UC Santa Barbara students majoring in economics and interested in mathematics and statistics will have the opportunity to graduate with a degree in both, thanks to a new undergraduate major.

The Mathematics Dept. and the Statistics and Applied Probability Dept. will jointly offer a financial mathematics and statistics undergraduate major beginning fall 2003. Students who enroll in the major will be under the jurisdiction of both departments. Course requirements for the major will consist of a mix of math, statistics and economics classes.

“I think there was a lot of excitement about the fact that deep mathematics is being used more and more by large financial institutions to deal with risk, to manage risk,” Mathematics Dept. Chair Doug Moore said. “We wanted to make this material more available to undergraduates.”

A degree in financial mathematics and statistics can prepare students for a wide variety of careers and professions in finance, Moore said.

“The reason they have an edge before other graduates is that they know mathematics because our general degree requires a lot of math. … But they also have statistics, so they know how to work with data; they also have other courses which teach them financial terminology,” Statistics and Applied Probability Dept. Chair Raya Feldman said.

Although no students have enrolled in the major yet, Moore and Feldman said students had expressed interest in the new major because it could help them get jobs after graduation.

Actuarial degrees, similar to the new financial mathematics and statistics degree, which focus on analysis of mathematical data for the insurance, healthcare, casualty and financial industries, have good job prospects irrespective of how healthy the financial marketplace happens to be.

“What we found with actuarial degrees, unlike engineering and computer science, is that they are very well hired during a recession because that’s when everybody buys more insurance,” Feldman said.

However, Feldman said many students graduating with an actuarial degree now tend to find jobs and careers in the financial markets, instead of going into the insurance markets like they did in the past.

“If you go back 12 years ago, most of our [actuarial] students go to insurance companies,” Feldman said. “Now almost none of them go to insurance companies; they go to all kinds of financial institutions.”

Even though the new major is only offered as an undergraduate degree, Moore said a graduate program might be created in the future.

“This is just a bachelor’s degree; however, it is just a step in toward something larger that may come later,” he said. “It would be very nice if we could get a graduate program, but that would require additional personnel.”