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News Department Introduces New Actuarial Sciences Major

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by Lou Rossi, Director of Undergraduate Studies

A strong and vital undergraduate mathematics program is the foundation of any successful university. Over the last five years, our Department has seen a substantial growth in the number of math majors from 190 to over 270 this spring with almost the same number of mathematics minors. What many do not realize is that there is no such thing as a typical math major. With six undergraduate programs, Mathematical Sciences (BA and BS), Secondary Mathematics Education (BA and BS), Quantitative Biology, and Mathematics and Economics our offerings are as diverse as our students’ interests. As the Director of Undergraduate Studies, I spend a lot of time focusing on three questions: Where do our math majors come from? What do they do while they are at UD? Where do they go when they graduate? The answers to these questions help drive the evolution of our programs. Most recently, student and faculty interest across the University led us to create a new program in Actuarial Sciences.

The new program is the latest interdisciplinary collaboration between Mathematics faculty and colleagues in other departments. For this degree program, mathematics is taking the lead role with active participation from the Departments of Economics, Management Information Sciences, Applied Economics and Statistics, and Finance. For the uninitiated, the creation of a new program requires a lot of conversations, bridge-building and of course paperwork. Approval by the Department, the College and University educational activity committees and eventually the Provost requires a full academic year of meetings and deliberations. Having run this gauntlet during the fall and spring, we expect students will be allowed to major in Actuarial Sciences beginning in the Fall of 2013.

Actuaries are the professionals that study risk quantitatively and help companies manage it. While this program will be our newest offering, in the past many of our alumni have chosen the actuarial career track using our other degree programs as a springboard. Many work for insurance companies which rely heavily upon them, but actuaries also work for banks, private corporations and even the government. As alumni Matt Surles wrote to me recently, “One thing I find pretty interesting is how relevant my work is to what is taking place in the current day to day world. It is quite often that I read about something in the newspaper related to health care reform and then go to the office and have a project on the same topic.“ Not only are they are essential to the economic stability of nations, but they are highly sought and compensated in the private sector. Even in the midst of the Great Recession, a 2010 Georgetown University study found the unemployment rate of actuaries to be 0%, and that’s one statistic every math major should know well. Certified actuaries advance along their career ladder through a battery of exams administered by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Casualty Actuarial Society.

Math majors interested in this career path have typically chosen our Mathematics and Economics program and done well moving into the actuarial profession. Designed for students interested in graduate study in economics or the actuarial sciences, this particular degree program has grown from 40 students to just under 100 in the last five years. Based on student interest, the faculty felt it was time to create an identifiable program for those interested in actuarial work. The new program is very similar to Mathematical and Economics, but includes more coursework finance, statistics and information systems, and slightly fewer required coursework in economics. The first two actuarial exams are Exam P (probability) and Exam FM (financial mathematics), and we expect our students to pass them during their sophomore or junior years. In the springtime, students already create informal study groups to prepare for these exams, and many students in our program have already passed them. The new program should provide more focused mentoring advising on exams and coursework. Also, several required courses have been accepted by the SOA to meet their Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) requirements.

As soon as the program ‘goes live’ next fall, we expect to have 10-15 students per year declare this major. While we anticipate some students may shift from Mathematics and Economics into the new program, the two serve different purposes and both will continue to attract large numbers of majors. During many of the internal discussions leading to the creation of this program, some have wondered whether seven different undergraduate degree programs is too many. I take the opposite view. With over 100 employers seeking mathematics majors through the UD Blue Hen Jobs portal, I wonder if we are providing enough options for undergraduates who are interested in mathematics. Where there is student and faculty interest, we will continue to look for ways to improve our undergraduate offerings and expand into exciting new areas of opportunity.

For more information about the degree requirements for the ACSC-BS degree click here.

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Department introduces new Actuarial Science Major
Actuaries are the professionals that study risk quantitatively and help companies manage it.  The program is the latest interdisciplinary collaboration between Mathematics and other departments.
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  • Department of Mathematical Sciences
  • University of Delaware
  • 501 Ewing Hall
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-2653