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BYU Becomes a Center of Actuarial Excellence

Brian Hartman, director of the BYU actuarial program. Photo by Cassie Carlson.

BYU is the first program in the western United States to receive this designation

BYU’s actuarial science program is now recognized by the Society of Actuaries as a Center of Actuarial Excellence (CAE).

“As the only designated CAE in the western half of the U.S., the Society of Actuaries has recognized the incredible students produced by excellent faculty in actuarial science,” said Shane Reese, the dean of the BYU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. “We welcome this new designation as part of the growth in quantitative expertise, led by Professor Hartman and fostered by the Department of Statistics.”

In fact, out of the 185 actuarial programs in the nation, BYU is only the 17th to receive this title.

“For many years, our actuarial faculty have been providing the best in actuarial training, and our graduates have been performing in ways that have built a stellar reputation for our program. This designation as a Center for Actuarial Excellence is an appropriate culmination of these successes,” said William Christensen, chair of the Statistics Department which houses the actuarial program. “I couldn’t be more pleased by this recognition of the caliber of our students and faculty in the actuarial program.”

The recognition will create more opportunities in the actuarial program including helping students as they compete for jobs.

“More than just a deserving pat on the back, this designation will provide additional research opportunities for our students, funding opportunities for our faculty and—because CAE status makes BYU more visible to national recruiters—will extend our students’ network of potential employers,” said Christensen. “I am deeply grateful to Brian Hartman, our current director of the actuarial program and to all the other current and former faculty who have devotedly contributed to the program over the years.”

Students in the BYU actuarial club.

This prestigious designation only goes to programs who meet demanding standards including having a high placement of graduates and a robust curriculum that prepares students to succeed in the industry and pass the rigorous actuarial exams. Building a program that would meet the Society of Actuaries’s criteria was no small feat.

“We hired more faculty, and we upped the research we were doing,” said Brian Hartman. “We worked as hard as we could to help our graduates be desirable to employers. Over the last three years, we only had four out of almost 100 graduates who didn’t have a job at graduation.”

This job placement rate is especially impressive because there are few actuarial jobs in Utah. Hartman said this designation communicates to professionals that BYU has a strong actuarial program. “It’s really attractive to employers in Denver, Phoenix, Seattle, Hartford, Boston or New York,” he said. “We can now say, ‘We have this CAE recognition; our students are truly prepared to work in the field.’”

Even though passing extremely difficult exams is a big part of the process to becoming an actuarial scientist, BYU’s program has made a serious effort to not become just a test prep center. “We are teaching them things that will actually help them in their jobs and help them learn how to think. We balance that with making sure they are also prepared for their actuarial exams,” said Hartman.

Actuarial science is the process of assigning prices to uncertain events that might happen in the future. Actuaries must develop a deep understanding of risk, using analytical skills to protect organizations against loss from accidents. “We figure out how much insurance should cost, by calculating, for example, ‘What’s your probability of getting into a car accident, and if you do, how much will it cost?’ We use these things to calculate premiums,” explained Hartman.

People who are drawn to statistics enjoy solving problems with numbers, and actuarial science is essentially a statistics-business combo. “I’ve always liked the business and finance aspects of statistics, so that intersection of using technical data to solve business problems is very satisfying,” said Hartman.

This new recognition allows BYU to shine among some of the best schools in the nation, such as the University of Connecticut, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Michigan. Said Hartman with a grin, “It’s fun to be able to be grouped with these top schools. Even if we aren’t in the same conference for football, we are in the same league in actuarial science.”

For questions pertaining to the actuarial science program, please contact Actuarial Program Director Dr. Brian Hartman at (801) 422-5647 or