Actuarial Review Return to Main Page

From the President

Continuing Education

Grannan by Patrick J. Grannan

"Your billable time determines your income. Your non-billable time determines your future."

This observation was made by David Maister, an authority on the management of professional service firms. It is a worthwhile observation for any professional to keep in mind. For those who are not consultants, "billable time" translates to the work you are currently paid to do. "Non-billable time" includes the time you invest in developing skills that will help you be successful in the future. I hasten to add that success is defined by the individual and is certainly not limited to compensation.

The CAS provides continuing education opportunities ranging from special interest seminars on relatively narrow topics to broader seminars such as the CLRS and the Ratemaking Seminar, and the CAS Spring and Annual Meetings, which offer wide varieties of topics. Many additional continuing education programs are available from other sources, including several CAS Regional Affiliates.

Precept 2 of the Code of Professional Conduct says, "An Actuary shall perform Actuarial Services only when the Actuary is qualified to do so on the basis of basic and continuing education and experience and only when the Actuary satisfies applicable qualification standards." When working in the U.S., for example, the Academy's Qualification Standards apply. Those standards require a minimum of 12 credit hours of continuing education per year on average for actuaries who issue "prescribed statements of actuarial opinion, (PSAO)" such as statutory statements of actuarial opinion on loss reserves. Most practicing actuaries, including those who do not issue PSAOs, should want to spend more than 12 hours per year keeping up to date and expanding their skills, although much of that time would not necessarily be spent in formal continuing education activities such as seminars.

There have been discussions recently in some CAS and Academy committees about the possibility of expanding the qualification standards by broadening the work to which they apply or by increasing the number of hours required. No change of this type would be made without substantial opportunity for discussion and input by the membership.

The primary reasons for considering changes of this type are to improve the image of the profession and to fulfill the CAS statement of purpose better, which says the CAS will (among other functions) "establish and maintain standards of qualification for membership" and "promote and maintain high standards of conduct and competence for the members." Other professions have significantly higher requirements than 12 hours and appear to find them practical. The primary arguments against expanding our requirements are that we should avoid creating any more rules than necessary and that some practical issues may be difficult to address in defining the requirements. One important issue is that many of our members work outside the traditional casualty actuarial practice areas. Some manage businesses and do little or no technical work. Any new requirements would need to take these members' circumstances into account, such as by exempting them or by defining the qualifying continuing education in a way that is relevant to their work.

Regardless of whether the profession's continuing education requirements are expanded, I would strongly encourage any actuary to identify their own requirements—the types and amounts of skill development needed to be successful in the future.