A journey from CAA to FIA
I joined APR in September 2017, as part of APR’s first ever cohort of Student Actuarial Analysts. In this article I will give my thoughts on the Certified Actuarial Analyst (CAA) qualification as a way of starting out in the actuarial profession as well as how it is perceived in the industry.
How have I found the Analyst role?
After deciding that university was not for me, entering the actuarial profession via the CAA qualification allowed me to learn about and experience the profession without a degree. This was my first proper ‘grown up’ job which was a little daunting (truly terrifying actually!) but also a very exciting opportunity to ‘earn whilst I learnt’ and gain valuable experience in the industry.
After my initial training period at APR, I was sent into the big world of insurance and duly started the CAA exams. Throughout my career at APR, I have been fully supported through my work and my studies, helping me develop quickly and pass all my exams, successfully qualifying as a CAA in July 2019.
As the CAA qualification is relatively new, many people within the industry have not heard of it and automatically assumed I had a degree. However, I found once I had explained what the CAA qualification was and that it was a route into the actuarial industry for school leavers, people were supportive. There may be some individuals who believe you need to have a degree to be a great actuarial student, but I like to think I have proved them wrong on my various successful projects and that this attitude is changing, as school leaver schemes become more popular.
I have added value at all the client projects I have been placed on, including modelling and programming, data analytics and software testing, working alongside and complementing FIA actuarial students and senior actuaries. Because of this, I really believe many actuarial departments would benefit from hiring CAAs, helping the qualification gain more recognition in the industry.
So, what is the CAA qualification?
The CAA qualification consists of 6 exams, covering various topics and skills required to be an actuarial analyst. As well as passing all the exams, you need to submit “Work Based Skills”, documentation to show you have developed the professional skills required, such as communication and technical knowledge. Once this is all complete, it gets sent off to CAA Global to review and finalise.
Once approved, you join the Institute of Actuaries as a CAA member and can proudly boast that you are a Certified Actuarial Analyst!
But why let the fun stop there!?
With the approval of my manager and the APR partners, I decided to carry on with the FIA exams. These exams are the usual starting point for graduates wishing to pursue a career as an actuary and are now open to qualified CAAs. In fact, I started out on the FIA exams before friends in my school year group had graduated from university, and already have a wealth of knowledge and experience from my CAA qualification.
Whilst the CAA qualification is an amazing achievement in its own right, I wanted to carry on with the FIA exams as this would allow me to become a fully qualified actuary, which had been my aim since leaving school. Deciding against university was not a blocker for me to become an actuary in the future. It also means the profession does not miss out on capable talent who decide against the university route. Also, I was excited to learn more about some of the topics that were covered in the CAA exams. There are 13 FIA exams, some of which overlap with the previous CAA exams I had sat. This gave me a good high-level understanding of the topics, which the FIA exams cover in more detail.
I completed and passed my first FIA exam in April 2019, and have since passed two more in the September session. I found that sitting the CAA exams gave me a good foundation of knowledge when taking these exams, which helped with my revision and boosted my confidence. The FIA exams do contain new topics but these are no more challenging than the material covered in the CAA exams. However, the FIA exams are a slight step up from the CAA exams as the FIA exams cover a lot more material, meaning there is generally more study and revision required. This is reflected in the number of the study days allocated for the exam – which tends to be higher for the FIA exams.
Because of the overlap between the two sets of exams, many believe that qualified CAAs should receive some exemptions from the FIA exams. However, although being considered by the Institute, these are currently not in place. I believe that exemptions or partial exemptions for CAAs would be a fantastic way to encourage progression onto the FIA exams and fully embed this as an alternative route to fellowship.
Whilst students sitting the FIA exams typically have a degree, usually in a maths or a related subject, I did not find this a disadvantage. The material provided for the exams, as with CAA Global, is very detailed and easy to use. There is also a lot of variety in the study materials available – from detailed revision notes, flashcards and past exam questions – and so there is material useful to everyone, no matter their revision style. If there is a topic I am struggling with, I have plenty of clever people around me here at APR to ask for help or lots of extra information available from other sources, such as videos on YouTube!
And to conclude
Finally, some advice for anyone considering the CAA qualification:
- Do lots of research and make sure that this is something you really want to do. It can be very difficult balancing working and studying and can take many years to qualify. Students need to be really committed, determined and well informed about what they are getting themselves into!
- Although working and studying are really important in doing well in the qualification, so is rest! Make sure you give yourself time to recuperate between exams and you take breaks when revising. I like to start my revision really early – that way I can do smaller, manageable amounts when I can, rather than cramming at the end and having to study every evening, when I am exhausted after work.
- Ask lots of questions! Whether this is at work or about the material you are studying for your exams, you are not expected to know or understand everything as you are still learning.