What he does:
- Justin Davis is a Defined Benefit Pension Plan Analyst with National Life of Vermont. He does third-party pension plan administration which entails preparing valuations advising clients how much money is needed to fund their defined benefit pension plans in order to meet IRS funding standards as well as advising distribution amounts for retired and terminated participants. The job also includes preparing necessary government reporting forms, preparing cost estimates and plan redesigns and keeping up with constantly evolving IRS regulations.
Math on the job:
- For defined benefit plans Justin makes frequent use of actuarial concepts (actuarial equivalence factors, mortality tables, interest rates, etc.)and works closely with his firm’s enrolled actuary. Much of the work is computational as he deals with a many different plans constantly require preparing valuations and government reporting forms. However, the job remains interesting since no two pension plans are alike. Each one presents new and unique issues and problems that need to be addressed and after nearly 5 years, he still frequently encounters new situations. While this aspect makes the learning curve a bit steep, it keeps the job fresh and prevents it from becoming repetitive.
- Justin graduated from St. Lawrence University with degree in Mathematics. While he doesn’t use any specific math skills per se (aside from basic math and algebra), the analytic skills he learned through doing proofs in all of his higher level math classes helps him every day. He reports that the work he did in Graph theory, Real Analysis, Geometry, and Linear Algebra (as well as many other classes) prepared him to think in ways which greatly helps appoaching difficult problems he encounters in his job in more logical, efficient ways. The way that higher level math forces you to think differently in order to solve problems is just as valuable (maybe even more so in the long run, depending on your career) as the material that it covers.
- According to Justin, "There are many jobs out there which require extensive on-the-job training such as mine, and I believe my math background helped me gain the upper hand in landing my position. None of the candidates (including myself) were trained specifically in pension administration, but my math background provided a strong case to management that I would be the most able candidate to perform the job well."
Advice for students:
- "If you even the smallest idea that you would like to pursue Mathematics
in college, go for it. There are so many opportunities that await math students
in the real world. If the job market tightens up, you can guarantee that
the need for math graduates will remain fairly open, especially considering
the extreme shortage of good high school math teachers. Even if you decide
to pursue another area of interest, if you are at least able to minor in
Math, it will leave numerous career paths open to you in the future. You
may find upper level math difficult at times, but stick with it and you’ll
get through it. It is definitely one of the more difficult disciplines of
undergraduate study…..but it is easily, in my opinion, one of the
most rewarding. The career possibilities open to a math major are endless."