Is It Still Worth Becoming an ACAS/FCAS?

by Rehan Siddique, ACAS

I started my journey as an actuary four years ago. Now, just two exams away from receiving my Fellowship, I have been able to reflect on the age-old question I receive from family and friends alike: Was it worth it? Here are a few aspects of the actuarial profession that have led me to believe the answer is yes.   

Downsides

I think the cons of going down this path are well-known: study hours and exam costs. In total, we typically spend thousands of hours studying for exams while working full-time. There is a huge opportunity cost associated with this: Studying takes away from time you could be spending with your family/friends, learning new hobbies, learning other skills, or just plain old relaxing. You will need to get used to studying this much as there really is no way around it. Over time you get better at studying and will home in on what techniques work for you, so it becomes much more efficient. The actual dollar cost of the exams may also be prohibitive for some, especially candidates still in school or those in positions without formal actuarial study programs that cover exam costs.

Good Pay and Work-Life Balance

Just to get this one out of the way early, actuaries do get paid well. Most of us have seen the D.W. Simpson/Ezra Penland survey results, so I won’t spend time going into detailed numbers. According to DW Simpson, an FCAS with 10 years of work experience has a predicted total compensation of about $179,000, with CAS Fellows in general having higher predicted compensation amounts than their SOA counterparts. Working hours for actuaries are also coveted for having good work-life balance. Consultants may work longer hours on average, but that is a career choice you make.

Esteemed Business Acumen

To challenge what the popular surveys and “top jobs” articles will have you believe, working as an actuary does not guarantee you a job or job security. Like every other profession, it’s your skills and experience that determine your value to a company, not just the letters after your name. Luckily, actuaries are extremely versatile employees and are typically worthy investments for companies. We pride ourselves in being well-versed in statistical techniques, data handling, analytics, communications and strategy development. Some actuaries prefer to move into management and transition away from their typical actuarial roles, while some choose to remain individual contributors for their entire career. Either way, credentialed actuaries are highly valued in their positions.

Growing Demand for Actuaries

In 2017, The Economist published an article titled “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.” Data has always been the most important resource for insurers, but the last decade has seen an explosion in data collection across every industry. Insurers are aggregating this data to improve their products as well, but many new insurtech companies are also entering this space to provide ancillary services to them or directly to commercial consumers. Insurtech companies need actuaries to navigate the complexities of insurance rating regulation as well as to provide domain knowledge on insurance topics. This opens the door for new and exciting opportunities for actuaries.

Other than insurtech, actuaries are also valued in other industries that have to deal with risk. I have seen P&C actuaries working in car/home/product warranty, loyalty rewards programs, mortgage, insurance-linked securities, banking and predictive modeling. Companies are beginning to see how the actuarial skillset is valuable, and the demand for these skills continues to grow. The CAS is an ever-evolving credentialing organization, so getting ahead of these trends is vitally important and will ensure that the actuary of the future has the skills to stay valuable in a competitive environment.

Transferability of Skills

In the modern era, actuaries are developing the technical and business skills to operate across many industries. Working with data, providing detailed analyses and communicating results efficiently are skills that actuaries tend to develop over their careers. Due to the nature of our profession, we are trained in these skills as a necessity, whereas other business professionals usually must learn these skills on their own. If you become an actuary, you likely have business skills that are valued across many industries.

In summary, yes, I believe becoming an actuary is still worth it. Given all the technological advancements that we get to work with, I would even say it has never been a better time to become an actuary. It’s a fascinating time of change, and I am excited to see what the future holds for us actuaries.

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