aptitude in math. I had been contemplating long on possible options and with the help of my in-laws I had zeroed in on this career path that would keep me on my toes for the next several years and challenge me at every level. It’s only when you jump you realize how much you’ve lost standing by the cliff!

I was drawn to Columbia’s Actuarial Science program for its choice of electives, strength of its network, the support framework and the curriculum. Late in September 2012 when I heard of my acceptance, I knew I had to shift gears and prepare for the credentialing process. Entering the Actuarial profession is easy and hard at the same time. To be considered a strong candidate for an entry-level actuary, one needs to pass at least two preliminary exams, have a strong GPA and ideally have a few related internships. Since the profession is highly regarded and one just needs a Bachelor’s degree to enter the profession, the entry-level market is extremely saturated. Unless you are extremely serious in seeing this through, it’s highly unlikely that you’d just ‘wing it’. Another interesting aspect I learnt over the next couple of months was that though your past work experience is valued, it isn’t necessarily factored-in while you apply for jobs. That is just the way the profession is built – You start from the bottom, make your way up as you pass the 9 – 12 professional exams, gain experience on the job and eventually get credentialed once you satisfy a slew of other requirements.

The internship phase is a wonderful catch-22 situation. Career-changers have an edge over others since they bring great value-add to the team with their experience (provided they are able to connect the dots really well for the interviewer). While on the other hand, you are more likely to get an internship if you are a current student enrolled in a related program, having exams under your belt is an obvious game-changer. I cleared the first preliminary exam in Fall 2013 and interned with Deloitte Consulting for a couple of months in their Actuarial and Advanced Analytics (AAA) service line. Later in Spring and Summer 2014 I interned with a start-up Insurance firm- Atikus Insurance. Both internships were good learning experiences and diverse in terms of the exposure they gave me.

Later in 2014, I cleared the second exam and started applying for full time positions. By then with two internships and exams, I was very confident of my profile. Though it took some time to get used to setting aside six years of my work-experience and playing the entry-level game, I did find a great match with a team in Towers Watson – A leading global professional services company. With this move, I enter the Property and Casualty side of the Insurance business and can’t wait to start working early this June. Personally my target is to earn the ACAS credentials by EOY 2016 and the FCAS credentials by 2018. A huge roller-coaster ride awaits and time would tell how fast it spins. The thrills of being a life-long student!

Should you have any questions related to Actuarial Science or just about pursuing a masters of your interest, send us an e-mail or call us. We would love to listen to what you have to say and could help bounce your thoughts and ideas.

Meenakshi Bhaskar

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