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University of Iowa: Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science

The University of Iowa of Iowa, founded in 1847, offered the first course in statistics “Least Squares and Statistics” in 1910. The Department of Statistics, founded in 1965, was renamed Statistics and Actuarial Science in 1981. The University of Iowa is located in Iowa City, Iowa. The department has four interrelated missions which serves the University, the state, and the world. These four missions are:

  • To provide both undergraduate and graduate students with strong degree programs and excellent instruction in probability, statistics, and actuarial science;
  • To conduct and publish outstanding research in probability, statistics, and actuarial science;
  • To promote the solid practice of statistics and;
  • To produce leaders in the insurance, pension, and actuarial consulting industry.

Probability and statistics are important scientific disciplines essential to all fields of study that rely on information obtained from data. In a world bombarded with numerical information, informed decisions rely on the ability to separate fact from fiction by applying valid statistical analyses and visualizations. Statisticians can provide crucial guidance in determining what information is reliable and which predictions may be trusted. They often help search for clues to the solution of a scientific mystery and sometimes keep investigators from being misled by false impressions.

The work of a statistician may range from the theoretical (developing new methodologies and statistical theory) to the applied (working with scientists and decision-makers to collect, analyze, and interpret data). Regardless of the areas in which they work, statisticians need strong mathematical, computational, and communication skills. Because uncertainty and data arise in many settings, statisticians have the opportunity to work on a variety of projects in industry, education, government, and research. Thousands of statisticians work in medicine, law, agriculture, public policy, marketing, manufacturing, engineering, and other fields in the social and natural sciences. The diversity of applications is an exciting aspect of the field and is one reason why the demand for well-trained statisticians continues to be strong.

The graduate program in Statistics prepares students for careers as professional statisticians. It includes a solid foundation in statistical computing, statistical modeling, experimental design, and mathematical statistics, plus electives in statistical methods, applications, or theory. Students have the opportunity to concentrate on theory, applications, or a combination of the two.

The graduate program in Actuarial Science prepares students for careers as professional actuaries and for some future academic positions. It helps students to learn the material that is included in professional examinations administered by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Casualty Actuary Society (CAS), which students must pass to achieve professional status. In 2009, The University of Iowa was one of twelve inaugural schools selected to be designated Centers of Actuarial Excellence (CAC).

An actuary is a business executive, professionally trained in the mathematical sciences. Actuaries specialize in the evaluation of financial risk—most often in the context of life, health, and casualty insurance, where they design, analyze, and refine varied programs to meet the insurance needs of society. Insurance companies employ many actuaries, who have responsibilities for all phases of the development and maintenance of their company's products. They have considerable influence on the financial soundness of their company through work in pricing insurance policies and in compiling data for financial statements.

Many actuaries are employed as consultants. Their actuarial services are utilized by smaller insurance companies and by individual employers who need actuarial guidance in establishing insurance and retirement programs for their employees. A growing number of actuaries work in the areas of asset/liability management and risk management. Some of these actuaries gain employment with investment and consulting firms; insurance companies employ others.

Actuaries have been called financial architects and social mathematicians because their combined analytical and business skills help solve a growing variety of financial and social problems. The actuarial profession is a demanding yet rewarding career choice.


Programs offered

  • Statistics, Bachelor of Science (B.A.)
  • Actuarial Science, Bachelor of Science (B.A.)
  • Data Science, Bachelor of Science (B.A.)
  • Statistics, Master of Science (M.S.)
  • Actuarial Science, Master of Science (M.S.)
  • Doctorate in Statistics (Ph.D.)
  • Doctorate in Statistics (with Emphasis on Actuarial Science) (Ph.D.)

Student body profile

Our graduates are in high demand, especially those with good communication skills. Company representatives recruit on campus and our excellent Pomerantz Career Center is ready to assist with career placement. Diversity is a key characteristic of our graduate program. The diverse student body is comprised of over 60 graduate students, almost all supported by fellowships or assistantships. Domestic students come from all regions of the United States while foreign students, constituting about 70% of students enrolled, come from diverse locations around the globe. The department is extremely proud of its students and their accomplishments. In 2015, one of our TAs won the Outstanding TA Award from the Council on Teaching. Our graduate students' research efforts enhance their employability. Conducting research, pure and applied, and fostering the next generation of college professors comprise the dual teaching and service missions of the Department. Typically, the Department graduates 2-5 Ph.D.’s per year and this number is rising. Probability and mathematical statistics emphasize a broad, solid foundation in techniques and underpinnings of mathematical statistics. Our goal is to produce well-rounded, knowledgeable scholars. It is excellent preparation for academic positions in mathematical statistics and industrial or government positions that require broadly trained statisticians and actuaries with a strong understanding of statistical theory and predictive analysis.

Funding opportunities

Financial support is available for nearly all of the Department's Ph.D. students with a variety of fellowships or as departmental graduate assistants, graders, or research assistants. Financial support for M.S. students is nearly 100% for Statistics students and nearly 50% for Actuarial Science students. All of our students get jobs! You may be interested in a list of our most recent Ph. D. graduates and their current positions.

More information

Our website

Contact for more information:

  • Dale Zimmerman