FAQ - General

1. What do actuaries do?

Actuaries work with the financial consequences of risk and uncertainty. There are uncertain future events that have a financial impact on companies as well as individuals. Actuaries help assess and manage the risk associated with those events. Using their strong mathematical background and analytical training, actuaries use modelling techniques to demonstrate possible outcomes and their likelihood, and help determine what actions can be taken today to minimize any adverse financial impact in the future.

2. What businesses employ actuaries?

Actuaries work in a variety of functions in a number of industries. Traditionally, actuaries work for life insurance companies, property and casualty insurance companies, employee benefit consulting firms, universities (teaching actuarial studies), and government agencies. More recently, with the expansion into enterprise risk management, employment opportunities for actuaries are expanding into more industries.

Insurance companies make extensive use of actuarial skills, since insurance policies require payments in the future that can be uncertain in amount and timing. Actuaries supply the required expertise in life contingencies (for life insurance companies) and property and casualty risk.

Consulting firms require the skills and advice of actuaries to determine the cost of employee benefits (such as pensions).

A number of actuaries in Canada work in an academic setting, providing instruction to university students studying actuarial science, and advancing the knowledge of the profession through research.

Government programs, such as the Canada Pension Plan/Régime de rentes du Québec, require actuaries to ensure their financial soundness. Actuaries are also employed in oversight roles, such as in the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI).

3. What types of skills would I need in order to become an actuary?

Because of the complex modelling and analysis that actuaries do, an aptitude for mathematics is essential. Actuaries need to be comfortable with detailed calculations, and have a strong understanding of probability and statistics. The study of life contingencies, which deals with the probability of survival, is an essential part of actuarial education.

At a minimum, actuaries need strong technical skills in an area of specialty. To progress from being a technical expert to a business advisor, actuaries need to develop a broader skill set, including the following: business acumen, and communication and people skills. As a result, an education in the fields of economics, business, and finance is strongly recommended. Oral and written communication skills are highly valued as actuaries need to be able to communicate complex, technical issues to a non-technical audience. People skills, both in terms of resource management and interpersonal dealings, are valuable in both corporate and consulting environments.

4. Where can I get introductory information on the actuarial profession in Canada?

The Canadian Institute of Actuaries has produced a brochure that provides information on the actuarial profession that is directed to individuals who are interested in pursuing a career, or have general questions about it. The brochure can be found on our website here.

5. What are the educational requirements? Are there specific universities or colleges that I need to attend?

Four organizations in North America have certification processes leading to actuarial credentials: the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA), American Academy of Actuaries (AAA), Society of Actuaries (SOA), and Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS).

The CIA is the national organization of the actuarial profession in Canada. It awards the Associate of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (ACIA) and Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (FCIA) designations upon the fulfilment of certain educational requirements, which can be achieved through a combination of university education and the completion of CIA-recognized education and examinations offered by the SOA or CAS (plus additional education as well as professional and experience requirements to become an FCIA). To practice as an actuary in Canada, you must have the FCIA designation.

An FCIA can also obtain full professional credence through mutual recognition agreements with the actuarial professional bodies of the United Kingdom, Scotland, Ireland, and Australia.

The AAA is the professional actuarial body that sets qualification, practice, and professionalism standards for actuaries credentialed by one or more of the five U.S.-based actuarial organizations. It also grants the MAAA designation. FCIAs can obtain the MAAA with the appropriate U.S. work experience.

The SOA offers examinations, modules, and seminars leading to the ASA and FSA designations for actuaries interested in practising in the areas of life insurance, health insurance, pensions, finance, and investments. Starting in fall 2013, the SOA added general (property and casualty) insurance to its offering of examinations.

The CAS focuses solely on property and casualty insurance. For its ACAS designation, it recognizes the preliminary examinations of the SOA and the CIA’s University Accreditation Program (UAP). CAS candidates must complete a series of additional examinations and modules for the FCAS designation.

The CERA (Chartered Enterprise Risk Analyst) designation, for those specializing in enterprise risk management (ERM), is another global professional designation that can be obtained through the actuarial examinations and education process.

A number of universities in Canada offer actuarial science programs and are accredited under the UAP. The program provides students with the option of applying for exemptions from writing some of the preliminary professional examinations of the SOA/CAS/CIA while maintaining the strong standards of our exam-based entrance to the profession.

While completion of an actuarial science program is not a prerequisite for becoming an actuary, the CIA, SOA, and CAS require the acquisition of university-level knowledge in economics, corporate finance, and applied statistics in order for candidates to qualify for Validation by Education Experience (VEE) credit, which is one element of the shared educational requirements of the three organizations.

For more information on the eligibility and education requirements of the CIA, please contact Roxanne Vézina at roxanne.vezina@cia-ica.ca or by calling 613-236-8196 ext. 111.

6. Do I need to complete all of the qualification requirements before I can start working in an actuarial position?

No – in fact, most candidates for an actuarial designation are actively working in the industry as they complete their examinations. The pursuit of a Fellowship designation typically takes a number of years. Actuarial employers have many positions filled by individuals who are in the midst of working through the certification requirements. The work performed in these positions is primarily within actuarial functions, often in support of other actuaries within the company.

A number of employers have actively-managed actuarial student programs, which includes benefits such as paid study time, support for study material, and formal work rotation programs.

7. I am currently pursuing (or have completed) a degree in another discipline. Do I need to go back to school in order to be an actuary?

No – actuarial exams can be written at any time they are offered, and do not require that you be enrolled in a college or university. However, you may find that a university program in actuarial science is a valuable means by which to gain the knowledge required to write actuarial exams. Many actuaries have also completed their credentials without having obtained a degree in actuarial science.

8. I am a qualified actuary in another country. Can I practice in Canada?

If you are a qualified member of an actuarial organization in a country with which we have a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA), you can attain your FCIA designation by the following:

  • • Completing the CIA’s work experience requirement, which includes three years of practical experience, eighteen months of which must be Canadian experience; and
  • • Completing the Practice Education Course (PEC) OR both the CAS Exam 6-Canada and the CIA Professionalism Workshop.

If you are a qualified member of an organization in a country with which we do not have an MRA, then the above conditions apply as well. In addition, you must register with the CIA as an Affiliate, and complete other educational requirements as determined on a case-by-case basis by the CIA’s Eligibility and Education Council.

Information on enrolment can be found on the CIA website here.