Choosing Between SOA and CAS
Many actuarial students face the dilemma of choosing between the Society of Actuaries (SOA) vs the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS). Which actuarial society should you pursue and why? We’ll cover an introduction to both the SOA and CAS, along with which one you should choose.
Society of Actuaries (SOA)
The Society of Actuaries (SOA) is the dominant society for all career tracks in actuarial science other than Property & Casualty. This includes careers in life insurance, pensions, health, and benefits. The SOA has been recently expanding into non-traditional sectors in an attempt to broaden the appeal of the society. This includes risk management and more recently an expansion into the Property & Casualty career track of actuarial science. This latter part has contributed to friction between the two societies.
The SOA is significantly bigger and more recognized than the CAS at the time of this writing.
Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS)
Click here to view the CAS Exam Structure
Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) is the dominant society for those in the General Insurance track of actuarial science. The CAS is primarily based in the US and Canada, with limited presence elsewhere. General insurance, also called Property & Casualty insurance, refers to all non-life insurance products. This includes property insurance, car insurance, and liability insurance.
If you’re interested in property & casualty work in the United States, this is the track to take because it is what employers recognize. While the SOA has a general insurance track, it is not well recognized in the United States and Canada.
How to Choose Between SOA and CAS
How to choose between Society of Actuaries (SOA) and Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) depends on what you’re doing and what you want to do.
If you’re in school, it will depend on what track you want to pursue. If you want to pursue Property & Casualty specifically, then the CAS is the preferred option. Otherwise, the SOA will give more career options since it covers pensions, life, health, benefits, and risk management. Keep in mind where you would like to work and what actuarial jobs are available there when choosing.
Once you start working in an actuarial science job, it will greatly influence which set of exams you pursue. It would be hard to pursue CAS exams if you’re working in a health insurance role, for example. If you do choose to pursue a track differently from what you’re working in, I would advise you keep it to yourself. Pursuing a different track and exam system would signal to your employer that you’re not committed to the track and therefore would leave. This is a bad idea for many reasons, which we will cover in a different article on actuarial careers.
There has been talk of a merger between the SOA and CAS. If this merger happens, then you won’t have to worry about choosing between CAS and SOA. However even if a merger was to go through, it would likely take several years before everything is fully in effect. Actuaries tend to be risk adverse and this often means moving slowly.
When to Choose Between SOA and CAS
The first few exams provide joint-credit between CAS and SOA. So until you’re past that stage, you don’t need to choose between SOA and CAS since the exams you’ll be taking are the same.
When you’re searching for your first job, I would recommend applying for all actuarial jobs. It can be tough to get your first actuarial job and you don’t want to limit yourself. Getting actuarial experience also helps in giving you hands-on experience and let you know which track you actually prefer working in. While you’re still in school, you can apply for jobs in different actuarial tracks. Your reasoning to employers who ask is simply that you want to gain experience while you can.
Once you’re working full time in an actuarial job, then your choice between SOA and CAS has already been made. You’ll be pursuing the exams that your employers endorse, at least officially.