A college education can help experienced agents move into careers in risk management, working as actuaries, or other positions that require postsecondary education. Plus, having a background in business and finance can be a tremendous asset to agents.
Agents sell many different kinds of insurance, such as property, casualty, disability and personal lines of insurance. These are referred to as “lines of authority” in the industry. Agents must receive licensure for their particular line of authority. Knowing what type of insurance you want to sell is an important step in the career path.
Pre-licensure requirements vary from state to state, but they are a mandatory step toward earning licensure as an insurance agent or broker. For example, California applicants for casualty licensure must complete 20 hours of general pre-licensing education, as well as 12 hours of education in the state’s ethics and insurance codes. Students should check with their state’s insurance department for pre-licensure requirements.
All agents must pass a licensing exam to sell insurance. The National Insurance Producer Registry has compiled a list of state-specific licensing requirements, associated fees and other important data about the licensing process.
Agents who have met all the requirements and earned licensure are eligible for employment at insurance agencies and brokerages, which can vary from small local brokerages to regional offices of well-known insurance carriers.
Many entry-level insurance agents learn the duties of the job by working alongside more experienced agents. Following are some of the most frequently asked questions by new and aspiring insurance agents:
Each state has an insurance board or commission that can help applicants determine the mandatory requirements in their state. The American Council of Life Insurers provides a list of all 50 state insurance departments on its website.
Yes. Changes in federal insurance laws, insurance benefits programs and other areas can impact client’s needs. Most state insurance boards require agents and brokers to complete continuing education courses to keep abreast of these changes to maintain their licensure. The Institutes Risk & Insurance Knowledge Group provides a list of each state’s continuing education requirements for a wide range of common industry certifications.
Yes. Insurance agents – especially those who have completed bachelor degree programs – often move on to more advanced careers. These include working as insurance underwriters, actuaries, cost estimators, appraisers, claims adjusters or in risk assessment and risk management.
Definitely. There are dozens of industry trade organizations that provide members with discounts on continuing education, educational resources, opportunities for professional development and networking, and regional and national conferences where agents can mingle with like-minded peers. These resources can be an important avenue for career growth.
Agents need to be highly analytical so they can assess their client’s needs. They should be excellent communicators to discuss which policies meet client’s needs and why. They need to be self-starters and actively find new clients and build a book of business to keep commissions flowing. Lastly, they need to have the self-confidence to call potential clients and discuss the benefits of buying new or additional lines of insurance.
Wages for insurance agents are typically tied to commissions, which can account for a wide discrepancy in pay. Wages also vary greatly depending on an agent’s skills, specialties and experience.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual salaries for insurances sales agents was just under $50,000 in 2017. However, the top 10 percent of agents earned more than $125,000 annually, while the bottom 10 percent took home just over $27,000.
Payscale.com places median wages for entry-level agents at just over $33,000 annually, while more experienced agents earn approximately $42,000 per year. Late-career professionals and agents with skills in customer relations, account sales and management all can potentially earn more.
The following chart shows mean annual wages and employment data by state for insurance agents:
Employment of insurance agents is expected to increase by 10 percent through 2026, the BLS reports. That translates into about 50,000 new positions during that time span. Demand is expected to be greatest for independent agents as large insurance organizations place more emphasis on these agents to help control their costs.
Although insurance agents play a key role in the industry, many consumers in today’s highly connected world perform online research and purchase policies on their own, which has reduced demand for new agents. Still, online shoppers typically have regular interaction with agents to help fully understand their policies, make changes, file claims, and other routine business.
Job prospects are expected to be best for college-educated agents and agents with excellent sales, customer service and communications skills, as well as for multilingual agents who can serve a wider customer base.
As noted, insurance agents aren’t required to complete formal degree programs to work in the field. They are, however, required to complete pre-licensure training to develop core competencies in regards to the insurance products they will sell to their clients. Agents can complete these requirements through a number of online service providers, or they can attend regional training facilities certified through their state’s insurance department. Key points to consider when researching pre-licensure programs include delivery method, length and cost.
Remember that each insurance product – property, casualty, life, etc. – requires certification. There is no blanket certification that allows agents to sell every insurance product. Agents should know what type of product they’ll work with, as well as the state in which they’ll work prior to beginning pre-licensure training to ensure they meet the licensure requirements in their home state.
Agents who choose to enroll in associate or bachelor’s degree programs to potentially boost their career opportunities can use the search tool below to help find appropriate degree programs in their home state.
Membership in insurance agent associations and industry trade groups can help insurance agents in numerous ways. These organizations offer opportunities for professional development, help agents stay abreast of important industry news and events, and provide an important voice of advocacy in legislative and regulatory issues. They also can lead to key networking opportunities, which is an important business development tool for insurance agents and brokers – relationship building has long been a key tenet of the insurance industry.
Insurance agents should consider membership or attending the national conferences of one or more of the following organizations:
The leading trade organization for agents who work in property and casualty insurance. Provides agents with access to industry expertise in insurance law, tax, claims and accounting, public policy representation and access to a wide range of online resources.
Trade group representing more than 290 member companies. ACLI members write 93 percent of life insurance policies written in the U.S. Provides advocacy, guidelines on industry standards, a wealth of fact-based research, and networking opportunities at events held throughout the year.
This Washington, D.C.-based trade association was founded in 1913 and represents leading commercial and employee benefits brokerages. Provides leadership academies, conferences, working groups and professional development opportunities.
National alliance of more than 250,000 business owners and employees working in all sectors of the insurance industry. Provides legal advocacy, online resources, professional development, education, and networking opportunities at events and conferences.
Provides information, resources, analysis and referrals for a diverse range of members, including insurance professionals, media, regulatory organizations, higher education institutions and their students.
The leading trade organization is dedicated to women working in the insurance and financial services industries. Member benefits include access to monthly webinars on business mentorship and professional development, peer connection opportunities, and registration to the WIFS annual national conference.
Founded in 1950 to represent agents working in risk management. Offers opportunities for professional certification, IRMI conferences, continuing education and tens of thousands of pages of online reference content.
This trade association was founded in 1931 and has agent members in all 50 states. Provides opportunities for personal education, a wide range of industry-specific insurance products, marketing materials, and discounts with many different goods and service providers.
Founded in 1962 in Southern California, this member-driven organization is dedicated to serving the needs of independent brokers and agents. Membership benefits include access to industry insurance, government advocacy, continuing education, and networking opportunities at local meetings and the AAA national convention.
There are many other specialty insurance and related trade associations in the U.S. as well. The Insurance Risk Management Institute offers a comprehensive list of insurance organizations on its website.
The leading insurance industry trade groups provide a wealth of resources that support agents and can help broaden their career opportunities. Here are some additional resources insurance agents can access:
Provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, this page offers a wealth of resources for health insurance agents and brokers.
Allows agents to instantly capture electronic signatures on agreements and transactions, which can increase workflow and speed up internal processes.
Evernote captures, organizes and shares notes, helping agents stay in sync on projects and collaborate with other team members.
Insurance agents often speak with a dozen or more clients on any given day. This online video conferencing tool can help track meeting times and provide more meaningful interaction between agents and key clients.
Mobile app developed by Blue I, LLC for both iPhones and Android-based smartphones. Insurance Agent allows clients to easily stay in contact with their agency, manage their policies, file accident reports and perform other insurance-related functions.
A must-read for agents across multiple lines of authority. Insurance Journal provides key industry news, expert insight, forums, a job board, and news by geographical region.