Faith Franz is a junior at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri, where she is double majoring in actuarial science and mathematics with a minor in computer science. Faith is president of UCM’s The Actuarial Organization and is preparing this summer for Exams FM and P. We spoke with Faith in June 2021.
Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.
I love to read. I enjoy both fiction and nonfiction, and last year, I read more than 60 books. I also have a reading blog that I write for fun in my free time.
What has your experience at the University of Central Missouri been like?
I’ve really enjoyed my time at UCM so far. My favorite thing about my school is the size—not too big, not too small. The total student body is somewhere around 10,000 students, but my major only has around 80 people, so I’ve gotten to know the faculty in my department well. I had one class my freshman year with 55 people, but since then, all of my classes have had fewer than 20 students.
Actuarial science is a very multi-faceted career field. You study math, statistics, finance, economics, accounting, and computer science and combine all of your skills in a really unique way.
On campus, I’m involved in Kappa Mu Epsilon, which is a mathematics fraternity, and The Actuarial Organization. I was recently elected president of The Actuarial Organization, which means that next year, I will get to communicate with employers and plan an actuarial career fair, among other responsibilities. Both of these organizations have provided me with a chance to get closer to the people in my majors and learn more about my career options.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose UCM?
When I was researching colleges in my senior year of high school, there were only five in Missouri that had a program specifically for actuarial science, so that narrowed down my search considerably. UCM was the most affordable option, and the staff was happy to meet with me and let me sit in on a lecture, which really solidified my decision.
What influenced you to pursue an actuarial science program?
I had never heard of actuarial science until my high school trigonometry teacher suggested it as a career path for me. I did some research but still was somewhat unsure. I went into college with actuarial science declared as my major, hoping to just take a few classes and see how it felt.
I knew I wanted to do something math-related and I had read really great things about the actuarial field online. Based on the descriptions, I felt pretty confident that it would be a good fit for me, but taking the classes and learning the material is what really made me feel like I chose the right major.
Why should other students consider a focus in actuarial science?
Actuarial science is well-suited for people who have a wide range of skills and want to utilize as many of them as possible. You get to learn about math, statistics, finance, economics, accounting, and computer science, which makes the course load very stimulating and diverse. The exams in the actuarial career provide opportunities to advance your skills and make yourself more competitive, but there are also a lot of career options that don’t require any exams at all.
The skills that you gain with an actuarial degree make you marketable within a wide variety of careers and career fields.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
Dr. Phoebe McLaughlin is the head of the actuarial science department at UCM, and she really goes above and beyond to provide resources for her students. Throughout the semester, she sends out tons of internship opportunities, resources for exams, and advice she’s received from alumni.
We also have The Actuarial Organization, a club that provides information about actuarial careers and holds a career fair every fall specifically for actuarial careers. The Actuarial Organization also invites alumni and other practicing actuaries to come talk to UCM students about their experiences in their careers.
In terms of exams, there are two three-credit-hour classes that you take to cover the material from exams P and FM, and then a one-credit-hour review class for each of those exams. Exams IFM and LTAM also have classes specifically for their material.
There is a lot of support and career preparation in our program which really helps students be successful after graduation.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
I took a class last semester called Probability Models, which is the Exam P prep class. I found all of the content from that class to be really interesting and applicable to real life. Statistics is my favorite subject to study so I’ve really enjoyed learning that material.
What is unique about focusing on actuarial science relative to other majors you could have chosen?
Actuarial science is a very multi-faceted career field. You study math, statistics, finance, economics, accounting, and computer science and combine all of your skills in a really unique way. It requires you as a student to be flexible and willing to develop a wide breadth of knowledge.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
Learning how to manage my time has definitely been the most challenging part of studying actuarial science. The course load is more demanding than the average college student’s, and it requires a lot of dedication and study time to be successful in all of your classes. If you choose to pursue exams, you also have to be prepared to spend some extra time studying for those, either during school breaks or on top of a normal class load.
I managed to get through high school without really developing any study skills, so when I got to college, I had to learn how I studied best. Everyone is different, but one thing that was hard was that my friends would want to hang out and study together. I quickly learned I can really only study when I’m alone and it’s quiet. That being said, when you’re studying the same material as someone, group study sessions can be really beneficial. You just have to figure out what works best with you.
What are the latest developments or trends in insurance that are of interest to you?
I’m really interested to see the ways that COVID-19 affects the insurance world. Will we create insurance to protect against pandemics? How will organizations and individuals approach insurance policies differently after the unexpected events that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic?
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
I hope to pass exams FM, P, and IFM while in college. After I graduate, I plan on finding a job working in an actuarial position in Kansas City, MO. I’m not completely set on any long-term plans, but I think an actuarial degree will only become more valuable over time since it’s a skill set that is beneficial in so many different areas. I’m excited to see the future of the actuarial science field and how we as actuaries will be able to use our knowledge to solve new kinds of problems.
What advice would you give someone interested in the insurance field?
Definitely do some research! There are a lot of different resources online to learn about careers within the insurance field. If you’re coming into college, research different schools around you and see if you can make an appointment to meet with faculty and ask questions.
Do you have any favorite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in insurance?
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Pérez is a fascinating nonfiction book that explores how many of the systems that our society relies upon were created solely based on men and their needs. This book isn’t directly about insurance, but it does cover a lot of different health conditions and studies that were researched with only male test pools, despite affecting women in very different ways. Data bias is a huge problem and I think that this is a great book for everyone to read, but especially aspiring actuaries.
» If you liked Faith’s interview, check out our other actuarial science student interviews.