My Old School continued
Well, yes and no.
Yes and no? Before I get fired, let me explain the “no.” I believe you can easily argue that it’s not necessary to attend a school
that offers an actuarial science program—even if you know as an
entering freshman that you ultimately want to become an actuary. There’s much that you can do completely on your own.
For example, a student could take the obvious calculus,
probability, and statistics classes, supplement them with financial mathematics courses, economics, and accounting, and
top it all off with a course or two in risk management and
insurance—all courses available at most any college. Then,
having perused the SOA website (applicable for those interested in either life or casualty insurance), he or she could focus
in on the requirements for the first couple of exams and his
or her VEE requirements.
VEE? That’s validation by educational experience—proof, if
you will, that the student has attained the appropriate training
in economics, finance, and statistics. The list of schools offering
the applicable courses is quite lengthy, and, with a B minus or
better in those SOA-approved courses, a student can avoid some
costly and time-consuming further examinations.
If you ask those in industry who are recruiting for their
companies, often there will be as much interest in prospective
candidates having successfully satisfied their VEE requirements
while still in college as there will be in their passing the first
two actuarial exams (the probability and financial mathematics
Interestingly, here’s what a few of my students (actuarial science majors, all) had to say about future education methods (FEm).
A few were interested in entertaining
samantHa C.—“[FEm is a]n awesome idea. But I think
it might be challenging to make things equitable with a
comparable level of difficulty.”
But theirs was a minority view. Suspicion of the
FEm proposal was far more common:
Hussain H.—“The actuarial profession will be devalued
by making it easier to ‘pass’ exams.”
anton H.—“I don’t like it because the approach would
become more subjective and less standardized. It would
not be as challenging and wouldn’t work as well to ‘weed
dominiCK m.—“I am opposed to the ideology outlined in
FEm—not because I have had to pass the exams to build my
exams). Well, that might be a bit of an overstatement, but, clearly,
the better candidates come with the VEE course work satisfied.
Of course, having passed one or two exams doesn’t hurt.
This is good advice for any math major (or, for that matter, English or history major) at pretty much any college or
university. Come to the table with two exams and your VEE,
demonstrated leadership, and good communication skills.
Voilà—a job offer.
a Community of interests
Now comes the “yes” part of my answer, and here, I suspect, the
dean will be happy with me. While there’s nothing wrong with a
college or university absent an actuarial science program, there
are myriad benefits to having such a program. For example, on
the VEE issue, many students don’t realize, until told by their
advisers, that a grade below B minus will not suffice. That C
plus can necessitate a most unwelcome retake of a course (
especially unwelcome if you happen to be the parent funding those
courses). What’s more, the bigger the program, the greater the
camaraderie among students.
Here at Connecticut, for example, there are study groups
springing up all the time. The students gather, just as I used
to when taking my study time at work, to discuss the gamut
of exam problems—those that are relatively simple and those
that they find specifically troublesome. While no one individual
might know the best and fastest way to solve every problem,
credentials, but because I believe studying for and passing
the exams builds character. The exams build character
because they present students with a high-stress situation
and they are a way of measuring a student’s resilience.
Without the exam process, there may not be an accurate
way of measuring a student’s intangible qualities. It is in this
way that the exams illustrate an individual’s mental strength
both academically and emotionally.”
CHERyl v.—“The FEm process provides an unfair
advantage for those who get credit for the exam in the
classroom. Classroom candidates can be provided with an
immense amount of help by an instructor to help them to
improve their grade. That assistance is not available when
taking the SOA exams. Also, a pass mark based on how
well a candidate does in class could limit the number of
study hours invested. With less time devoted to working
through numerous exam preparation questions, the
development of actuarial instinct will be limited to what
can be learned in the span of a semester.”
There you have it—straight from the students who
you might think would be most in favor of a FEm option.
And if that’s not argument enough, wait until they’ve
attained associateship or fellowship the hard way. It will be
interesting to see if they soften their views at that point.
We’ve all heard it said many times from existing members:
“I had to study hard for my ASA or FSA. Others should have
to study as hard as I did. no easy roads.”