Professionalizing the U.S. Actuarial Community
WHEN THE ACADEMY WAS ESTABLISHED JUST OVER 50 YEARS AGO, actuaries already had a long
history in the United States, with a well-developed body of knowledge, multiple professional organizations,
and well-established examination programs. But there was a problem. As the New York superintendent of
insurance put it at the time, “Our laws today demand no more proof of the actuary’s competence than did
the laws of ancient Rome.”
1 Anyone could present themselves to the public as an actuary, without regard to
training, background, or expertise.
The Academy was created to address this
problem. In describing the need for the Academy, the superintendent went on to say that “[o]ur
nation cannot continue to permit the legal possibility that actuaries whose expertise may be at the
level of a medieval barber’s application of leech-es may work on programs involving 40 million
2 The founders envisioned
the Academy as “a new organization which would
be neither subordinate to, nor would have any
authority over, any other actuarial professional
3 It was to be a national organization, sister to the Canadian Institute of Actuaries,
which was formed to serve the same purpose for Canada. Membership in the Academy was intended to provide a reasonable
standard of certification for individual actuaries practicing in
the United States. Thus, the Academy was established in 1965
to professionalize the U.S. actuarial community by providing the
standards and disciplinary process necessary to be recognized as
a self-regulating profession—to ensure that U.S. actuaries serve
the public with the professionalism that it needs and deserves.
We have come a long way in the past 50 years. Our Code of
Professional Conduct binds Academy members to the highest
standards of conduct, recognizing that each of us has a moral
responsibility to all the many people who may depend on our
work. Through the Actuarial Standards Board, the Academy has
promulgated 50 actuarial standards of practice covering all areas
of actuarial practice. Through the Actuarial Board for Counseling and Discipline, we provide the basic disciplinary framework
for the profession. Because of this, membership in the Academy
is widely recognized at both the state and federal levels as an essential credential for actuaries practicing in the United States.
The Academy is also the voice of the U.S. actuarial profes-
sion to the nation. Unlike a trade association or union, we do
not represent the narrow commercial interests of our members
or the industries they work in. Amid the cacophony of political
voices in Washington, the Academy distinguishes
itself through objectivity, independence, and non-
partisanship. Our information is valued because
we are recognized as a credible, nonpartisan re-
source. Maintaining this credibility requires us to
be willing to objectively consider the concerns of
all affected stakeholders. We can’t fully serve the
public interest if we approach it in a self-serving
manner. All Academy volunteers are required to
acknowledge our Conflict of Interest Policy and
attest to compliance with continuing education
requirements. Every Academy document that is
published goes through not only peer review, but
a legal review, a policy review, and a communications review to
ensure that it is accurate, unbiased, nonpartisan, and effective.
This is why legislators, regulators, and journalists turn to the
Academy as a trusted, reliable source of independent, objective
insights on critical public policy issues such as Medicare and
The Academy was founded so that the U.S. actuarial profession could earn the public’s trust. Our primary mission is
to ensure that U.S. actuaries—both individually and collectively—provide the public with the professionalism it deserves.
Flowing from this is our second mission, to provide legislators,
regulators, and the public with impartial actuarial analysis and
insights into the toughest public policy questions facing our nation. Both aspects of our mission demand objectivity. Without a
strong dedication to professionalism, and the internal cultural
structure to support it, the Academy would be unable to inform
important policy discussions that directly affect the public.
1. “Address by Henry Root Stern, Jr.,” Transactions of the Society of Actuaries,
1965, Vol. 17, Pt. 1, No. 47AB, p. 74.
2. Ibid., p. 79.
3. E.J. Moorhead, Our Yesterdays: the History of the Actuarial Profession in
North America 1809–1979, Schaumburg, Ill., Society of Actuaries, 1989, p. 217.