Explore the career requirements for insurance agents. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Risk Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Career Information At a Glance
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Is an Insurance Agent?
An insurance agent is a sales professional, either employed by an insurance industry firm or working as an independent broker, who sells property, life or health insurance to individuals and businesses. Usually you concentrate on one or two of these categories, since each line requires a separate state license. You might also sell policies in niche areas, such as marine, disability income, crop and malpractice insurance. Your duties generally include interviewing potential clients about their finances and customizing insurance policies to meet their needs, explaining policy terms, suggesting policy changes, calculating premiums and ensuring clients fulfill policy requirements.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Although some companies may hire you out of high school and most will train you on the job, most prefer applicants with postsecondary education in an area like business or economics. You might also choose a major in risk management and insurance, or a risk management concentration in a business administration degree, particularly if you're interested in eventually becoming an underwriter or insurance investigator. Some insurance companies have agent internship programs that allow you to begin training and working as an agent while in college, as long as you have the appropriate state license. O*Net OnLine in 2010 reported that about 46% of agents had a bachelor's degree in some field (www.onetonline.org ).
Step 2: Complete Prelicensure Requirements
States require you to have a license in each category of insurance for which you sell policies. You will need to complete prelicensure courses and be fingerprinted or submit information for a criminal background check. Depending on the state and the type of insurance, the prelicensure course may be classroom training or self-study, requiring about 20-50 hours. Classroom-based prelicensure courses may be available
at community colleges, public technical colleges or private for-profit education providers.
Step 3: Take License Exams
A state insurance license requires you to pass a licensing exam that covers state insurance laws and category-specific insurance concepts. Some types of life insurance may require you to hold a Series 6 or Series 7 securities registration. Exams for those qualifications are administered through national testing centers on behalf of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
Step 4: Pursue a Job
As an insurance agent, you might work directly for a specific insurance company as a captive agent, or you may appoint with several insurance companies and operate as an independent broker. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the insurance industry is trending toward the use of independent brokers. As you start out, you'll likely receive on-the-job training by working alongside experienced agents for a training period before prospecting for and seeing clients on your own.
Step 5: Maintain Licensure and Certifications
In most states you also have to complete continuing education courses in insurance law, ethics and policy terms every two years to renew any of your licenses. Although professional certifications are voluntary ways of demonstrating to existing and potential clients that you're well versed in your specialty or specialties, courses required for many common insurance certifications may fulfill continuing education requirements for state licensure.
The National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research (NAIER) offers the Certified Insurance Service Representatives, Certified Risk Managers and Certified Insurance Counselor (www.scic.com ). To earn any of the certifications you need to complete five NAIER courses and pass an exam. Each certification has its own tailored set of courses and exam, as well as continuing education requirements.
A number of organizations also offer certification if you choose to provide financial planning services, including the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards and American Institute for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters.
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