Jessica Elkin spots the light at the end of the tunnel following the exams and explains what to expect when you reach that point
Tough month ahead of us. The short summer sitting means that there tends to be a last-minute scramble to get through study notes and plough through enough past papers to stand a chance of passing the exams. I'm convinced most (if not all) students spend the month with Queen's song Under pressure on a loop in their heads.
As I am one of those students, I don't particularly fancy going on about it. In fact, I'd rather not think about it at all. I suspect that September will involve copious drafting and re-drafting study schedules, watching Game of Thrones "just for a bit", and snacking.
It's easy to become jealous of non-student colleagues around this time. That qualification light at the end of the examinations tunnel feels like the remedy to all problems, removing the biannual stress points of exam periods and further pressure of exam results. They certainly don't need to worry about failing, spending their evenings studying, or completing work-based skills.
However, completing the exams is not the end of the journey - actuaries must keep working to maintain and update their skills and competence.
An actuary's work is never done
The IFoA's website optimistically states that: "Members pride themselves on their learning, not only at the point of entry to the profession but throughout their careers." You learn in CT9 that we have a responsibility to work for the public interest, and the Actuaries' Code requires members not to act unless they have an appropriate level of relevant knowledge and skill. As legislation, professional context and actuarial methods evolve over time, it is important to keep up-to-date with changes.
It's with this in mind that the IFoA created the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) Scheme.
Once you are qualified (let's be optimistic about this for now), you must attain a minimum level of CPD. This is defined as learning which is relevant to the nature of your role and addresses a personal development need, whether the focus is technical, professional or otherwise. It can include attendance at IFoA or company events such as workshops, training sessions or conferences and seminars. Any training or development activity involving interaction with other individuals can count as an 'event'.
Alternatively, you can undertake private study, for example participating in an online learning activity or researching professional or technical journals. Even time spent volunteering for the profession can be included where relevant (hint, hint). CPD is measured in hours and must be recorded on the member area of the IFoA website.
Actuaries with a practising certificate - for example, scheme actuaries - have the highest CPD requirements, currently needing to log at least 30 hours per year with 20 hours specifically relating to technical skills. And private study does not count as CPD for these members. Something to think about when making ambitious career plans.
As usual, there is further information on the IFoA's website. Additionally, in the 'events' section, there are details about events and activities to assist with CPD. Note that you'll need to provide evidence of your activities up to the required minimum of hours, and will have to log the learning outcomes from your CPD hours - much like work-based skills.
It's reassuring that the party doesn't end at qualification.
And that's not all...
Since the Professional Skills and CPD requirements were combined fairly recently, they are now both part of a new umbrella CPD scheme which applies to all members of the IFoA - including the likes of us students. There are eight categories of members, each of which has different requirements. I recommend you check this out for yourself, as I'm not your mother... I don't think.
Those of you who joined the IFoA on or after 1 March 2012 are hopefully aware that you need to complete a Professional Awareness Test online before you can sit CT9. Then there's the Professional Skills Course which all of us will need to sit; we're required to take the course within a year of full qualification, or - if you joined the IFoA on or after 1 July 2006 and don't qualify in advance - between the 4th and 6th anniversary of admission to the IFoA. Perhaps set a reminder in your calendar.
I'm really jumping the gun here, as most of us won't need to think about any of this right now; however, it's certainly more appealing than some other current topics. The upside to failing anything is that it'll be even longer before you have to worry about any of this. Ever the optimist, me.