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An overview of the SOA’s University-Earned Credit program Gena Long

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The Society of Actuaries (SOA) Board of Directors has approved an exciting opportunity for SOA candidates attending select university actuarial programs. Through the new University-Earned Credit (UEC) program, candidates who are enrolled in a degree program at an approved SOA Center of Actuarial Excellence (CAE) will have the opportunity to earn credit for specific SOA exams after receiving a required score in approved courses that cover that exam’s syllabus. UEC is the first program to be launched in the SOA’s new modernized education system, which empowers candidates with choices and alternatives within the actuarial pathway.

The UEC program is based on the best components of similar programs offered through other actuarial organizations around the world and will make progress more efficient for strong students who might otherwise be drawn toward other careers such as those in data science. The SOA’s UEC program will exercise tight quality control and vigilant oversight to ensure rigorous standards are met. This program does not replace the existing exams, which will continue to be offered.

Managed by the same committee structure that directs the SOA’s pre-qualification education, the program is built to ensure candidates have demonstrated mastery at a level that meets or exceeds that of candidates who pass an exam at exam centers. The program requires initial scrutiny of the full university actuarial program through regular CAE reviews, with the added dimension of detailed supervision and requirements of the content, exams and grading for the courses involved.

To perform the detailed evaluations necessary for the program, carefully trained SOA member volunteers will serve as external examiners responsible for working closely with an SOA member who is on faculty at the CAE. The external examiners, reporting to the UEC Oversight Committee, will ensure the specific requirements concerning course coverage/content and examination processes and procedures are strictly followed for all courses associated with exam credit.

The UEC option will initially be offered for certain preliminary exams only. Exam P (Probability) will not be eligible. The timeline for implementation allows for the first UEC-approved courses to be given in the fall of 2022, allowing candidates who meet the required mark in the approved courses the ability to claim SOA exam credit in early 2023.

The University Story

Course coverage and administration for eligible UEC courses must meet requirements beyond those needed to earn CAE status. UEC courses must:

  • Meet the exam learning objectives at 85 percent or better
  • Assign a minimum percentage of course grading points to proctored examinations
  • Provide the final exam for the course in advance to the external examiner for approval
  • Assign a minimum percentage of course grading points to a cumulative final exam
  • Follow detailed requirements for the content and security of the course final exam
  • Demonstrate enhanced adaptability quotient (AQ) and emotional quotient (EQ) education across the program

The Candidate Story

Candidates seeking to make use of the UEC program must be enrolled in a degree program at an approved CAE university to ensure they have access to the full scope of CAE attributes. They must also attain the required score for each UEC course needed for a particular exam, which will be substantially higher than the score needed to pass the course. The candidate then has two years to submit an application and pay the fee for UEC credit to the SOA.

UEC Misconceptions and Clarifications

Since the announcement of UEC, the SOA has received comments and questions that demonstrate there are some misconceptions regarding how the program will operate. That’s understandable, given this is new to the SOA and we have not yet released all the details.

Future Expansion for Greater Diversity

As part of the SOA’s ongoing efforts to address the need for greater diversity within the actuarial profession, plans are underway to extend the UEC program for Exam FM (Financial Mathematics) only to select universities serving underrepresented groups. It is anticipated that support and education for faculty and students at these universities would be provided as needed. Initial activities related to selection of universities, outreach and education will begin this year.

One misconception is that CAEs are elite universities that are inaccessible to most students or diverse students in particular. Of the 33 CAE universities, only five are private. The rest are publicly funded institutions with actuarial programs that vary in size from graduating 10 to 15 students per year to graduating between 150 and 175 students. Several are in urban locations. While there were few comprehensive actuarial science programs in the United States 20 to 30 years ago, there are now a strong number that meet the standard for CAE and many more that are close and working toward meeting the CAE criteria.

Another misunderstanding is that the UEC program replaces the SOA exam system. University-based coursework will not replace SOA exams. Exams will continue to be administered and will remain the primary pathway for most candidates. Because UEC will not be available at all universities, the SOA exams continue to be an excellent way to demonstrate to actuarial employers that a clear set of skills have been mastered.

Some SOA members and candidates were concerned the grade inflation would be a problem. UEC will adhere to strict quality and rigor requirements like those you expect of SOA exams. An Oversight Committee and a set of carefully trained external examiners who are SOA members will oversee the program. The external examiners will be assigned to each approved CAE to scrutinize the content of the courses and exams involved for UEC.

Some have wondered if UEC courses will be easier than taking an exam. Attaining university-earned credit is expected to be more convenient for some strong students. It is intended to be. We must be more competitive with other data-rich fields, such as data science, and this is one way to help in that regard. However, students will need to work hard to earn this credit. The UEC pass mark will be high and the effort considerable to attain the required score with mainly proctored exams for grading points and the need to pass a comprehensive SOA-approved final exam.

Gena Long is director, Professionalism and University Relations, for the Society of Actuaries.

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