Jessica Malek is a fourth-year student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, where she is majoring in mathematics and statistics with a concentration in actuarial science. We spoke with Jessica in May 2021.
Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.
My caffeine addiction is fueled by the many Tim Hortons’ on the Carleton campus.
What has your experience at Carleton University been like?
Unlike many other university programs, the actuarial program at Carleton is a very small group of students. This provides the opportunity to really interact and be engaged in classes. The program also gives me the opportunity to gain knowledge in various departments at Carleton. I had the opportunity to meet and study with people in statistics, economics, and business classes.
I also very much enjoyed the residence experience at Carleton, and it is how I met many of my closest university friends.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose Carleton?
The other schools that I considered were the University of Ottawa, McMaster University, and the University of Waterloo. I liked that the actuarial program at Carleton was small because I thought that it would allow me to participate more in classes rather than simply listen to lectures.
Ever since I enrolled in the actuarial program at Carleton, it has been constantly changing and adapting to be geared more towards the goals of the SOA/CAS.
I also very much like the campus life at Carleton. I have always lived in Ottawa and, while I did stay in residence during my first year, I was keen on staying in the city for university.
What influenced you to pursue an actuarial science program?
I have always enjoyed math classes most throughout high school; however, I was not very aware of many jobs in that direction. I found that actuarial science seemed to be a perfect practical use of my mathematical skills and the work seems to be challenging but in an engaging way.
I had first heard of the field through family friends who were in the field of actuarial science, and I then learned more about the specific program by going to the information session at Carleton University when I was in grade 12. In high school, I was very unsure about which field I would go into. I had applied to health science programs as well as statistics and actuarial science programs. Ultimately, I chose to go into actuarial science because it lined up with my mathematical interests.
Why should other students consider a focus in actuarial science?
I believe that a focus in actuarial science really gives you knowledge that many others would not attain through, say, a pure business degree. Even if you do not continue from this concentration to become an actuary, I think the diverse coursework and knowledge base that you attain from this focus is really something that will set you apart from other individuals.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
While the actuarial program is still fairly new at Carleton, I think that overall my experience has been very good. Ever since I enrolled in 2018, the program has been constantly changing and adapting, specifically to be geared more towards the goals of the SOA/CAS. The actuarial courses at Carleton prepared me very well for the P and FM exams that I have passed so far.
In addition to actuarial courses, there have been many opportunities to hear from actuaries and learn about different potential fields that can be explored in actuarial science. There have also been information sessions exploring the exam path to becoming an actuary.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
I have personally enjoyed most the courses geared towards the actuarial students, such as the financial mathematics and LTAM and STAM courses. It is very interesting to see concepts that were developed in background statistics and business classes come together in a practical way. These classes also definitely prepared me well for when I decided to complete SOA exams.
What is unique about focusing on actuarial science relative to other majors you could have chosen?
I think that the actuarial program gives a diverse amount of background knowledge in other departments and programs that you would not necessarily get in other majors such as business or economics. It is also noteworthy that because you get involved in many other departments, it is very easy to get a minor in, say, business, when you are in the actuarial program.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
Because of the coursework in various departments, you do not get many electives in the actuarial program, and thus the workload is quite heavy. One thing that I wish I knew beforehand is that to become an actuary, you do not have to specifically enroll in an actuarial program. Something that I would have potentially considered was rather than taking on a statistics major with a concentration in actuarial science, maybe taking on a business major, but still with a statistics minor, in order to get that actuarial and statistics background incorporated.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
I plan to continue with completing the SOA actuarial exams and pursuing a career in the insurance industry. I am personally unsure about which part of the insurance industry I would like to go into. Currently, I believe that I would be more interested in focusing on life and health. I think that once I complete more of my schooling and get more experience in various concentrations, I will get more of an idea of this.
What advice would you give someone interested in the insurance field?
I would say if you are willing to work and study hard and have an interest in mathematics and business, then this could be a good choice for you. I would also say that you should always speak with someone who works in the field of study you are looking to pursue.
» If you liked Jessica’s interview, check out our other actuarial science student interviews.