The CIA Education and Qualification System—Past, Present, and Future


By Alicia Rollo, CHRL

Staying current with the CIA’s eligibility requirements is important. Even if you are already a Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (FCIA), you probably work with candidates who are either just starting out or are midway through exams, and who look to you for advice and guidance. Or, you may be a new Associate of the CIA, working towards achieving the FCIA designation. Regardless of what stage you are at in your career, having and providing accurate information is critical. This article provides an overview and update on the new CIA syllabus and associated qualification requirements, as well as the education pathways, and highlights some anticipated changes. If you need further information at any time, please contact us. A list of eligibility and education staff contacts is included at the end of this article.

The CIA Education Syllabus

Looking at education holistically, the CIA education system is made up of a number of parts, including in-house as well as outsourced education and examinations which are delivered by the CIA’s education partners, the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS), the Society of Actuaries (SOA), and 11 accredited universities. At the core of the system is the CIA’s education syllabus, which outlines the requirements for Associate and Fellow membership in the CIA, and is the benchmark against which all education partners are evaluated and selected.

The first iteration of the CIA syllabus, approved by the Board in November 2015, is the result of the work of the former Task Force on Canadian Eligibility and Education, chaired by Angelita Graham, and the current CIA Education Syllabus Committee, co-chaired by Mathieu Boudreault and Thomas Hinton. Final touches to the syllabus document are underway after which it will be translated and published to the CIA website in early summer. The syllabus will continue to evolve and will be updated soon to reflect the pending approval and implementation of the revised IAA education syllabus.

The existence of the CIA syllabus marks a key milestone in the CIA’s education strategy, which ultimately is for the CIA to have greater responsibility and accountability for the education of actuaries in Canada.

The Evolution of the Qualification Requirements for ACIA/FCIA

Historically, the path to membership in the CIA was straightforward. Get your Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA), Associate of the Casualty Actuarial Society (ACAS), Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (FSA), or Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society (FCAS), or other Fellow designation from a country with which the CIA had a mutual recognition agreement (MRA), acquire the appropriate experience (for qualification as a Fellow), and then apply to the CIA. It truly was a 100 percent outsourced model. Despite the fact that many Canadians volunteered, and still do today, on education committees of the CAS and SOA, the CIA had no official accountability or responsibility for syllabus content or examinations, except for the Board’s overall approval of the qualification requirements, as defined by other actuarial organizations.

Practice Education Course (PEC)

Things began to change in the year 2000 when nation-specific material was removed from the SOA exams. The CIA created its Practice Education Course (PEC) to ensure candidates in all specialty tracks, including property and casualty (P&C), received the required Canadian-specific education and assessments. This was the CIA’s first foray into direct accountability and responsibility for actuarial education.

Since that time, the CIA has partnered with the CAS for assessment of property and casualty specialty knowledge, including Exam 6–Canada (formerly exam 7–C). As a result of a memorandum of understanding on education with the CAS, the content for Exam 6–Canada is now established by a committee of the CIA, and the exam is set and administered by the CAS.

For the individual life and annuities, retirement benefits, group and health, corporate finance and enterprise risk management (ERM), and quantitative finance and investment tracks offered by the SOA, Canadian content, where relevant, has been reinserted over time on the SOA examinations. Now most Fellowship tracks cover the CIA syllabus to the desired 85 percent threshold, resulting in some duplication of content between SOA exams and PEC exams. We are currently working with the SOA to increase coverage of the group and health track to also meet this requirement so that we can determine how the PEC should evolve in the near future.

Future of the Practice Education Course

Given that the CIA syllabus is being well covered by the examinations of the SOA and CAS, the time has come to look at the PEC and how it can be better deployed. The Education Syllabus Committee and PEC Organizing Committee are currently looking at a potential new design for PEC. The PEC will definitely remain in its current form for 2016 and 2017, with changes likely being introduced for the 2018 sitting. Please watch the CIA website and announcements for updates as these plans progress.

It is important to note that as PEC evolves, so will the CIA’s requirements in terms of recognition of SOA exams. Currently candidates do not specifically have to write the Canadian versions of SOA examinations because the CIA’s desired additional content is covered and examined at PEC. If the CIA chooses once again to rely solely on the SOA examinations for assessment, the Canadian versions of examinations, where they exist, will be a firm requirement. This is advance notice to anyone just getting started on their Fellowship courses and exams with the SOA to choose the Canadian version of an examination where one exists, to ensure that it will be recognized by the CIA. Otherwise, a candidate may need to write the Canadian-specific version of an exam that they already completed.

International Portability of the ACIA/FCIA Designation

Mutual recognition agreements facilitate the international mobility of CIA members. The CIA is fortunate to have MRAs in place with actuarial organizations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and, most recently, South Africa. These agreements allow Associates and Fellows of the CIA to be eligible for membership in these countries, provided that they also meet country-specific requirements. The MRAs also allow candidates from these countries to be eligible for membership in the CIA, provided that they also meet our specific requirements.

Members holding the FCIA designation are also eligible to apply for the Member, American Academy of Actuaries (MAAA) designation for work in the United States.

University Accreditation Program

A more recent development in the CIA education system was the introduction of the University Accreditation Program (UAP) in 2012. The UAP allows candidates to receive credit for some of the preliminary exams (FM, MFE, MLC, and C) by successfully completing accredited university courses at the grades established by the CIA. All accredited universities are closely monitored by the CIA, and an external examiner visit is conducted at every university each year. During these visits, copies of the course examinations are carefully reviewed, and the external examiner meets with the instructors who teach the accredited courses. The accreditation actuary (AcA) in each university also plays a critical role. The AcA must be a Fellow, and is responsible for ensuring the CIA accreditation policy and preferred practices are followed.

Recognition of UAP

UAP is growing in popularity with more than 400 UAP credits granted in the first four years of the program. We are starting to see our first ACIAs and very soon we will see FCIAs who have come through the UAP education pathway.

We are thankful for the employer support we have received for the program to date and for the CAS’ recognition of UAP towards the achievement of the ACAS and FCAS designations. In addition, we are thankful to our MRA partners who also recognize UAP credits, which allow UAP candidates more career options internationally.

While some employers are accustomed to using the preliminary exams as a selection tool, it would be to their advantage not to overlook candidates with the equivalent UAP credits in their recruitment process, since these are bright young candidates who have excelled in their courses and have duly earned credit from the CIA for some of the preliminary exams.

Looking Forward

Stay tuned to the CIA website and communications for important updates as the education system continues to evolve. A Task Force on the Future Vision of CIA Education is currently working on a report and recommendations which are anticipated to reach the Board in the fall of 2016. These are very interesting and exciting times in the maturation of the CIA as an education body, with full accountability and responsibility for the education of actuaries in Canada.

Questions and comments regarding the CIA education system can be directed to me or to any of the following staff:

 Roxanne Vézina

Coordinator, membership and education

  • General membership and eligibility inquiries

 ext. 111

 Caroline Thebault

Coordinator, education and professional development

  • UAP
  • PEC

 ext. 134

 Joseph Gabriel

Staff actuary, education 

  • Eligibility inquiries
  • MRAs
  • UAP
  • CIA Syllabus


 ext. 150

Alicia Rollo, CHRL, is the CIA’s director of membership, education, and professional development.

Canadian Institute of Actuaries/Institut canadien des actuaires