Mystery Major Leads to Robust Careers
UCM's Actuarial Science Program Flourishes through Scholarship
By Angela Richard
Most people have never heard of actuaries, and those who have would be hard-pressed to explain what they do. When Sarah Osborne came to the University of Central Missouri as a freshman, she knew she wanted to pursue a degree in math or science, but only after changing her major a couple of times did she hear about this thing called actuarial science.
"I kind of learned about actuarial science through the department because I was taking a lot of math and science classes, but I had never heard of it before," she explained. "Basically they said if you're good at math, this is a really good job. I said, 'All right, I'll look into it.' I looked online and started to learn more about it and thought it really sounded like a good job."
Today, Osborne, a 2003 graduate, is a healthcare actuary and assistant vice president at Lockton Companies in Kansas City. She illustrates the success UCM is having graduating more students in mathematics and science, especially important given the United States' worldwide ranking in math and science education (#48 according to the World Economic Forum).
Over the past five years, UCM's Department of Mathematics and Computer Science has seen enrollment increase 42 percent, due in part to scholarships funded by the largest National Science Foundation STEM grant in the department's history. Equally important is the financial help that math and science students are receiving through scholarships established by gifts to the UCM Foundation. The actuarial science program is a significant part of the department's success.
For the record, actuaries analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty using mathematics, statistics and financial theory. They help businesses and clients develop policies to minimize the cost of risk. Actuaries work in life insurance, retirement systems, health benefit systems, financial and investment management, all important and growing industries. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the employment of actuaries will grow at a rate of 27 percent by 2020.