Two Smeal students pass five actuarial exams

March 04, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Ben Pugh and Matt Bonczek, both seniors in the Penn State Smeal College of Business, have each passed five of the necessary exams toward their actuarial science accreditation — a unique distinction, according to Ron Gebhardtsbauer, clinical associate professor of actuarial science.

Gebhardtsbauer said this is the first time he’s ever had students pass that many exams before graduation.

“These are some of the toughest exams there are,” said Gebhardtsbauer. “Most people don’t take these exams until they’re on the job.”

That’s because many employers offer paid study hours to prepare for the exams — a luxury not afforded to the students who choose to take the exams while in college.

“I think the exams are more difficult to pass in school because you don’t get that paid study time,” said Bonczek. “I also think there are more distractions while in school.”

Pugh agreed, citing everything going on with both classes and extracurricular activities.

“It’s hard to prioritize when everything seems to be so urgent,” he said. “I particularly remember last fall during the week of our career fair thinking, 'Do I spend time preparing for this large event happening in a few days, my group project that is due in a week or studying for my actuarial exam in a month?'”

Passing these five exams means that Pugh and Bonczek are about 80 percent of the way toward achieving the designation of Associate of the Society of Actuaries.

Bonczek said that the hardest part of these exams is the time and effort necessary to study for them. In fact, up to 300 hours of studying is recommended per exam.

Gebhardtsbauer added, “Actuarial students have to be really good in multiple areas — economics, finance, math, and statistics and probability.”

Penn State is one of fewer than 15 universities in the United States with the distinction of being a Center of Actuarial Excellence, meaning that it meets specific requirements that denote it as an excellent place to receive actuarial science education.

“Penn State graduates are good at math and also good communicators,” said Gebhardtsbauer. “Recruiters like that the Penn Staters are well-rounded.”

The actuarial science option in the risk management major at Smeal covers calculus, probability and statistics, financial and actuarial mathematics, economics, finance, risk management, pensions and insurance in preparation for careers in insurance, consulting, finance and government agencies. The actuarial options in the mathematics and statistics majors in the Eberly College of Science have a very similar curriculum.

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Last Updated September 10, 2013