• UWA to launch Actuarial Science program Fall 2012

    Posted: March 21, 2012

    Author: Betsy Compton

    In the coming fall semester, the actuarial science track at the University of West Alabama (UWA) College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics will provide students the tools and resources for promising careers in a field that has proven itself necessary to the operations of every society.

    A course of study offered at less than 10 schools in the southeast region of the U.S., actuarial programs are growing in popularity because of the high demand for the skills with which their graduates are equipped. Actuarial science involves relationships of probability, mathematics, statistics, finance, economics and computer programming. By applying all of these principles, actuaries assess risk levels in a wide range of industries.

    “Wherever there is risk, there are opportunities for actuaries,” explained Dr. Venkat Sharma, dean of the college. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cites that in 2010 approximately 55 percent of the 19,700 actuaries employed in the U.S. are employed by insurance carriers. Still, the need for an actuary extends beyond the insurance industry. Sixteen percent work for management, scientific and technical consulting services. A small number of actuaries are also employed in the government sector.

    “Actuaries have the skill set to gain employment in many other jobs that require risk assessment and analysis, such as healthcare industries, FEMA, and any other organization that requires analytical data to understand risk and outcomes,” Sharma said.

    Only three other institutions in Alabama offer actuarial programs, including the University of Alabama, Auburn University and Spring Hill College. According to Sharma, the benefits of the degree itself are matched by the unique advantages of the student experience at UWA.

    “UWA’s small class sizes will be beneficial for students and instructors alike in creating a conducive learning environment for this program,” Sharma said. Graduates of the program will be prepared to enter the workforce in the areas of financial, investment or insurance firms. Upon completion of the program, the student will be prepared to continue their education in a graduate or doctoral program in mathematics, statistics or financial mathematics.

    The four-year program includes coursework in both mathematics and business, including calculus, statistics, economics, linear algebra, probability, optimization and financial mathematics. Students are encouraged to also take business courses such as corporate finance, accounting, risk analysis and insurance, as well as courses in written and speaking skills. After completion of the recommended course of study, students will have a sufficient background to meet requirements established by the Casualty Actuarial Society and the Society of Actuaries (CAS/SOA).

    The program is the result of an effort that began when Sharma and then-visiting professor Dr. Maydison Ginting began discussing new opportunities for mathematics students at UWA. Ginting is now a lead faculty member of the new program, and additional faculty will be hired in the coming months. Ginting, who holds a doctorate in mathematics with a concentration in financial mathematics from the University of Alabama, knows the necessity of actuarial science professionals, and he wants to offer the opportunity to UWA students.

    “I am very excited about this new program. It will give our students a competitive advantage over those colleges around the country that offer an actuarial science program because of our size and personalized attention to students. I hope students from across the Black Belt region will take advantage of this promising new track,” said Ginting, assistant professor of mathematics.

    Sharma, Ginting and their colleagues intend to build on an existing base of strong relationships with business and organizations in West Alabama and East Mississippi to provide students with the opportunity to learn through internships and other training experiences. The program is one that Sharma hopes will have international appeal, like several other growing degree programs at UWA.

    “I am confident that we will have an excellent program to provide our math students with the skills they need to gain employment in high profile, well-paid jobs,” Sharma said.

    For more information, visit the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics online or contact Dr. Venkat Sharma at (205) 652-3414.
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