Beyond the Stats
The actuarial career is consistently rated among the top jobs in America, according to surveys and rankings such as one recently reported by CareerCast. Good pay, low stress and interesting work equal high job satisfaction. It’s not surprising, then, that actuarial science is gaining a lot of attention from prospective students. But what does it take to educate a successful actuary?For starters, look at what actuaries do. Many work for insurance companies analyzing data to assess the likelihood of uncertain events such as accidents, illness or the timing of death. Results help determine insurance policy rates and the amount of money that should be held in reserve to pay claims. Becoming a credentialed actuary in the U.S. entails completion of a series of challenging exams and modules as well as Validation by Educational Experience requirements in economics, corporate finance and applied statistical methods.Sounds technical, and it is. But many companies are looking for more. In addition to people who can complete the strict credentialing process, there is demand for actuarial students who have excellent communication and leadership skills. This challenges colleges and universities to design programs that will help students gain a balance of technical and business savvy.Actuarial science programs generally fall into two categories:
- Programs housed in mathematics departments: These allow students access to a broad range of math courses, but generally not business courses
- Programs housed in business schools: These include more business courses, but allow less opportunity for traditional math courses
We designed a combination of the two: a program housed in the Mathematical Sciences Department within a business university that integrates business with the arts and sciences. Actuarial Science majors receive exposure to the fundamental arts and sciences disciplines, have access to a wide variety of math courses in addition to actuarial-focused courses, and take courses in core business disciplines as part of their major or minor in Business Studies. General business courses include significant group projects that help improve both collaboration and business communication skills.The goal: to develop technical prowess plus an understanding of complex concepts that will influence business decisions on a broader scale. Math gurus can understand business and be good communicators and leaders. And this is the type of actuarial graduate who will be first in line for this top-rated career.Lucy Kimball is professor of mathematical sciences, and Emmy Roth is associate professor of mathematical sciences.