The numbers tell the story. According to a study just released by CareerCast.com, actuaries top the list of the best jobs in America, based on physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was used to determine the number-one ranking, which doesn’t surprise Mark Maxwell, PhD, Actuarial Studies Program Director at the University of Texas at Austin.
Topping the charts
“A top ranking for the actuarial profession has been consistently high for decades by many different surveys and lists,” says Dr. Maxwell, who also serves as Clinical Professor of Mathematics. “What I respect most about the actuarial profession is that every student is on a level playing field. Students can distinguish themselves through success on actuarial exams, through the technical skills they develop, and through their ability to communicate with others. Their success is in their own hands.”
“We’re experts in evaluating the likelihood of future events, reducing the impact of undesirable events and designing creative ways to reduce the likelihood of undesirable events.”
Maxwell says an effective mathematics curriculum should help students develop effective analytical and critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, curiosity and communication skills, which will serve them well in the job market.
The student demands
“Our students typically select our B.S. in Mathematics Option I: Actuarial Studies degree, because they are good at mathematics and some relative, friend or high school counselor read an article ranking the actuarial profession quite highly. Historically, successful students combined the love of math and interest in business applications together with intellectual ability and a willingness to prepare for 300 hours toward each preliminary examination to show prospective employers they are bright, have a great work ethic and can progress through the rigorous credentialing process.”
According to the American Academy of Actuaries, a Washington, DC-based professional association serving the public and the U.S. actuarial profession, awareness of the importance of actuaries is growing. There’s wider recognition that societal, corporate and individual risks must be managed.
“We’re experts in evaluating the likelihood of future events, reducing the impact of undesirable events and designing creative ways to reduce the likelihood of undesirable events,” says organization president Cecil Bykerk. “Actuaries provide services that are vital to our clients and serve the public interest. Insurers commonly rely on actuaries’ work to ensure they will have enough resources to cover claims resulting from natural disasters, terrorist attacks and health problems.”
Applying STEM disciplines
Bykerk says focusing on STEM-related courses is crucial for success in his field.
“Becoming an actuary requires the ability to model and quantify risk, and mathematics is the foundation. Students considering a career as an actuary will want to develop excellent quantitative skills in courses on linear algebra, calculus, calculus-based statistics and probability, economics, computer science and finance.”
With a median annual salary of $88,000, actuaries aren’t limited in their options.
“Actuaries serve clients in a wide range of different fields, from the government-employed actuaries whose work is aimed at keeping Social Security fiscally sound, to those employed by or who consult for insurance companies,” says Bykerk. “Some actuaries help individual companies quantify and prepare for economic, natural and other threats to financial health. Serving as an actuary is extremely rewarding.”
By: Cindy Riley