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Risks and Rewards

Actuarial science program gives students pathway to premium positions

From The Ichabod - Winter 2021

The combination of job security, work-life balance and high pay make actuaries a frequent inclusion on lists of top occupations. As a result, it’s become a popular path for college graduates to pursue.

However, those seeking a career analyzing and managing financial risks for others must first accept a risk of their own: the average pass rate is just 40% on the exams required to move up the profession’s ranks.

As the only school in Kansas recognized as an advanced undergraduate program by the Society of Actuaries, Washburn University and the mathematics and statistics department hold a distinct advantage in producing graduates who are prepared to complete the demanding exam sequence and remain in the industry for the long haul.

“We have a very good reputation with the area companies that have actuarial departments,” said Mike Mosier, professor and director of Washburn’s actuarial science program. “They know if they hire a Washburn graduate, they’ll get a quality
person. That’s important, because those who aren’t high quality might not make it through. It’s a demanding program.”

Upon his arrival 20 years ago, Mosier helped Washburn earn the SOA’s advanced designation by creating courses that prepare students for the exams and eventually adding a second faculty member. Mosier said about half of Washburn graduates now pass the actuarial exams, much higher than the average.

Becoming a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries, the organization’s top credential, requires a rigorous series of preliminary exams, fellowship exams and graded assessments online. Carolyn Covington, ba ’06, completed the process faster than the six-year average, crediting Washburn’s courses and a senior-year internship for preparing her for jobs with insurance companies in the Kansas City area.

Carolyn Covington“The groundwork was laid for me to grow into this career path,” said Covington, who in March 2020 became a vice president in the experience analyst department at SCOR, one of the world’s largest reinsurers. “Washburn set me up well for success on the exams and helped me get an internship that put me on a trajectory to get a job with a strong company.”

Covington said she appreciated the University’s small class sizes and the faculty’s ability to adapt to students’ needs. As an undergraduate, she asked Mosier about adding a class covering SAS programming, a statistical software suite used for data management and analytics, and he took the steps to make it happen.

“We do try to adapt and accommodate to what our students want,” Mosier said. “If it’s a legitimate way to help, we try to add it.”

That willingness to listen doesn’t end when students graduate. Covington is one of several professionals on Washburn’s actuarial board, which meets annually to offer program suggestions for the actuarial faculty and guidance for current students about how to excel in one of the nation’s most coveted occupations.

“We’ve adapted quite a few things based on that,” Mosier said. “That’s something we’re proud of, to have an advisory board made up of graduates working in the field who are able to give their thoughts about what to change and what’s happening in the industry.”

The Ichabod Winter 2021 issue

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2021 winter edition online and look for it in mailboxes in January.

View past editions


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