Tyler Ocilka is a sophomore at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, where he is majoring in Mathematics with an Actuarial Science minor. We spoke with Tyler in August 2019.
Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.
I’m currently a volunteer football coach for my old high school. While I’m at school, I’m not really able to be at practice since my high school is about two hours away from Youngstown, but I still try to go to as many games as I can, and I do a lot of film breakdown for them.
What has your experience at Youngstown State University been like?
Youngstown State has been a great experience. The campus is really nice, and everybody is here to help you. I’ve had a lot of help from the faculty and staff, from Dr. Thomas Wakefield, the head of our math department, all the way down to my professors. They’re all very supportive of everything you’re trying to do, and they’re there to try and find the best thing for you.
I really like that I’m able to test myself to try to be the best actuary that I can be.
I think the student life is pretty good for the size of school. My brother was at Penn State for four years before me, so it’s hard to compare to a school like that, where you have 40,000 students, and then going to a smaller school like Youngstown State, where there’s 10,000 students.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose Youngstown State?
I was really set on becoming an actuary, so that limited some of my school options. Not as many big schools offer actuarial science, but I ended up choosing Youngstown State because when I visited, I really liked the campus, and I enjoyed talking with Dr. Wakefield, who is an actuary. Youngstown State just seemed like the right fit for me.
What influenced you to pursue an actuarial science program?
I decided I wanted to become an actuary about halfway through my senior year in high school. I’ve always had a strong math background, and I was pretty good with physics, too, so at first, engineering seemed to be the route I was going to take. But I decided against it because I wasn’t into the science side as much.
I started looking into careers that deal with almost strictly mathematics in some form. I talked to a few of my high school teachers, my parents, and one of our close family friends, who works as an actuary. Through talking with him, I felt that becoming an actuary was something I really wanted to do.
I like that actuarial science is all about math, and that it’s not an easy career to try to start. I really like that I’m able to test myself to try to be the best actuary that I can be.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
I’ve been pretty lucky. Dr. Wakefield and I were able to work out a way that I could skip a prerequisite for one of my classes, so that I could start my actuarial science classes right away in my first year. I was able to take our theory of interest class, which is related to the Financial Mathematics actuarial exam, in my first semester.
The professors here are awesome, and they’re really understanding. About half of the classes here are preparing you to be an actuary, so the teachers know that you’re here to learn. You’re here to really listen, focus in, and figure out what’s going on, so that when it does come time to take that actuarial exam, you’re ready for it. And the teachers really understand. It’s hard to cover an entire exam’s material in one semester, so they cover as much as they can, as in-depth as they can, and it really helps out in the long run.
Outside of class, we have our Actuarial Science Club. Throughout the school year, they have actuaries come in and talk to us about internships and being an actuary. The club is really great. While they don’t have set study sessions, if you’re looking for somebody to study with for an exam, they’ll match you up with someone who is studying for the same exam.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
My favorite class so far was probably my theory of interest class, which was the class that deals with the Financial Mathematics exam. It’s a really hard class, and I was a little bit worried going into it. But the teacher, Dr. Moon Nguyen, she was great. She really helped out and taught us everything we needed to know for the exam, and I really enjoyed being in the class. It was just a really good learning experience.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
The most challenging part will always be the exams. I actually took my first exam in June. It’s recommended that you study 100 hours per every hour of exam. The first two exams are 3 hours each, so you’re supposed to study 300 hours for it. When I started to study for the exam, I realized how much material can be covered within 35 questions. You really do have to study a lot—maybe not quite 300 hours, but more than you think.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
When I graduate, I hope I’ll have a job as an actuary. And then at some point down the line, I don’t know if I will stick with being an actuary forever. I have some ideas about opening a business. Also, at some point in my life, I want to be a high school football coach, because that’s what I love to do. I love helping people and teaching the game. But for now, for at least the next probably 15 or 20 years, I plan on being an actuary.
Do you have any favorite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in insurance?
One of the main things I looked at was BeAnActuary.org. My high school stats teacher recommended I look at that when I brought up the idea of becoming an actuary. The site is very helpful. It tells you what an actuary does and what to expect from the career.
One of the best things I did was talking to a family friend who is an actuary. That’s what I would recommend the most—finding somebody you know who is an actuary and talking to them directly to find out more about their experiences and what the job is really like.