Is It All Worth It? The Many Benefits of Earning that CAS Credential

by Dan Watt, FCAS

This article will be released around the time most of you are neck-deep in studying, which means you are probably asking yourself questions such as, “Should I take the time to read Dan’s article, or should I work on my flashcards?” or “Why am I doing this to myself? Is it all worth it?”

First of all, thank you for taking five minutes to read what we have to share here — I’m hoping it helps. Let me start by stating that your study efforts are ABSOLUTELY worth it, my friends.

There are many benefits to receiving your credentials. We will focus on the following:

  • An immediate increase in opportunities for roles and responsibilities.
  • An endless stream of continued growth and learning.
  • Possibilities for nontraditional roles.
  • Opportunities to volunteer and impact the profession.

We’ve asked a few professionals with the benefit of hindsight to share how life has been after receiving their ACAS/FCAS credentials. I’ll close with a few insights of my own as well.

An immediate increase in opportunities for roles and responsibilities

Receiving your credentials opens doors. In the short amount of time since receiving his FCAS, Justin Pursaga has influenced the design of an enterprise data warehouse, measured corporate strategy, collaborated on the design of an online customer portal and led the IFRS program. I’m sure he had many other possibilities cross his path along the way as well. Having credentials allows for the freedom to choose your career path, which is priceless.

Justin advises the following:

  • Get involved in the business early — always understand what underlies your work.
  • Trust in yourself; confidence will come.
  • Become proficient in data visualization. No matter how true or statistically significant your conclusions/recommendations are, the effect will be muted if you can’t effectively tell a story with the data.
  • Be curious and ask lots of questions.

An endless stream of continued growth and learning

Receiving your credentials is just the beginning of a dynamic and exciting career. The continuous learning and research possibilities are exciting and lead to greater opportunities as your career progresses.

Andy Thesing earned his FCAS 10 years ago and continues to stretch himself, constantly learning, adding to his skill set and understanding. He encourages current students and recently credentialed actuaries to “Continue on the path of learning post-exams — explore a new line of business, invest in learning Python or R and educate yourself in more predictive analytics. Stay curious!”  With continued learning, Andy suggests that you can “Apply your actuarial knowledge and creative approaches to solve today’s business problems.”

Possibilities for nontraditional roles

In addition to pricing and reserving roles, gaining your credentials provides opportunities for nontraditional roles. Since receiving her ACAS, Carolyn Wise has been able to go in the direction of topical research and publication. She has presented at symposiums, sharing her insights with leaders and experts.

Carolyn says to “Say ‘yes’ to new challenges. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. There are so many different opportunities within the actuarial career.” Embracing change has led Carolyn to discover new aspects and possibilities of the actuarial career path for which she has become very passionate.

Opportunities to volunteer and impact the profession

Upon receiving your credentials, volunteering offers networking benefits, deeper understanding of actuarial concepts and the direct ability to drive the direction of the profession. The Examination Committee, Candidate Advocate Working Group and various CAS DE&I efforts are always in need of perspectives and opinions from newly credentialed professionals. Volunteering for a Regional Affiliate or local programs, such as Math Motivators, gives you chances to directly affect lives and opportunities to introduce the actuarial profession to the next generation of actuaries.

In his career in the consulting space, Adam Hirsch, FCAS, has experienced a vibrant, interesting and successful career. Currently, he offers consulting to non-insurance companies for services such as loss reserve analyses, feasibility studies and SAOs for captive insurance companies, and loss projections. With this experience, Adam has given back by volunteering on the CAS Examination Committee, and he recently served as the vice president and then president of the Southern California Casualty Actuarial Club, a CAS Regional Affiliate.

Is it worth it? My take

Since receiving my FCAS in 2017, I’ve experienced increasing opportunities, benefited from an endless stream of continued growth and learning, have embraced nontraditional roles and felt the advantages of volunteer efforts with the CAS and elsewhere. Quite frankly, gaining my credentials has allowed me to have two dream jobs simultaneously. I get to do innovative actuarial work for a wonderful company while also teaching actuarial science at a fantastic university. As Carolyn advised above, I find myself doing impactful and fun initiatives each day because I chose to say “yes” to new challenges. As you will hear from almost every credentialed actuary, I love my job! It’s dynamic, interesting, fulfilling and fun.

Through volunteer efforts, I have experienced the benefits of networking almost immediately. I’ve had the pleasure of serving on the Examination Committee and the Candidate Advocate Working Group (obviously), have done some fun work for the New Members Committee, served as president and VP of administration for the Casualty Actuaries of New England, created DE&I scholarships with The Actuarial Foundation, participated for years in Math Motivators and much more. These experiences have been integral to my development and career direction thus far, with diversifying our profession at the top of my priorities list. Please volunteer! The benefits drastically outweigh the costs.

If I were to travel back in time, I would give myself the following advice: Stop studying just to pass the exams and start studying to own the knowledge!

Once the knowledge belongs to you, the exams are secondary. Particularly from Exam 5 on, the information contained in the syllabi is vital for your career. Thirst after this knowledge! To be a great actuary, you need to know this stuff as if it were common sense. You can then apply this knowledge to provide insight and forethought to your business partners. You can innovate, contribute to the advancement of the science and lift others through mentorship and instruction. With the power of knowledge, you can impact business decisions, diversify our profession via volunteer efforts, advance the actuarial toolkit with predictive analytics, apply actuarial concepts to new and interesting problems and much more.

With credentials, an inquisitive mind and a drive for continued growth and development, the possibilities are endless for your career. So, yes. All of this is worth it! Keep going! You’ve got this!