What is an actuary? La Salle grads in the field weigh in

December 16, 2022
La Salle’s newest undergraduate major, in actuarial science, preps students for careers that analyze economic risk and perform mathematical forecasting.

La Salle University launched its Bachelor of Science program in Actuarial Science this fall. The new program—a 60-credit major within the School of Arts and Sciences—prepares students to become actuaries.  

Actuaries are professionals who utilize training in the areas of math, statistics, and finance to analyze economic risk, perform mathematical modeling and forecasting, and calculate uncertainty within various job sectors. Actuaries work in industries like insurance, banking, investments, energy, and e-commerce. 

The field continues to show tremendous job growth, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts employment of actuaries growing about 24 percent from 2020 to 2030, three times as fast as the anticipated average rate for all occupations. Wages for actuaries are also on the higher end of the pay scale with the median annual wage landing at $105,900 as of May 2021, according to the Bureau. 

La Salle has been graduating students into the actuarial science field for decades, with many taking a mathematics major pathway to their career. They explain the field and their careers:  

Deciding to pursue actuarial science 

For Lisa Earley, ’99, a strong affinity for mathematics led her to actuarial science. Today, Earley is a vice president and actuary of Major Accounts at Chubb. She knew a career dealing with numbers was the way to go. A degree in mathematics from La Salle, with minors in business and computer science, created that path.

Lisa Earley, ’99

For Toni Salinetro, ’17, majoring in mathematics and finance made sense because of her love for numbers. In her second year, she decided to pursue the actuary field. Her courses at La Salle helped prepare her for certification exams. She now works as an actuarial analyst at Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. 

Lauren Morell, ’20, is in the early stages of her career as an actuarial consultant at Oliver Wyman and continues to learn every day. A double major in mathematics and finance, she said her time at La Salle helped prepare her for the professional world.  

“Both [academic] sides helped me in different ways,” she said.  

Do actuaries need a certification? 

Courses in La Salle’s Actuarial Science undergraduate program will prepare students to sit for two national certification exams conducted by actuarial science societies Casualty Actuarial Society and Society of Actuaries  

Morell continues to study for upcoming exams and her company allots her study and exam time, along with covering the cost. 

Lauren Morell, ’20

How many exams are required for certification? 

There are multiple exams an actuary needs in order to become certified. According to Get Educated, a total of seven exams are required for associate-level certification, and three more exams are required for fellowship status. After certification, actuaries must complete yearly professional development programming in the form of meetings or webinars.  

Is a specialty required?  

Not early on. A predominant number of actuaries work in insurance, either focusing on property and casualty or health and life.  

While Earley is biased to her work in property and casualty, she said each specialty offers something different. It can be beneficial to pick an area of expertise, especially as exams continue early in one’s career.  

What makes a career as an actuary unique?  

“It is a great blend of technical skills and business application,” Earley said, “You use technical analytics to solve business problems. You need to be able to explain the results of your work to the business side, which isn’t always as technical. So that’s one important thing that actuaries need to learn.”   

The work that actuaries complete is utilized in multiple ways, allowing those working in the field to see real effects. 

“Our company heavily relies on actuaries,” Earley added. “There’s not a single decision made in the company without data. It’s rewarding that the work we do is of a very high level in our company.”  

For Morell and Salinetro, what’s unique is that no two days in their field are ever the same.  

How can current actuarial science students prepare for their career? 

La Salle’s graduates agree: Getting an early start on internships will affirm a student’s interest in the field. Also, be versatile. Earley recommends starting on this early, as many companies finish their hiring for the following year by September or October.  

“My biggest advice is to not only concentrate on the technical side and get through your exams, but hone your business skills and communication skills,” Earley said.  

—Meg Ryan