CWU Actuarial Science - Graham and Vicky Dyer

For the next part in our 'Future of Actuarials' series, we were lucky enough to speak with not one, but two actuarial students from Central Washington University. What's even cooler is that they're married! Graham and Vicky Dyer are both products of CWU's esteemed actuarial program and recently sat down with us to discuss all things actuary.

What influenced you to pursue being an actuary?

Graham: Quite honestly the two biggest influences were my love of math and the job descriptions on BeAnActuary.com. It is interesting analytical work with a wide range of business applications. The job satisfaction ratings really caught my attention as they are consistently high for the profession.

Vicky: The passion and interest towards mathematics influenced me. I also like to take on challenges. Actuarial science has the reputation of being difficult. Therefore, I would like to be an actuary.

Why should other students consider a focus in Actuarial Science?

Graham: There are a multitude of reasons to focus on Actuarial Science. Besides the reasons I already mentioned, there is a need for actuaries. There are only around 22,000 actuaries in the US (yes I looked it up but I knew it was low) and their expertise is increasingly being relied upon to make complex business decisions. The field is not for everyone; it takes a lot of commitment to pursue exams and a lot of study time outside of class, but employment prospects are favorable and compensation is high for only obtaining a Bachelor’s degree.

Vicky: Besides the reason that it is continuously rated as one of the top jobs in the United States, it is a job that is needed and is trending upward. It will give you insight into how money, risk, and probability are used to solve business problems. Actuaries can choose from problems in healthcare, life insurance, casualty, and pension; these are lasting issues for us to work on.

What has been your experience with Actuarial Science at your college?

Graham: Central Washington University is a great place to learn about the field. Dr.Chueh, Dr. Lin, Dr. Temple and Dr. Klyve are all very knowledgeable and genuinely helpful. They take an interest in the success of their students, not only academically but also professionally. They push us toward exams and they assist in networking with companies in the area. I really don’t think I could have picked a better place to learn about Actuarial Science in the Northwest.

Vicky: I have both educational and occupational experiences. CWU Actuarial program offers well-covered course works, directly related to the first 5 Actuarial Exams. Also, all the instructors are current with the trends of the profession and open to changes that will better prepare students. I have been able to speak with a number of successful CWU graduates who are practicing actuaries in the area. They have shared a great deal of the information about the profession and offer great networking opportunities for students and alumni.

Have you participated in any internships, and if so, how many and how were they?

Graham: Following the end of this school year I will be taking part in my first internship with a financial company in the Seattle area. I am very excited and can’t wait to dig in to the work.

Vicky: I have not been able to participate in any internship, but I will be working toward that or a permanent position.

Please share an interesting or little-known fact you've learned about the world of actuaries...

Graham: If you ask an actuary (or aspiring actuary) to share an interesting or little-known fact about the world of actuaries, he (or she) will research the topic via Google or use personal resources until he (or she) concludes that any information found on Google could not qualify as “little-known” and any information found from said personal resources would not qualify as interesting.

Vicky: Many people still do not know what an actuary does. I have the experience of being mistaken as both an accountant and an algebra machine. Actuaries perform a number of different functions depending on the company, firm or government organization for which they work.

What are the latest developments or trends in Actuarial Science?

Graham: The FSA requirements are changing July 1, 2013. Also, I have been seeing a lot job posting for pet insurance actuaries (I have no idea if this is a new development or not I’ve just never seen it.)

Vicky: I would say pet insurance and healthcare would be the two biggest developments. People have started to see the money that pet owners are willing to spend on their pets and they see this an opportunity for business. The Affordable Care Act, which will largely go into effect in 2014, is creating a great opportunity for actuaries interested in healthcare.

What are your future aspirations and career plans?

Graham: Of course I cannot say with 100% certainty where my career will take me, however, I will be pursuing a senior actuarial role in either an insurance company or a consulting firm. Right now I want to be an associate actuary within the next 3 years and a fellow within the following 3 years.

Vicky: My future aspirations will be having my FSA in 7 years and having my own team to create custom products for other companies. I want to be a consultant.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Graham: To anyone thinking of becoming an actuary: research the field. A love of math is great, in fact I would say it is a requirement, however you will do very well if you can develop your interpersonal and communication skills. Pursue internships whenever you can, be aggressive, and learn the often under-taught skill of interviewing.

Vicky: As part of my final project, I created a program to assist in a statistical analysis I was doing. The user interface program helped me more easily access the data I was using. Having a computer science minor has been invaluable to me, and gives me a supplemental skill set that can expand my creativity.