Future Fellows - December 2011
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How to get the most benefit from the CAS Course on Professionalism

By Kendall P. Williams, FCAS, Candidate Liaison Committee chairperson and Course on Professionalism facilitator

You have just passed Exam 5 and filled out the form to attend the CAS Course on Professionalism. You have received your confirmation from the CAS Office and made your travel reservations.

You may be thinking...

Now what? Why does the CAS require me to attend this seminar anyway? What are all of these pre-readings? What am I supposed to learn? Is this going to be a big waste of time? These are all questions you might be asking yourself as you prepare for your Course on Professionalism.

The Committee on Professional Education holds several Courses on Professionalism each year to help prepare candidates to be Associates of the CAS. This month, approximately 220 candidates will attend seminars in Atlanta and San Diego. The course has several goals, including:

  • Learning about the Code of Professional Conduct and how it applies to members of the actuarial profession in their everyday work    
  • Learning about the Actuarial Standards of Practice and Statements of Principles that apply to being a casualty actuary and how to use them in your work   
  • Understanding the consequences of violating the Code of Professional Conduct and Standards of Practice   
  • Learning the function of the Actuarial Board for Counseling and Discipline (ABCD), and how to contact the ABCD for counseling or to report violations   
  • Learning the requirements for continuing professional education

The course is broken into three major components:

  1. Educational Sessions: In these sessions, the pre-readings are reviewed and discussed to make sure everyone is familiar with the content.   
  2. Interactive Examples: These examples comprise the majority of the seminar. Difficult ethical situations are discussed and reviewed in a case study format among small groups. This gives the candidates opportunities to apply the Code, Statements, and Standards to real life examples to determine possible actions in a specific situation.   
  3. Guest Speakers: Guest speakers, usually from the CAS Board or executives from nearby insurance companies, will share their thoughts and experiences in dealing with difficult situations that tested their professional conduct.   
  4. A Mock Trial: As a capstone event for the course, a consulting actuary is on trial for possible violations of the Code, Statements, and Standards. During the mock trial, you will be given the opportunity to be the jury that determines if the actuary violated his duties and professionalism requirements. The trial includes a real attorney from the American Academy of Actuaries. No matter what your verdict, you will see how not adhering to the Code, Statements, and Standards may lead to serious ramifications.

So how can you get the most out of the Course on Professionalism?

Be on time and attend all of the sessions. Almost all candidates who fail the course do so because they were late for one or more sessions. Make sure you give yourself adequate time to get to the hotel and make it to the seminar on time.

 Come prepared! Read all of the pre-readings and have a general understanding of what the Code, Standards, and Statements are and how to apply them. The interactive sessions include discussions in small groups. Candidates who are not familiar with the pre-readings will struggle in the interactive sessions.

You should be ready to interact and participate. Many of the sessions encourage open discussion on the issues and how best to resolve them. At the same time, candidates should come with an open mind and be willing to accept other viewpoints. The scenarios presented are often not black and white, and there will be more than one possible course of action.

Finally, commit yourself to the seminar. Put away your smart phone. Try to leave the office behind as much as possible so you can concentrate on the course. It is tough for everyone to be away from the office for a couple of days. However, candidates should plan to check work e-mails and messages only during the breaks or in the evening. Keep in mind that if you are caught browsing the Internet on your phone or laptop during the course you may fail.

By following the advice outlined above, you will not only accomplish the goals of the Course on Professionalism, but probably enjoy the time as well. You will certainly leave the seminar better prepared to be an actuary!

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