How to Become an Insurance Agent

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5 Steps to Becoming an Insurance Agent

Step 1 Decide if you want to complete an associate or bachelor’s degree program.

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.

Step 2 Pick a specialty.

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.

Step 3 Complete pre-licensure requirements.

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.

Step 4 Pass a licensing exam.

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.

Step 5 Apply at insurance agencies.

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.

FAQ on Becoming an Insurance Agent

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:

Insurance Agent Salary & Job Growth

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:

Alabama Mean wage annual: $78,860
Currently Employed: 5,560
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10.70%
Alaska Mean wage annual: $60,910
Currently Employed: 530
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 2.80%
Arizona Mean wage annual: $64,430
Currently Employed: 7,500
Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A
Arkansas Mean wage annual: $59,890
Currently Employed: 2,880
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9.80%
California Mean wage annual: $77,700
Currently Employed: 39,920
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12.30%
Colorado Mean wage annual: $65,030
Currently Employed: 9,880
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 21.10%
Connecticut Mean wage annual: $77,300
Currently Employed: 6,110
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6.30%
Delaware Mean wage annual: $66,450
Currently Employed: 1,020
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11%
Florida Mean wage annual: $67,140
Currently Employed: 33,000
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 19.10%
Georgia Mean wage annual: $62,290
Currently Employed: 12,160
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12.10%
Hawaii Mean wage annual: $63,670
Currently Employed: 930
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9.80%
Idaho Mean wage annual: $61,590
Currently Employed: 1,820
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 26.70%
Illinois Mean wage annual: $66,080
Currently Employed: 13,350
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12.20%
Indiana Mean wage annual: $60,860
Currently Employed: 9,590
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8.10%
Iowa Mean wage annual: $58,340
Currently Employed: 6,480
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 21.30%
Kansas Mean wage annual: $61,620
Currently Employed: 4,020
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13.40%
Kentucky Mean wage annual: $53,370
Currently Employed: 4,440
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10.70%
Louisiana Mean wage annual: $48,880
Currently Employed: 6,200
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8.40%
Maine Mean wage annual: $50,090
Currently Employed: 1,890
Change in Employment (2016-2026): -0.90%
Maryland Mean wage annual: $63,450
Currently Employed: 7,010
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11%
Massachusetts Mean wage annual: $87,700
Currently Employed: 6,490
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8.70%
Michigan Mean wage annual: $65,760
Currently Employed: 11,040
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11.40%
Minnesota Mean wage annual: $82,760
Currently Employed: 6,670
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10.70%
Mississippi Mean wage annual: $55,050
Currently Employed: 3,130
Change in Employment (2016-2026): -5%
Missouri Mean wage annual: $57,260
Currently Employed: 8,700
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10.20%
Montana Mean wage annual: $64,660
Currently Employed: 1,440
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13.40%
Nebraska Mean wage annual: $60,940
Currently Employed: 3,480
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9.30%
Nevada Mean wage annual: $61,420
Currently Employed: 3,290
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 22.60%
New Hampshire Mean wage annual: $62,630
Currently Employed: 1,440
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8.30%
New Jersey Mean wage annual: $75,900
Currently Employed: 9,820
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 4.10%
New Mexico Mean wage annual: $47,970
Currently Employed: 1,240
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14.90%
New York Mean wage annual: $87,220
Currently Employed: 20,000
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 3.70%
North Carolina Mean wage annual: $66,110
Currently Employed: 10,840
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13.10%
North Dakota Mean wage annual: $63,310
Currently Employed: 1,240
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 20.50%
Ohio Mean wage annual: $61,060
Currently Employed: 15,820
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6.20%
Oklahoma Mean wage annual: $56,630
Currently Employed: 4,260
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12.20%
Oregon Mean wage annual: $60,440
Currently Employed: 4,100
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11.70%
Pennsylvania Mean wage annual: $82,790
Currently Employed: 14,870
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6.40%
Rhode Island Mean wage annual: $61,520
Currently Employed: 1,330
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7.10%
South Carolina Mean wage annual: $55,150
Currently Employed: 6,490
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9.30%
South Dakota Mean wage annual: $64,760
Currently Employed: 1,850
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9.90%
Tennessee Mean wage annual: $57,730
Currently Employed: 7,550
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11.40%
Texas Mean wage annual: $56,550
Currently Employed: 32,660
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 21.80%
Utah Mean wage annual: $55,580
Currently Employed: 4,080
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 32.80%
Vermont Mean wage annual: $68,970
Currently Employed: 830
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7.70%
Virginia Mean wage annual: $63,700
Currently Employed: 9,900
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9.40%
Washington Mean wage annual: $58,990
Currently Employed: 8,030
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 4.70%
West Virginia Mean wage annual: $47,200
Currently Employed: 1,820
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 2%
Wisconsin Mean wage annual: $74,450
Currently Employed: 8,260
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10.40%
Wyoming Mean wage annual: $46,520
Currently Employed: 630
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 16.30%
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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.

Finding an Insurance Agent Program

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.

Top 10 Insurance Agent Associations & Groups

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:

  • American Insurance Association

    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.

  • American Council of Life Insurers

    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.

  • Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers

    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.

  • Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America

    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.

  • Insurance Information Institute

    Provides information, resources, analysis and referrals for a diverse range of members, including insurance professionals, media, regulatory organizations, higher education institutions and their students.

  • Women in Insurance and Financial Services

    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.

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society

    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.

  • National Association of Professional Insurance Agents

    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.

  • American Agents Alliance

    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.

  • Insurance Marketing and Communications Association

    Industry organization dedicated to advancing innovation and creativity in insurance marketing and communications. Also provides opportunities for professional development, networking and collaboration among members.

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.

Additional Resources for Insurance Agents

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:

  • CCIIO – Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight

    Provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, this page offers a wealth of resources for health insurance agents and brokers.

  • Docusign

    Allows agents to instantly capture electronic signatures on agreements and transactions, which can increase workflow and speed up internal processes.

  • Evernote

    Evernote captures, organizes and shares notes, helping agents stay in sync on projects and collaborate with other team members.

  • GoToMeeting

    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.

  • Insurance Agent

    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.

  • Insurance Journal

    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.