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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Filling the void after exams

With another exam session over, guest contributor Richard Quintian reflects on life after your final set



It’s May. Another exam session has come and gone. For some of you this was the first of many. Some of you are still plodding along enthusiastically. And some of you will never have to sit another actuarial exam again! So how different is qualified life?

Well aside from the obvious (yes of course I am talking about those additional three letters you can put after your name...), your employer wants you to work five-day weeks every week – outrageous I know. Time to wave goodbye to those study days. 

Anyone else have that fear of working out how exactly you are going to cope with having to work a five-day week all the time? Well, it’s not anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be – while I do miss listening to the dulcet tones of Jeremy Kyle as I enjoy breakfast, having woken up slightly later than usual on a study day, that is about all I miss.

There is also continuing professional development; the opportunity to meet your fellow peers at seminars or conferences while you desperately try to rack up the requisite number of hours before the CPD year ends. Note that as a newly qualified member, you don’t have to fulfil CPD requirements until the new CPD year starts, but it is certainly something to keep in mind and look forward to.

At work I felt as though I should know a lot more than I did the day before I qualified, that people would expect more from me. Sadly I can confirm that the actuarial fairy does not exist, that you don’t actually become omniscient on actuarial matters overnight. However, you soon come to realise that in reality, it is not so much what you know, but the opportunities that arise will be different and the work you do may change.

Qualification provides a security, and I would encourage all to think about what kind of actuary they would like to be. Previous editions of The Actuary have mentioned alternative, non-traditional career options for actuaries and how we as a profession could provide a service to other parts of the economy.

And of course, when you qualify you suddenly realise you have a lot more time on your hands. The first couple of weeks were straightforward enough; work-based skills. Starting/updating/finishing them (delete as appropriate) isn’t the best way to spend the Christmas break (and at this point I should say a big thank you to the IFoA for setting results day three days before Christmas), yet work-based skills are a necessary requirement from the IFoA to qualify as a Fellow. Having qualified, I would encourage you all to keep them as up-to-date as you can throughout your student years; it can be difficult to remember what you’ve been doing over time and practically difficult to get them signed off by your supervisor.

However, after that slight inconvenience, the world is your oyster. I didn’t initially notice the extra time I had, but the closer it got to this exam session, the more I realised I had been doing whatever I wanted to do every weekend for the last six months, all of which were guilt-free from the thought that I should probably be studying. I could just catch up on Jeremy Kyle by recording and watching at the weekends instead of studying as I previously had to. It was wonderful to be able to burn off the Easter chocolate by going out instead of burying my head back into run-off triangle methods and not to have to decline an invite to a friend’s birthday bash because there was an exam the next day.

But recently there’s been a void forming. I knew it would come. You see, I think to get through all the exams you must have a certain hunger to learn and keep your mind occupied. Watching a man shout “you’re a liar!” at some gormless soul still proclaiming his innocence to Jeremy Kyle after a set of particularly damning lie detector results isn’t quite doing it for me.

The IFoA has a vast number of volunteering roles and committees to join – another great way to meet fellow peers. Alternatively, you might just want to do something completely different, away from anything actuarial (after all those exams who could blame you), something that you previously didn’t have time for. Personally, I’ve decided it’s time to try and learn a second language. And yes, that does mean more exams. Here’s to hoping it keeps me away from my Jeremy Kyle obsession.