Navigating the field of actuarial science: insights from a recent graduate

By Kobe Cargill

During my childhood, I developed a fascination with the complexities of the universe, leading me to pursue a scientific path. Toying around with the different disciplines, I eventually decided to stick to the one that spoke to me in its own language – numbers!

It wasn’t until I encountered a seasoned professional in the field that my understanding of mathematics transformed from a wider familiarity to a deeper comprehension of the distinct routes available. He explained the intricacies of the field of actuarial science to me and what I could expect from dipping my toe in. This meeting encouraged me to dive in.

As someone who has spent the past four years preparing for life as an actuary, I would be lying if I said I never once thought of making a change. As an aspiring actuary, I constantly had to explain what the field entails, with simple explanations of the role normally ending with the question, “Isn’t that just a data scientist?” In their defence, those on the outside would not be able to appreciate the subtle differences between the two. While an actuary’s main role involves working with risk, determining risk levels and recommending what actions should be taken, a data scientist manipulates and visualizes data to answer a wider range of questions.

At the time of writing this article, I had recently completed my Bachelor of Arts with a Specialized Honours degree in actuarial science from Toronto’s York University. During those four years, I was actively involved in the school’s math club, as well as the Actuarial Students Association (ASA), holding executive positions in both organizations. In my final year, I was accepted into the Hybrid Academia-Industry Internships via Virtual Engagement (HAIIvVE) program with the Risk and Insurance Study Centre (RISC) at York University. This internship was my first real taste of the risk management field.

The program entailed me being a member of a four-person team representing varying disciplines, including economics, finance and computer science/applied mathematics, with myself representing actuarial science. We were partnered with both an industry mentor, an experienced person in the field who provided guidance and assigned tasks, and an academic mentor, a member of the York community with expertise in a discipline connected to risk management. My industry mentor worked for Arch Insurance, a US-based P&C insurance company, while my academic mentor was pursuing a PhD in economics.

Outside of the York community, I also attended this year’s Actuarial Students’ National Association (ASNA) convention, held in downtown Toronto. Having the opportunity to interact with multiple companies and future members of the field was an incredibly educational experience. Although I didn’t secure a full-time job opportunity, I left the convention with a wider range of knowledge of the field and what I would be heading into – which, to me, was worth it.

Looking back at my actuarial science journey and what it has been to this point, I am not able to condense the experience down to a single aspect. Rather, it has been the sum of the experiences, opportunities and conversations that I’ve had to this point that have led me to where I am today. And I’m very excited to explore the areas and skills connected to actuarial science as well, such as data science, statistics and quantitative analysis. These are just a few examples of the possible paths available for those within the actuarial community.

It was seven years ago that I first met the professional who encouraged me to pursue actuarial science, and while I’m now considering possibilities besides the field, graduating with an actuarial science degree has by no means made me feel caged in. Rather, it has broadened my options and I am excited for my future.

Today, I would urge anyone new to the field to be open-minded in exploring possibilities and opportunities connected to the field, rather than focusing solely on only one route. Be involved in clubs, societies and organizations that contribute to your networking abilities, knowledge and outreach and put yourself out there!

This article reflects the opinion of the author and does not represent an official statement of the CIA.

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