The University of Arizona

Alumni Early Career Profiles - Andrew Somers

Name: Andrew Somers
Education: B.S., Mathematics, The University of Arizona, 2010
B.A., Chemistry, The University of Arizona, 2010
Position: Actuarial Analyst II
United Services Automobile Association
Sector: Finance and Insurance


Since June 2010 I have been working at United Services Automobile Association (USAA) as an Actuarial Analyst. USAA offers insurance, financial and banking services to military families.

An actuary can fill many roles, but I would say that the most basic role an actuary fulfills is a risk analyst. An actuary is someone who predicts future risk using many mathematical methods, generally based on historical data or on modeling. In an insurance role, this role is often tied to pricing: what do we need to charge to cover our expected costs and necessary profit? What factors should be used for rating? Which are statistically significant?

An actuary also generally finds himself joining one of two societies: The Society of Actuaries (SOA) or the Casualty Actuary Society (CAS). The SOA is for those who hope to go into a life/health/pension based field, and the CAS is for those looking to go into property and casualty (P&C) insurance. At USAA, we have both types of actuaries, but I've gone the P&C route, and work at pricing property insurance for USAA.

Regardless of which route you take, you will need to pass a series of exams; 9-10 in all, depending on who's counting, plus some educational requirements. It's generally recommended to pass between 1-3 before applying for a job. One or two internships are also recommended. I came across the field late in my college career, and for that reason I had only passed one exam, but I did have other mathematical research opportunities I was able to discuss. Companies generally pay for your exams, and often your promotions / raises are tied to your exam progress.

Within USAA, I have found that I have had to become a jack of all trades. My day-to-day work is spent on the analytical side of things; however, because of the potential large impact my work can have within the company, I've found that a small but significant part of my job requires me to be able to coherently and concisely explain what can sometimes be very detailed work to all different audiences. Thus to be effective, an actuary must have strong analytical skills but must also be able to employ strong communication skills as well.

By all accounts, the actuarial profession is a growing one. More and more, and likely because of recent economic troubles, companies that do not traditionally employ actuaries are starting to see the need for them. If you enjoy probability and statistics and mathematics in general, but would also enjoy a healthy mix of business with your career, I encourage you to look into the actuarial field.