Prof earns actuarial status; department seizes on growing field

Thomas Wakefield is the first faculty member of YSU to be named an Associate of the Society of Actuaries.

Thomas Wakefield

YSU is again poised to blaze a new trail, this time in actuarial science.

Thomas Wakefield, assistant professor of Mathematics and Statistics, has been named an Associate of the Society of Actuaries, the largest professional actuarial organization in the world serving some 22,000 members. As part of the award, YSU will receive $5,000 from the Society to apply toward actuarial education. Wakefield is the first YSU faculty member to earn the distinction.

“Having a credentialed, full-time faculty member in actuarial science places YSU at the forefront of actuarial science training in the state of Ohio,” said Nathan Ritchey, chair, Mathematics and Statistics. “Tom’s accomplishments are yet another example of the outstanding faculty members who work at YSU.”

The department began to form coursework in actuarial science about a decade ago. Wakefield joined the YSU faculty in 2009. A minor in actuarial science was introduced last year and a major is in the planning stages.

“Tom’s presence greatly enhanced our ability to offer the minor,” said Ritchey. “Now that Tom has become a credentialed actuary, YSU has the ability to realize a new goal of becoming recognized by the Society of Actuaries as a Center for Actuarial Excellence.”

Actuarial science is the discipline that applies mathematical and statistical methods to assess risk in the insurance and finance industries. They are mathematical experts using statistical knowledge to solve business problems. Put simply, actuaries put a price on risk.

Actuarial Science is historically one of the top-rated professions by the Wall Street Journal with a median salary of $87,000. A 2011 study published by job search website, CareerCast, ranked the actuary profession as the third best job in the United States. Another study by U.S. News and World Report included actuary among the 25 best professions.

“There is a growing interest in actuarial science,” said Wakefield, who earned bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and economics from YSU in 2002 and master’s (2004) and Ph.D. (2008) degrees in pure mathematics from Kent State University.

“The Society is making a concerted effort to get more people in academia interested in actuarial science. They want the research being conducted to have the academic seal of approval, rather than just being conducted privately by firms and not being publicly shared. So, there are a lot of incentives to get faculty members to pursue this designation.”

The next step for Wakefield will be to attain the status of Fellow. He said the award of Associate is like attaining a master’s degree, while the award of Fellow is akin to a Ph.D. in the profession. He plans to pursue the investment track of study and expects to attain Fellow status in three to four years.

“I would like to see more outreach to high school and early-stage undergads,” he said.“ Actuarial science is most interesting because it combines economics, finance and mathematical modeling; it’s a really dynamic and growing area.”