Travel Time Report

by Nick Schneider, ACAS

I envy the candidates who pass all their exams on the first try, but I know plenty of candidates who inconsistently pass exams on the second, third, or eighth attempt. At the same time there are students who will earn their initial designations in their early 20s, late 20s, 30s or 40s, and possibly later.

In the midst of these combinations, the statistic that the CAS specifically tracks and has targets for is the number of years it takes a candidate to achieve CAS designations (ACAS or FCAS). This is referred to as "travel time." As with any analysis that contains a large amount of data, much of the time is spent going through the large CAS database of students and scrubbing the dataset. In order to calculate a candidate's travel time the CAS looks at the date of first examination, as well as the date of first employment. Date of first examination is relatively easy to verify, as the CAS knows when you first signed up to take an exam. Date of first employment, however, is based on user input – your input. If, in your CAS profile, you have never filled out the date of your first employment, please stop reading and do this now – you will help improve the data quality for the next travel time analysis. (Update your CAS record by clicking on "My Profile" at the top of the CAS homepage.)

The CAS recently released an updated Travel Time Infographic using data compiled from the CAS membership database through August 2016. One goal of the analysis is to monitor how changes to the syllabus impact overall travel time and to ensure that the travel times overall are not changing too drastically due to these revisions. If any trends start to emerge in the data, the board may recommend that action be taken in order to ensure that travel time remains at a reasonable level and within employer expectations. These changes could include a possible reorganization of the syllabus, offering exams more frequently, or changing the format of how some of the topics are tested.

In 2002, the CAS Board of Directors established the following goal for travel time: The median time required to move from first fulltime actuarial employment to attainment of Fellowship should be in the range of 5-7 years.

The infographic shows that for the most recent years, this goal is being met. The most recent travel time data indicates that the median travel time from date of first employment to Fellowship is around 6.5 years (from date of first exam, it is around 8 years). For candidates who fall in the 25th percentile of exam takers, the travel time to Fellowship from date of first exam is currently just under 7 years. The date of Fellowship is considered to be the date of the meeting at which you are recognized as a Fellow, so in reality, for many people the actual time taking exams is about half a year less than this. In comparison, candidates who started taking exams in the late 1990s and early 2000s took, on average, three to nine months longer to complete the process based on first examination date. Travel time is down by more than one year from the level observed in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The second page of the travel time infographic displays a new statistic being introduced due to the increasing separation of the CAS and the SOA. It does not include preliminary exams; instead it will track the length of time from first CAS exam (usually Exam 5) to both designations.

See the a report on the number of years it takes a candidate to achieve CAS designations (ACAS or FCAS).

Download The Travel Time Report