|Math Addict: Pursuing a Career in Actuarial Science
Actuarial science is a field of variability. Assessing risk and processing data is a lengthy process, one that requires patience, perception, and a love of mathematics.
“Over the long term, I realize that what attracted me to the profession was a level of rigor when it comes to using data,” said Ryan Ledger ’11, assistant vice president of Chubb Group, an insurance firm that has employed several recent LVC graduates.
In April, several of these graduates journeyed to LVC to share their experiences with students interested in the field of actuarial science. In addition to Ledger, Renee McGovern ’06 and Bryan Trone ’10 were among the actuaries that sought to impart the wisdom they had learned during their careers.
All three had a similar message, namely that it takes a special kind of person to become an actuary. A strong math background is a must, as the program is always exacting and often grueling. After all, a mathematical error can lead to very real consequences for businesses and their clients.
In contrast to other math-related majors, actuarial science is largely pragmatic rather than theoretical, focusing on the application of mathematics over anything else. In fact, all three actuaries expressed that their career choice was based on a desire to use math in a capacity other than research or education. They also noted that the field itself, much like the work they do, is always changing.
“There has been a huge growing period during the past 10 years,” said McGovern, vice president of Chubb. “I’ve seen a lot of opportunities to get out into the market, even globally.”
As a company, Chubb deals with property and casualty (P&C) insurance, in contrast to life and health (L&H) firms, at which McGovern interned before graduating LVC. McGovern and Ledger commented on the differences between the two fields, stating that they preferred P&C work due to the high degree of—you guessed it—variability. Where L&H requires the utmost precision, it can be almost chaotically hard to calculate risk when it comes to P&C, a challenge for sure, but not a deterrent for actuaries such as these.
“There’s so much uncertainty, and we have to try our best to box it in,” said Trone.
Nevertheless, where does one start when it comes to a field this complex?
“LVC’s program really taught us to take information from textbooks, synthesize it, and apply it,” said Trone.
The trio had different things to say about their time at LVC—for instance, McGovern was captain of the woman’s soccer team and Ledger was involved in the Math Club—but their stories shared a common element: the development of self-reliance in the Actuarial Science Program. They expressed a great deal of gratitude for their LVC professors, not just for their teaching ability, but for the tools they gave students to succeed. A large portion of the program is about applicability, forcing students to do research and answer questions on their own. After all, there’s certainly never one individual with all of the answers in the real world. Actuarial science is characterized by the synthesis of information, whether from textbooks, clients, or the Internet, and a big part of LVC’s program is about leveraging whatever is available.
“It’s such a rare skill to teach yourself something new from such technical material, but it’s a hallmark of the LVC actuarial degree,” said Ledger.
In order to become full actuaries, aspirants need to pass nine exams, an intense process that the trio nevertheless agreed that LVC had prepared them for.
Their final advice for potential actuaries? Hone your thinking skills, be flexible, and stay determined. It’s inevitably a long road, but, as with other professions, hard work goes a long way.