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USCL students explore unique career

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By Jesef Williams

What is an actuary?

A few students at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster got the answer to that question and learned it's a well-paying profession a lot of people don't know much about.

Actuaries are risk-management professionals who analyze the financial and emotional impact of events.

They evaluate the likelihood of future events, design ways to reduce the likelihood of undesirable events, and work to decrease the impact of undesirable events that do occur.

Insurance companies, investment firms, banks and public accounting firms are some of the entities that have actuaries on staff.

Richard Hyclak and Shawn Parks, actuaries at KMG America, spoke to a group of students about the profession Tuesday afternoon inside a classroom at Hubbard Hall.

The presentation was sponsored by USCL's Math Club.

Actuaries help set rates for insurance, Social Security, retirement and other benefits. For instance, they design life-insurance packages and set help HMO's (health maintenance organization's) premium rates.

There are about 15,000 actuaries nationwide, Hyclak said.

Regardless of the economic trends, companies will always have a need for actuaries, Hyclak said.

"Each company, no matter what, faces risks of some sort," he said.

Most actuaries have a strong background in math and have a good understanding of finance and business. A potential actuary should also have good computer skills, a good business sense and solid communication skills, Parks said.

University of South Carolina math majors are able to select actuarial mathematics and statistics as a concentration.

"There's no absolute as to what undergraduate degree you should have," Parks said. "But no matter what your degree, there should be a lot of math in it."

Over the last 20 years, an actuary was rated twice as the second-best job in America by the Jobs Rated Almanac. The profession has made the top five list several other times during that time span.

The average starting salary for an actuary is between $41,000 to $52,000, Hyclak said.

Hisham Kotaish, a business finance major, said he wants get more information about the profession and is looking to see how his academic track could align for a career in that field.

"It opened your mind about what is out there," Kotaish said said about the presentation. "It introduced a new major that seems very appealing. There aren't too many people in it, but there's a high demand."

Dr. Shemsi Alhaddad, a math professor at USCL and faculty advisor for the Math Club, hopes the information reminded students that there's several career options you can pursue with a mathematics degree.

Parks said some people believe that math majors are only equipped to teach.

"It's important for them to know what options they have out there," Alhaddad said. "A lot of students here have the skills but aren't aware of what they would do with that."

Tuesday's presentation was the Math Club's first function. The club began earlier this semester and is open to all USCL students interested in math and math-related fields.

For more information about the actuary profession, visit www.beanactuary.com.

Contact Jesef Williams

at 283-1152 or

jwilliams@thelancasternews.com