Pacific offers new major in actuarial science

COP to offer first actuarial science program in Northern California

Jialing Dai

Demand for actuarial scientists is expected to grow by 33 percent in California over the next decade. And this high-paying field – the average annual salary in California is $110,000 –welcomes women and minorities.

Associate Professor of Mathematics, Jialing Dai, answered some frequently asked questions about the new major.

Q: What is actuarial science?

A: Actuarial science is a discipline that includes a number of interrelated subjects: mathematics, probability theory, statistics, finance, economics and computer science. Actuaries use mathematics, statistics and financial theory to assess uncertain future events, especially those of concern to insurance and pension programs. Actuary science focuses on managing risk and protecting organizations from loss, and thus it has emerged as a crucial discipline in industries and organizations where decisions carry financial weight, including banking, commerce, the energy sector and marketing. 

Q: What does it take to earn a major in actuarial sciences at University of the Pacific?

A: The actuarial science program at University of the Pacific is an intensive program, but it is well worth the effort. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for up to five preliminary exams (Exam P, Exam FM, Exam MFE, Exam MLC, and Exam C) and one VEE (Applied Statistics) that prospective actuaries must complete before moving on to the advanced examinations required to be a certified actuary. In addition to actuarial science courses, students can also take courses in preparation for business aspects of the actuarial profession such as accounting, finance, economics and computer science.

Q: Why did Pacific decide to offer this major?

A: Market research shows that the field of actuarial science is projected to experience rapid growth over the next decade (18 percent projected growth nationwide and 33.3 percent in California) with starting salaries ranging from $45,000 to $55,000. The 2014 mean salary of actuaries in California was $110,000. Several studies also show that the profession is more open than others to women and members of under-represented minority groups.

While there were 74 bachelor’s-level programs in actuarial science in the United States in 2014, only 5 of these programs were in the Western Region and none in Northern California. Therefore, COP’s program will be the first actuarial science program in Northern California.

Q: What kinds of jobs can you get in actuarial science?

A: Actuaries analyze and manage risk. They use their findings to help businesses and clients develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk. While most actuaries find themselves working for insurance companies or consulting firms, many also end up working for the government, hospitals, investment firms— or really anywhere that has the need to manage financial risk.  

According to data published by CollegeGrad in 2014, the industries that employed the most actuaries were as follows:


Q: What can you learn in actuarial science that will benefit you even if you don’t plan a career as an actuary?

A: Due to the interdisciplinary nature of actuarial science, the program requires students to take courses in mathematics, economics, business and computer science. This will increase students’ marketability and also increase their ability to apply quantitative methods in a business environment. Even if graduates do not plan a career as an actuary, their quantitative skills, especially in probability and statistics, together with a good understanding of economics and finance, will make them excellent general business managers, financial officers, risk managers, quantitative analysts, or investment specialists, to name a few career options.

Q: What do you think people would be surprised to know about actuarial science?

A: Surprisingly, many people, especially high school students, have never heard of actuarial science, let alone what an actuary does. Even some people who have heard of actuaries do not have the least idea what the actuarial profession is.

Q: If a student is interested in this major, how do they learn more?

A: To learn more about this major at Pacific:

To learn more about the field of actuarial science in general, visit:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s