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Demand for actuaries fuels enrollment growth in actuarial science major

Jan 09, 2017

Numbers tell us many things. They can help us to assess risk and quantify success. At North Central, they tell us that enrollment in the College’s actuarial science major is expanding thanks to the job market, the support offered by a small liberal arts institution and proximity to opportunities in suburban Chicago.

North Central College has 45 students enrolled in the discipline for 2016-2017, a monumental increase from 10 students in 2006. The College’s current undergraduate enrollment is 2,700.

Actuaries apply mathematical and statistical methods to assess risk in insurance, finance, and other industries and professions. A job as an actuary is an attractive career path due to the demand and a nearly six-figure median salary. In addition, there’s a projected 18 percent job growth for actuaries through 2024 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Some North Central students admit they had never heard of the career and major before their college searches. Edwin Villavicienco Blanco ’19 of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, learned about actuarial science from a family friend who worked in the insurance industry.

“Actuarial science is not just numbers,” says Blanco, who found North Central’s program in a broad search for smaller, more personalized programs. “It’s a lot of numbers, which I like, but you get to talk to people about your math. And it involves economics, finance and computer science so you become well-rounded.”

Veronica Ramming ’18 chose North Central for its small classes and has enjoyed making personal connections with professors like her advisor, Marco Martinez, assistant professor of mathematics (photo, teaching). “Marco drives us to be successful. He’s always saying ‘You can do this,’” Ramming says.

Martinez, who began teaching at North Central in 2013, says a liberal arts education is vital to becoming a successful actuary. “Companies are interested in hiring people who can do the math and the analysis, but who also can communicate. And in that area, we have a really good advantage,” Martinez says. “Our students are competitive because they pass exams, but they also receive a rounded education that makes them good writers and speakers. That’s what liberal arts brings: the ability to see the big picture.”

The curriculum includes seminars that prepare students to pass actuarial exams, a requirement for the profession. Actuaries may take up to nine exams over the course of their careers, but two exams are required for most entry-level jobs. North Central’s student pass rate is 87.5 percent, nearly double the national average.

The campus Actuarial Science Club provides opportunities for career preparation, as upperclassmen share advice about internships and exams. Industry speakers visit at least once per term. Students also benefit from North Central’s proximity to opportunities in Chicago, the Society of Actuaries based in Schaumburg, Ill., and insurance company headquarters for Allstate, State Farm and Progressive.

Alumnus Jordan Pilgrim ’14, who majored in actuarial science, economics and finance, has been working as a pricing analyst for Allstate since he graduated. He returned to North Central to speak with current actuarial science students about his career and to share advice.

“Take advantage of the opportunities afforded to you at North Central and get to know your professors,” Pilgrim told current students. “Actuarial science involves a lot of hard work, but at the end of the day it’s definitely worth it.”