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New degree helps students land desirable job as actuaries

January 06, 2014

Students interested in pursuing the No. 1 career in the nation will soon have some help from ASU, when the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences launches a new bachelor’s degree in actuarial science for fall 2014.

Actuaries have the best job in the United States, according to a new survey by Actuaries put a financial value on risk – for instance, the chances of a hurricane destroying a home or the long-term liabilities of a pension system. 

“An actuarial career is one of the most lucrative and desirable professions for today’s college graduate,” explains Al Boggess, director of the school. “In the Phoenix area, there are at least 20 companies which employ actuaries. However, there are no undergraduate degree programs in actuarial science in Arizona, and there are only a few such programs in the inter-mountain west. Thus, this actuary degree program is one of high need here at ASU, and it should attract many students.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of actuaries is expected to grow by 27 percent from 2010 to 2020. Research by global management consulting firm McKinsey shows demand for deep analytical talent, such as actuaries and statisticians, could be 50 to 60 percent greater than its projected supply by 2018. 

“Actuarial Science remains one of the top careers, and the need for actuaries continues to increase,” says Audrey Halvorson, chief actuary, vice president of actuarial services and health care economics for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. “If an actuarial science student can graduate with a couple of actuarial exams under their belt, the probability of getting a job is high.”

“I would highly recommend that college students consider an actuarial career,” agrees Karen Kioski, manager of business development for IHC Carrier Solutions. “It is consistently ranked as the No. 1 profession by career publications due to favorable work environment, income and job security. Students that excel in math would especially find the actuarial exam process and job duties intriguing and rewarding.”

The time is right for ASU to offer an actuarial degree, says associate professor May Boggess. “Most of the big programs are in the northeast because a lot of the big insurance companies are based up there. So the west has really been neglected.”

Emeritus professor Matt Hassett agrees. “In the classic insurance cities of old, like New York and Boston, there were actuarial programs – a sign that they were mature leaders in the important insurance industry. That is where Phoenix is now.”

Actuaries need a bachelor’s degree that contains a strong background in mathematics, statistics and business. Students must pass a series of exams to become certified actuaries. The first several exams can and should be attempted during their undergraduate studies. The remaining exams can be completed while on the job.

“We will offer exposure to all of the five preliminary exams, versus some schools only offer up to three,” explains lecturer Jelena Milovanovic. “We are going to have our students complete the three requirements and exposure to all five preliminary exams. We will cater to students in both the casualty insurance track and the life insurance track.”

The school has been an important source of actuarial employees for Arizona insurance companies since 1994, and “now with a fully recognized BS degree, we can do that better,” says Hassett. “I see possibilities for the school to collaborate with local industry on research in areas such as trend forecasting.”

Boggess adds, “One thing that is very attractive is if a student is interested in working in the business world but they also want to be able to exercise their mathematical abilities; they say, ‘I want to work in business, but I’m also really good at math – how can I utilize my math skills in a way that’s going to give me a satisfying profession and help me make a really good income?’ And my answer to that is, 'Be an actuary.'”

The new bachelor’s program in actuarial science will be offered in the Fall 2014 semester by the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on the Tempe campus. In addition, the school will launch an undergraduate certificate in actuarial science

Contact the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at 480-965-1167, or visit to learn more.