Faith Miller is an undergraduate Actuarial Science major at Anderson University in South Carolina. She will graduate in May of 2019. We spoke with her in September 2018 about her experience with this major, her school, and what she’s planning for her professional future.
What has your experience at your school been like?
My experience at Anderson has been really great. My professors have been very encouraging and helpful. I’ve taken one actuarial exam so far, and I passed it with flying colors. I was really well prepared for it. I love my classes, and I’ve made a lot of friends, too.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
My favorite class so far was interest theory. I really enjoyed that class because it was so applicable. I feel like everyone should take this class because it teaches you how to utilize interest to your advantage. I learned about annuities, perpetuities, and loans, and I thought that was really neat.
From my interest theory class, I learned how I could use the stock market to my advantage. I also learned how to find the best rates for loans, because I now understand which interest rates are used, and how interest on loans is actually calculated. I know what is going to be the best deal for myself when I’m making any financial investment.
What influenced you to study actuarial science?
When I visited my college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew I loved math. I was planning on pursuing a pure math major, but when I went on the tour at Anderson, I heard about actuarial science. I became interested in the major because it was math applied to business. It allows me to use math, which I love, and do something significant with it.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
My advisor has been amazing. He has been really on top of making sure that I get the right courses. I’ve gotten to take computer science courses, two actuarial courses, three levels of statistics, as well as four levels of calculus. My advisor has also been very helpful in preparing me for the job market. He’s been advising me about exams, classes, and even my business minor. I’ve been able to take accounting, economics, and marketing. I feel like I’ll be very well qualified for whatever industry I go into because I’ve gotten a taste of everything.
Why should other students consider a focus in insurance?
If you have a love for math, then becoming an actuary is a great career to consider. It’s a lucrative career, and it’s also ranked as one of the top professions for employee happiness.
If you have a love for math, then becoming an actuary is a great career to consider.
Working as an actuary leads people to feel very fulfilled, and this career also has a very low unemployment rate. Not only that, as an actuary, we only have to get our bachelor’s degree. For many professions, you have to get your graduate degree in order to be successful. For actuaries, all you need is your bachelor’s degree and you are well on your way to success.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
The most challenging thing about studying actuarial science has been the small size of the actuary community near me. I feel like there aren’t that many people I can ask for advice because there aren’t that many actuaries that I know of, especially being in South Carolina. A lot of times actuaries live in bigger cities, so I have a hard time networking.
To grow my network, sometimes I’ll meet people who know actuaries, and I’ll ask for their information. I’ve also been using LinkedIn a lot, and that’s given me a lot of great contacts. The internship coordinator at Anderson University has also been helpful. Through networking, I was able to get an internship with an insurance agency close to my school. That internship gave me a foothold in the insurance industry, which is really great because that’s where a lot of actuaries work.
I wish I had known to start my actuary exams earlier, even during freshman or sophomore year of college. I also would have started looking for internships sooner rather than later. I’m actually graduating a year early, so the time I have for taking exams has been cut a little short.
Have you had any insurance-related internships?
At the insurance agency, I handled getting policies out to the insureds. I was contacting the insureds and making sure they had given us all the information that we needed to get their renewals done. I was also going into the renewals and making sure information was up to date with what the insurers needed.
I got to learn a lot of industry lingo and also learned about how the insurance business operates. In the future, when I go into the carrier side of things, I’ll know how the agency side works. I think being able to say I know both sides of the business builds the portfolio of skills I can offer.
My internship complemented my schoolwork well. I was able to apply what I learned at school, and my education enabled me to understand the terminology and understand what was going on behind the scenes.
Please share any real-life experience have you had with insurance.
I’ve had to purchase my own renters insurance. It was easy to buy renters insurance because I understood concepts like deductibles and premiums. I was able to read the policy information that the insurance companies gave me, which was very convenient. I was able to shop around for the best deal for myself because I knew how it worked.
While shopping for insurance, I called a couple different agencies and got quotes from different companies. I also asked family and friends to see if they knew any of the best deals. I ended up buying my renters insurance from GEICO.
What are the latest developments or trends in insurance?
One big trend right now is that everyone is moving to a 401(k) plan for retirement. Our grandparents had pension plans, but most companies don’t use them anymore. In the past, a lot of actuaries did consulting work for companies on their employee benefits plans and retirement plans. Now, since everything is changing to 401(k)s, it’s been changing a lot of actuarial consulting work.
Companies need people who can analyze data. Computers can’t decide what we need to do to actually change something. They can only tell us where we are. That’s why this field is so important because people who can analyze data are very important to companies now.
Technology is also very important and very helpful for the insurance industry. Especially with tools like Excel or R, we’re able to do a lot of really intense calculations. What computers can’t do is analyze data. Computers can compute data and can make calculations, but they can’t answer questions like: “Where do we need to be?”, “How do we change things to get there?” That’s why being an actuary is such a great career option because the need for actuaries is never going to die. Companies need people who can analyze data. Computers can’t decide what we need to do to actually change something. They can only tell us where we are. That’s why this field is so important because people who can analyze data are very important to companies now.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
After I graduate, I’m hoping to work for an insurance carrier, a bank, or in financial advising. I’m not quite sure yet, and I’m definitely still seeing what is out there, but I have a few ideas. The career flexibility is a nice thing about the major. I don’t necessarily have to be an actuary—I can do anything along those lines. I can be a financial advisor, a budget analyst, or a statistician. I can do a lot with the degree because it is a mathematics degree, so I can do anything pertaining to math.
Do you have any favorite books that you would recommend for someone interested in insurance?
One book that I’ve read about financial advising is called Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. I read it about a year ago, and it complemented what I’ve been learning so well. I could see what the author was saying, and I knew the math behind it and why it worked. I’ve also got a couple of books on my shelf that I’m hoping to read soon, including How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg, and Is God a Mathematician? by Mario Livio, which talks about how the world is so mathematical, and everything in it is very calculated.