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Professionalism Counts is a column in Actuarial Update, the Academy's monthly newsletter. 

February 2023

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The actuarial profession is self-regulated—it has created its own standards of conduct, qualifications, and practice, and enforces them through its own disciplinary process.

But in the day-to-day practice of professionalism, much is left to you, the actuary, to be a beacon for the profession and everything it stands for in service to our many stakeholders. In many respects, particularly with qualifications, professionalism runs on the honor system, and a look in the mirror is required. You must be able to look yourself in the eye and honestly state you meet the requirements and conduct yourself as a qualified actuary and member of the Academy.

Take continuing education. The Qualification Standards for Actuaries Issuing Statements of Actuarial Opinion in the United States (USQS) requires actuaries to earn “relevant” education each year. Under the USQS, continuing education (CE) is “relevant” if it:

  1. broadens or deepens an actuary’s understanding of one or more aspects of the work an actuary does;

  2. exposes an actuary to new and evolving techniques for addressing actuarial issues;

  3. expands an actuary’s knowledge of practice in related disciplines that bear directly on an actuary’s work; or

  4. facilitates an actuary’s entry into a new area of actuarial practice.[1]

The USQS continues, “Ultimately, it is an actuary’s responsibility to make a reasonable, good-faith determination of what continuing education opportunities will enhance an actuary’s ability to practice in a desired field.”[2] That is, only you can determine what is “relevant” to your practice. For example, one might think that only CE related to the life practice area would be relevant to a life actuary. But that life actuary may be moving into a different or emerging area of practice, and therefore topics in that new area would be relevant. Conversely, one might think that any health-related CE would be relevant to a health actuary. But what is relevant to an actuary who focuses on Medicaid would not necessarily be relevant to an actuary who focuses on private health plans. In short, not just any CE will do; only CE that is relevant to your work will satisfy the requirements of the USQS.

Why is this important? It ties back to the Code of Professional Conduct and your responsibility to provide services with skill and care and uphold the profession’s responsibility to the public. The Code requires you to perform actuarial services only when you are qualified to do so on the basis of basic and continuing education and experience, and only when you satisfy applicable qualification standards.[3]

To meet that level of qualification, it is important to constantly refresh your knowledge and skills. As the USQS puts it,

“Actuarial practice is grounded in the knowledge and application of actuarial science, a constantly evolving discipline. If actuaries are to provide their Principals with high-quality service, it is important that they remain current on emerging advancements in actuarial practice and science that are relevant to the Actuarial Services they provide. Further, opportunities to practice are expanding beyond traditional work. … Actuaries working in emerging areas need to be familiar with relevant new techniques and concepts from other related disciplines.”[4]

The USQS also requires you to keep CE records to substantiate compliance. Again, it is up to you, the actuary, to ensure that you have fulfilled the requirements, including making sure all your CE is relevant and keeping records to show that it was.

Although it may seem a small thing, looking in the mirror and ensuring that your CE is complete and relevant helps you meet the requirements of the Code, and thus maintain the profession’s ability to regulate itself while ensuring stakeholders understands the importance of having a qualified actuary working on their behalf.


[1] Section 2.2.6.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Precept 2.

[4] Section 2.2.1.

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