Emily Anderson is an alumna (2019) of California Baptist University in Riverside, California, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Actuarial Science. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, Emily entered graduate school at the University of California, Irvine, to pursue a doctoral degree in Economics. We spoke with Emily in September 2021.
Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.
I love being outside! I like to hike, run, swim, surf, paddleboard, and more. This year, my goal is to learn how to snowboard to add winter sports to my outdoor resume.
How was your experience at California Baptist University?
I had an amazing experience at CBU. The campus culture is very fun, and there is opportunity for students with all kinds of interests to get involved. I spent a lot of time being a part of the Spiritual Life activities, and I also was able to take advantage of recreational sports opportunities and outdoor adventure trips.
The professors [at California Baptist University] were very intentional to help guide me towards success, and I felt they genuinely cared—and still care—about me.
I enjoyed my classes, and since the class sizes were small, I got lots of personal attention and mentorship from my professors. The community in the classes was tight-knit as well as the community in the spiritual life club I was a part of on campus. CBU is small enough to get to know a close community but large enough to have a large variety of opportunities in academics and personal interests.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose California Baptist University?
I had planned on staying close to home, so I was considering CBU, Cal State San Marcos, and community college. I ultimately chose CBU because of the location, the beautiful campus, and opportunities for spiritual growth. I still was not sure of my major, so that was not a consideration in choosing my school.
What influenced you to pursue an actuarial science program?
I had originally planned to major in engineering but felt it was not the right fit for some reason. I went to career/major counseling at CBU, where we discussed my interests. They pointed me towards data analysis generally, and actuarial science specifically. I had never heard of actuarial science, but I love working with statistics and data and using mathematical concepts to learn about the real world, so the major counselors thought it would be a good fit. And they were right!
Why should other students consider a focus in actuarial science?
Actuarial science is a very interesting, important, and practical application of statistics. The potential careers and opportunities for lifelong learning are appealing. If you decide insurance isn’t for you, after all, I have found the skills are very transferable to other data analysis and statistics jobs and grad school programs.
How was your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
I loved the actuarial science program at CBU. The program is fairly small, so there are lots of opportunities to grow close to classmates and professors. One time, a classmate and I carpooled to an actuarial science convention, where we could see those working in the industry, and I think the community in the program encouraged this kind of teamwork. It never felt competitive with other classmates, and we all encouraged each other when it came to taking actuarial exams and completing coursework.
Like I mentioned before, the professors were very intentional to help guide me towards success, and I felt they genuinely cared—and still care—about me. The department feels very united towards the goal of student success, and each professor makes an effort to know their students. The classes were all relevant and helpful towards not only my degree but also to understanding data analysis in general. I felt prepared for the exams from my classes and professors, and when I passed Exam P, I remember everyone in the department was so excited and encouraging. When I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in economics, my professors were very supportive and helped me through the application process. I know to this day, they are cheering me on.
If you think you would do well in a small, hands-on program, CBU would definitely be a place to consider.
What was your favorite class and why?
My favorite class was Statistical Computing. We learned how to use R, and that skill has been invaluable to my studies today. Because I enjoy data analysis so much, I really love getting into the weeds and figuring out a dataset and what it is telling me. That class showed me how to do it for the first time, and it was so fun!
What is unique about focusing on actuarial science relative to other majors you could have chosen?
Actuarial science is unique because you are set up for a specific, important career. You can begin taking exams in college, making progress in your career before you graduate. In my program, I got exposure to statistics, data analysis, mathematics, and accounting, so you are able to understand a broad variety of fields and skills. Actuarial science is unique because of the broad, yet specific skills you acquire.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
I find studying actuarial science can be stressful because of the exam structure. The exams require diligent studying and can feel high pressure. I think it is important to realize the exam structure of the career and for students to self-reflect whether that level of pressure is doable for them.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
Right now, I am in an economics Ph.D. program at the University of California, Irvine. I hope to finish my Ph.D. and become a professor. I am very passionate about education, so I hope my dissertation will study education topics, and my future career will include educating others.
What advice would you give someone interested in the insurance field?
Seeing a career/major counselor is very helpful. See if your potential schools have an actuarial science program, and look at the course list. If the courses seem interesting, do it! You will not be tied to insurance forever if you decide it isn’t for you because the skills are so valuable to so many fields, so why not?
Do you have any favorite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in insurance?
Not really for those interested, but for those currently studying actuarial science, I remember the SOA study guide books were so helpful in solidifying concepts from my courses and helping me study for exams.
» If you liked Emily’s interview, check out our other actuarial student interviews.