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Anonymous 11-19-2001 11:21 AM

I realize that many employers reward you for passing exams and many feel that you are not an actuary until you have earned one of the designations. However, is it possible to have any success in the field without earning an FSA or FCAS? or even an ASA or ACAS, for that matter? If so, is there a minimum number of exams that one should pass in order to be successful?
Any advice would be welcomed?

WWSituation 11-19-2001 12:09 PM

It all depends on how you define success. It also depends largely on where you work. (or how your employer defines success)

I work with consultants who have no designations and they are reviewing my work and they have the client relationships.

I work with FSA's and EA's who have higher and lower levels of client relationships.

The bottom line is there are no hard fast rules about it. Though I'm sure credentialed actuaries are sleeping better amidst rumors of company takeovers and the like. You have more legs to stand on to demand the things you need and want if you have the letters.

Enough Exams Already 11-19-2001 12:15 PM

IN the end, I think it comes down to how well you do your work. The credential is nice, and it can open some doors for you that otherwise would be hard to open. But an FSA who makes big mistakes is less valuable (and, I suspect, will be less successful in the long run) than an exam student whose work is excellent. Again, this is talking in broad strokes, like any rule, so take it FWIW.

Anonymous 11-19-2001 12:16 PM

Letters get you the good positions and jobs without really needing to prove yourself through hard work.

No letters means you have to work hard to prove yourself.

Personally, I went the letter route since it's nice to be wanted and paid well without needing to work my ass off everyday. Sure, exams are a pain, but once you get through them, it's really a pretty cushy profession. Besides, the student programs at most companies only reward exam progress where work performance is largely ignored. Plenty of times I sacrificed work performance to pass exams. And I'm positive I'm making more money and enjoying life more as an FSA than I would have not studying and working hard needing to prove myself everyday...

This isn't to say that working hard cannot get you as far as getting the letters. But, you take a chance where the FSA is pretty much a ticket to the good life.

Just based on my thoughts and experiences.

42 11-19-2001 07:36 PM

Good advice from everybody, and it all comes down to doing whatever you feel is best for you, assuming your company is OK with that. But something else to keep in mind ... Some companies require that all actuarial staff meet certain exam requirements, e.g., passing at least one exam every third sitting until you get your ASA. And even if you're comfortable in your current job, with all of the mergers and acquisitions going on in the industry, you may just find yourself working for one of these companies some day.

davespencer 11-30-2001 09:58 AM

I know many people that have been successful without finishing the exams. I also know many that have not. The general advice I give regarding finishing the exams, at least to the associate level, is that the letters (especially fellowship) are career insurance. However, in the current job market, all the seasoned FSAs that have been let go would disagree with me. Being lettered, without ability, will only take you so far. Eventually lack of real skill will catch up to anyone.

Anonymous 11-30-2001 11:16 AM

Dave, I'm still waiting for it to catch up with my boss!!!!

Anonymous 11-30-2001 11:22 AM

I agree that it depends how you define success. At my company, there are a couple people who aren't taking exams (one stopped, one never started) who are given quite a bit of responsibility and are admired by those who work with them for their contribtution. But they'll never get the visibility of a high-ranking position within the department because your position is tied to the number of exams you've passed. I know it is frustrating for them to watch less experienced, less skilled, less knowledgable people (who are putting all their efforts into exams and letting work slide) pass them up on the corporate ladder.

WWSituation 11-30-2001 11:37 AM

Anonymous, the opportunities for success for those who choose not to take exams are far more plentiful and available in consulting than in insurance.

It depends on the firm, of course.

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