Not Just a Career Path

Written by Cristina Fernandez: Revised-laying-on-lion-shrine

From starting a bracelet business with my sister in third grade, to now being President of One Heart: Penn State Students Against Child Sexual Abuse, I have always found a way to utilize my analytical skills throughout all aspects of my life. Before deciding my major, many people told me actuaries sit at a desk all day and do math, they aren’t personable people, and the only field to go into was insurance. However, when I talked to other actuaries, I got opposite reviews: there is so much career flexibility, and that it is the number one job in America based on physical demands, work environment, income, stress, and hiring outlook. After talking to a variety of different people, about one year ago, I chose Actuarial Science as my major and since then, it has built my character and developed a different way of thinking.

Studying Actuarial Science has been a humbling experience. It can be discouraging to study so hard for an exam and fail. It has happened to me and almost every actuary I know, but it definitely builds character. I have learned to keep my head up when I feel discouraged, patience when I don’t get a right answer, and speak up when I don’t understand something or have a question. I love the level of goal setting in Actuarial Science. There is always something to work towards. Once you pass one exam, you are already thinking about the next exam and creating a strategy to pass it. Last summer, I had an internship with Liberty Mutual. I still didn’t really know what it meant to be an actuary, I didn’t have any exams passed, I had never been in Boston before the interview, and I was one of the youngest in the group of actuarial interns. This was intimidating but my eagerness to learn and succeed allowed me to step up my game and inspired me to give 150% effort. I was engaged at meetings, I took advantage of networking, and when I was shy to ask questions, I asked them anyways.

Actuarial Science has also changed my way of thinking. When people told me the exam process was difficult, I honestly underestimated that. It wasn’t until I failed the P/1 exam that I realized this career path involved a lot more than just knowing the formulas; it was about critical thinking and creative problem solving. The high level of statistics involved has enhanced my creative thinking skills. When I am stuck on a problem, and can’t seem to find a way to solve it, it forces me to think about what the problem means so I can come up with a creative way to solve it. The creativity I have learned from doing practice problems made me realize the importance of thinking outside the box which is a valuable skill I use when dealing with issues in my everyday life.

All in all, I feel that this career path will enable me to reach my fullest potential. I have learned a variety of skill sets in the classroom that I apply in my everyday life. My goal in life is to use my skills to make a difference in people’s lives and I will make that happen by becoming an actuary. This career path is a lot more than just taking exams and memorizing formulas; the skills we are learning by becoming actuaries are very powerful skills and what you choose to do with your skills is very empowering. There have been several late nights at the library, several early mornings I walk in below freezing temperatures to my 8 am statistics class, and several social outings I sacrifice to stay in and study but I can honestly say my experiences being in the Actuarial Program at Penn State and my internship at Liberty Mutual have added so much value to my life. As I tell many people, being an actuary has become a lifestyle rather than just my career path.