Actuarial Science Growing, at Roosevelt University and in Market

Career Fair

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–October 26, 2015.

By Meredith Heagney

At a recent Roosevelt University career fair for actuarial science, students in suits holding freshly printed resumes walked from table to table, introducing themselves to potential employers.

Hands were shaken, greetings were exchanged and the words every job-hunter loves to hear were uttered:

“We’re always hiring.”

Actuarial science is growing as a field and as a program at Roosevelt, both as an undergraduate major and a concentration for graduate mathematics students. In the fall of 2009, Roosevelt had 33 undergraduate actuarial science majors; this year, that number is 41 and expected to grow. An additional 17 graduate students are studying actuarial science as well.

View video ‘What is Actuarial Science’ at:

Roosevelt has offered actuarial science classes since 1977, but the mathematics department has revitalized the program in recent years. The University is working toward the designation of “Center of Actuarial Excellence” from the Society of Actuaries.

To earn that label, Roosevelt plans to hire more professors, publish faculty work in actuarial science journals, track student exam pass rates and continue connecting with the many alumni already working in the field. Some of them attended the career fair, which brought insurance companies, recruiters and industry groups to the Wabash Building on Oct. 8.

The job market for actuaries is expected to grow 26 percent between 2012 and 2022, “much faster than average” compared to other careers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even more appealing for actuarial science majors? The median salary of an actuary in 2012 was $93,680; experienced actuaries can make $250,000 or more.

These are impressive statistics for a job many people couldn’t define if asked, even though actuaries impact virtually every part of our daily lives, whether we’re driving our cars, shopping in a store or going to the doctor.

Actuaries use math, statistics and financial theory to assess risk and its financial consequences. They determine the likelihood of future events and how such events would affect business and consumers.

It helps to think of actuarial science as the calculations behind insurance, though that’s a bit oversimplified. Actuaries do work in all kinds of insurance, from health to property and casualty, but also in the pension industry and in financial and investment management. They study questions such as how long people are expected to live, how much it costs to provide hospital care, how likely an individual is to have a car crash and if retirement funds are sufficient for the population they serve. 

“It’s the technical numbers behind the things we think about every day,” said Alycia Holmes, a sophomore actuarial science major. “We’re the people who figure that out.”

Holmes said she was attracted to the career because she likes math and problem-solving, not to mention the prospect of many job opportunities and an ample salary. Add in the job security and work-life balance that actuaries enjoy, and the field is often ranked one of the best jobs in the United States.

Of course, nothing valuable comes easy. Actuaries must pass a series of examinations to achieve professional status, starting with one or two tests in college and then several more as a working professional, a process that could take up to 10 years. As students and working actuaries pass the tests, which vary slightly based on career track, they earn designations such as Associate, Fellow or Chartered Enterprise Risk Analyst from the Society of Actuaries or the Casualty Actuarial Society.

The tests are difficult, so Roosevelt designed the actuarial science program to help students pass them. Classes and seminars are closely tied to the first few exams; for example, Roosevelt offers courses that correspond to the exams actuaries tend to take first, “Exam P–Probability” and “Exam FM-Financial Mathematics.”

Irene Ou (BA, ’13) said the preparation at Roosevelt was invaluable; back in 2012, she passed her financial mathematics exam before she even finished her financial mathematics class. Now she’s an actuarial assistant at Blue Cross Blue Shield, working in the pricing department.

At the career fair, Ou met current Roosevelt students and gave them information about applying to work at her company. She was heartened to see the program growing and offering students new opportunities, such as the career fair. “It’s good to expose them to so many people who can give real-life insight.”

Six full-time mathematics faculty members teach in the program, as well as adjuncts who work as actuaries and teach exam preparation. Students also take economics and finance courses, and computer science is a popular elective. The program seeks to impart both technical skills and so-called “soft skills” like communication and business knowledge. Actuaries often work with clients and collaborate closely with other professionals, requiring good interpersonal skills.

Wanwan Huang, assistant professor of mathematics and actuarial science, is optimistic about the future of the program at Roosevelt.

“I expect we’ll be one of the strongest programs in the United States,” she said. “It takes time, but we are confident. That’s the goal.”