When Chloe Hung got her first job as a fresh actuarial science grad, her pay was RM1,000 (US$235) per month at an administrative bank job that did not even need her to be there.
Fast forward a couple of years, Hung doubled her salary, moved on to a job as an actuarial consultant for a life insurance company and is now the author of Strength In Numbers: An In-Depth Look at Actuarial Science for Math Enthusiasts, a book to guide university students through their studies and work.
The turning point came when she realised she needed to find value from her actuarial science degree, famous for being a dry topic to students and later, an underpaid profession to graduates.
“Actuarial studies will show you there is strength in numbers,” Hung told students during a presentation at Heriot Watt University Malaysia last week.
But how does a student use numbers and equations to become an indispensable employee who sees a company’s risks and solve the unsolvable?
Hung says actuarial success is possible through her seven steps:
1. Know your primary objective
@JustinTWJ lol!!! i only know actuarist deals with maths, statistics etc. a field that not much ppl enter, makes good money.
— Ho Kit Yen (@hkityen) April 14, 2013
Money should not be the end game, but a mere by-product of good actuarists. Instead, the aim should be to help people adapt to transitions and in terms of money, learning how to multiply your income through various means.
2. Pass actuarial exams
They say, to be a valid actuarist you have to past certain exam.I just wish i had the money to buy myself the related books and study myself
— Arif Aiman (@arifaimanisa) July 15, 2015
They take years to study for and ace, in addition to burning a hole in your (or your parents’ pockets). The fee for a paper can go up to thousands of dollars. But these exams are necessary and they are surmountable. The keys are to prepare – and to prepare early.
3. Improve technical skills
how do you differentiate an actuarial studies student? sometimes we actually laugh at your Excel jokes
— 𝚋𝚊𝚎𝚝𝚑𝚘𝚟𝚎𝚗 (@_baethoven_) October 14, 2015
That means your Excel and Visual Basic For Applications (VBA) skills. It was these skills that helped Hung land a consulting role in an insurance company as her then-employer had wanted to upgrade their spreadsheets. These skills will “increase your chances of being hired by 50 percent,” says Hung.
4. Get actuarial internship
“Work experience is very important for an actuarial candidate. Employers want candidates with work experience,” says Hung. For college students, speak to your school’s career centre to seek out internship opportunities with the employers you are interested in.
5. Improve communication skills
A fresh grad who communicates well will be able to sell themselves better during job interviews, considering today’s pool of fresh grads who have been criticised for not possessing the required soft skills.
6. Build multiple sources of income
If possible, actuarists should have various sources of income to manage their own personal risk, such as unemployment.
7. Decide whether acturial science is for you
This will be the “toughest decisions you’re ever gonna make,” according to Hung. The society will expect actuarists to be able to solve complex financial problems. It’s a tough job and those who want to succeed in this field have to decide whether you’re willing to put in the commitment.