Giselle Vincent has always enjoyed and excelled in math.
But she chose to major in finance when she first got to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, figuring it was a marketable degree closely related to her favorite subject.
She soon realized that “finance felt kind of broad for me. I wanted to narrow in on something so when I get out of college I had a specific job in mind. I like structure,” said Vincent.
She met with her advisor about changing majors, which is pretty common, and discovered actuarial science—the study of assessing financial risks using mathematics, statistics and financial theory.
Back to math
Excited about the new direction, she switched her major to actuarial science, one of three concentrations in the UTC Mathematics Department. The other two are STEM education and general mathematics.
Insurance and finance companies rely heavily on actuaries to forecast future events and provide solutions that drive economic and social decisions. It’s a well-paid field that combines deep analysis and real-world problem-solving.
She said that transitioning from finance to math was tough, but she soon found kindred spirits in her fellow UTC math students and her professional calling.
“People in math are different. They’re just nerdy and they care about school a lot. And they’re always in the library and are committed to school and doing well,” said Vincent. She loves the UTC Library and also has found lifelong friends in her sorority sisters.
For Vincent, the applied math at the heart of actuarial is fascinating.
“I like that you can see it in the world around you. You can look at a company, have data and apply statistical models,” said Vincent, now on her second paid internship at Unum Insurance near campus.
The experience has been valuable for Vincent, who—thanks to the internships—has found her strong suit in the technology side of valuation.
“As an intern, I’ve been able to see how what I’m studying is actually used in the real world,” she said. “You also have stability and pretty much a guaranteed job.”
She said the UTC math department does a great job of connecting students with key community players in their fields of study.
“They do a really great job of trying to set you up for success.”
More than a degree
Vincent loves not only having a plan but executing it.
After graduating in December 2023, she will continue pursuing her FSA, the gold standard of professional actuarial certifications.
Short for Fellow of the Society of Actuaries, the designation is achieved through a series of rigorous exams and an educational verification process. It is administered and granted by the society, a longstanding professional organization with worldwide recognition.
“It’s harder to get and more impressive” than its equivalent in finance, the Chartered Financial Analyst designation, which is highly regarded nonetheless, Vincent said.
The FSA not only carries cache in the industry but also leads to good paying jobs and financial security, Vincent’s ultimate motivator for college.
The median salary for actuaries is $113,990, according to May 2022 statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor.
She’s passed one exam in the series already and is determined to pass them quickly to finally be able to rest on her laurels as an actuary.
“I love to know exactly where I’m going to be.”