Degree from Michigan: B.S in Actuarial Mathematics and Economics
Current location: Seattle
Year graduated: 2015
Student Organization Involvement: Student Actuaries at Michigan
SL: As a health and benefits actuarial analyst, I support senior actuaries in designing and pricing group health plans for active and retired employees of mid- to large market clients. I also work on other traditional actuarial projects, such as reserve estimation, experience reporting, and Medicare related analyses.
KC: How do you feel your education and extracurricular activities at Michigan have influenced your career path?
SL: Michigan has an excellent actuarial program! The curriculum was very helpful for me to prepare for my actuarial exams, which are one of the key qualifications that employers look for in entry-level actuarial analysts. Michigan’s actuarial club, SAM (Student Actuaries at Michigan), has also done a great job with helping students land their dream internships/full-time jobs. I benefited so much from those resume workshops and mock interviews. SAM also hosts info sessions from different firms with interest in hiring actuarial students regularly. This provides an absolutely great opportunity for students to network and to learn about the industry.
KC: What are your favorite and least favorite things about your job?
SL: My favorite thing about my job at Aon is that I have opportunities to work on different projects all the time. I work with a lot of smart people, and I learn something new every day.
My least favorite aspect of my job is the work-life balance, because for most of the year it can be a “work/study/no life” cycle for me. I work 50 hours on average and have to stay even later to work on last-minute requests from clients, which happen quite often during our busy season. Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming, especially with studying for the actuary exams while working full time.
KC: What are similar grad school programs or companies that students could look into if they want to pursue a similar field as your own?
SL: First you would want to decide if you prefer to pursue a career at a consulting firm or an insurance company. Most consulting firms focus on a health and retirement track. Some of the popular options are Aon, Willis Towers Waston, Mercer, Milliman, Deloitte, EY, PwC and KPMG.
For insurance companies, it can vary from health to life to property & casualty. Some big names in the health/life industry are Cigna, UHC, BCBS, Aetna, and MetLife. On the casualty side, there are AIG, State Farm, Allstate, GEICO, etc. There are plenty of smaller companies as well.
KC: What advice would you give to current students hoping to follow in a similar career path?
SL: Being an actuary is a long-term commitment and it’s more difficult to move into a different career path down the road, so think carefully before you decide rather than regret later. I always like to compare actuaries to doctors, because as professionals, we all work and study really hard throughout our whole careers. I guess the brighter side of being an actuary is that not only do you not have to worry about paying off that big tuition loan, but you will also get paid for studying and passing exams!
This is a very math-heavy job, so you need to be very comfortable with numbers – we deal with data all the time. With that being said, sharpen your Excel and data analysis skills as much as you can. As important as the technical heavy-lifting, I would also suggest students improve their people skills. A lot of actuarial students are great with numbers, but they aren’t the best at communicating or working in a collaborative team environment. Extracurricular activities will help to develop these skills, as well as to prepare you for leadership!