Share your Stories: When did you find out about Actuarial Science?

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An ongoing topic in the actuarial field is the need to boost awareness of actuarial science and the actuarial career path. Many have heard the term “actuary,” but rarely are they able to explain what an actuary actually does. Or some may discover actuarial science much later in life, putting them at a disadvantage in a highly competitive field.

We have had the chance to explore this topic through our “Share your Story” project and the conversations we’ve had with various actuaries as they share their own account of when and how they first discovered actuarial science.

Today’s blog will highlight these accounts.

 

“When did you first find out about Actuarial Science?”

 

Matt Gentile, FCAS, MAAA (SAGAA):

I first heard about the actuarial profession in high school. There was a teacher at my school in the math department that was leaving to become an actuary. I was looking into a career in math and at that moment it was brought to the forefront.

At the time, I didn’t think teaching was the right fit for me. I wanted something that had more real-life applications of math and was not as theoretical in nature. Actuarial just seemed like a good fit to me and I ended up majoring in Actuarial Science at the University of Connecticut

Carol Thomas, ST, SOA:

I started as a business major at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, GA. When my academic advisor found out I was taking calculus classes for fun, she encouraged me to consider careers in STEM. As part of my career exploration, I took a personality assessment that recommended actuarial science due to my detail-oriented nature and love of learning. After researching the career online, I told everyone in my social network that I wanted to become an actuary. People connected me with actuaries they knew, and I started having “informational interviews” with them to get insider perspectives on the career. One of the first actuaries I met was my dentist’s son-in-law, and seeing his enthusiasm for his career confirmed my decision to pursue actuarial science. I eventually changed my major to Mathematics-Economics and started taking actuarial exams.

Kristen Long, FSA, MAAA (NAWA):

That’s a great question. So, when I was in high school, my mom Googled ‘high paying math jobs’ and actuary popped up as an option. And so, I said ‘yeah, sure – sounds great. I’ll give that a try.’ I knew nothing about it, other than it was a high paying job. I didn’t know about the exam process or any of it, but I have really enjoyed it ever since and, and haven’t looked back. It’s definitely helped fund my shoe closet!

 

Rae Warner (NAWA):

I’m actually from the South in an area where there’s not a lot of insurance companies or actuaries.  I never even heard of what an actuary was until my senior year of college when I was studying applied financial math. Someone mentioned it as a potential job option, so I looked into it and decided to intern in the P&C industry while I was in grad school.

I just kind of fell in love with it and the ability to use analytics to drive business decisions. I’ve been happy in the field ever since.

Jessica Kildow, FSA, MAAA (NAWA):

It was in high school. Actually, somebody from the Madison program came to our AP Stats class to present on the field for people who are probably good candidates to be an actuary.

To be honest, at the time, I thought, ‘No, I’m going to be a doctor.’

And then four days into Chemistry 101, I thought, ‘Nope, can’t be a doctor. This is terrible.’

At that point I was pretty confused about what I wanted to do.

But then, I met a waitress who was an actuary, just by coincidence. And because I had heard about it in high school, I thought I should maybe consider it.

Frank Huang, FCAS, MAAA:

In high school a friend of mine had an actuary visit at their school and told me about the profession. I was like, “oh, that sounds interesting,” and I started looking into it. It was back in the day you still had, I don’t know if they still do, but job almanacs. It’s a book where all these different professions tell you the good things, the bad things about it and the kind of prospects for the future. Being an actuary was consistently in the top three, because it was a great work-life balance, good compensation, and intellectually stimulating. And I was like, well, those all sound really good. And it may not please the mother figure, but I switched majors.

I took the first exam and passed it on the first try. And I said, hey, why not give it a shot? So that’s kind of how I started off.

Monique Hacker, FSA, MAAA (IABA):

I was introduced briefly to the profession when I was about 12 years old. My friend and I were hanging out at school (in Jamaica), and we were trying to figure out what we were going to do as a profession, given the fact that we both loved math. At the time, the professions we were familiar with were teaching and researching Math. She mentioned that she had a cousin who works as something called an actuary. I immediately asked, “What’s that?” to which she replied, “Well, they make a lot of money.”

I said, “Okay, sign me up!!” That was how I got introduced to the profession. For college, I attended Binghamton University in upstate New York. Initially, Actuarial Science was not the profession or career I pursued. I tried accounting and business law, just trying to figure out what I was passionate about and what I wanted to do. I kept coming back to the fact that I liked math and analytical classes.

Junior year, I decided to look more into this actuarial science thing. Binghamton at the time, did not have an actuarial science major. I spoke to my professor, the head of the math department, and he recommended majoring in Math and Economics if I wanted to become an Actuary. I double majored in both and that was important to prepare me for the actuarial profession.

Nick Hamwey, FCAS:

I actually didn’t even know what an actuary was until I was a junior in college. So, I didn’t go to college with the intention of becoming an actuary. Back then, I was just trying to figure out what was going to work for me. Freshman year, I found that I was good at statistics, and then junior year, I had this moment of- ‘how the heck am I going to pay back my student loans when I graduate?! I better find a job, or something that I’m going to try to get out of college.’ And then actuarial kind of fit in with statistics at the time, so that’s how I got started. It was really just trying to connect the dots between my statistics major. I originally started as an astronomy major, then I went to business, and then I went to statistics. When I finished statistics, while I was still in college, I took my first actuarial exam and I passed it – I think by like one point or something – I’d barely passed it.

I’d never had to study for an exam as hard as I did for that one, in my entire life. I looked and there was a very low pass rate for that exam. I was super lucky to ever pass it, because if I didn’t pass that exam, I don’t know if I would have continued down the path.

Todd Livergood, FCAS:

Seems like an eternity ago but when I went to undergrad, college, you know, I’ve always liked math and similar disciplines. I started off as a psychology major for the first couple years and then decided to go back to something I really liked and was good at. So, I switched majors midway through college to become a statistics major. And that’s what I have my bachelor’s in. Late in the game – especially, comparative to now – I heard about the actuarial career. So, I decided to do some research about it and it touched upon a lot of things that I’d like to do.

 

Blog written by Marilyn Simpson

 

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