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.
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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:

1. Where can I find out about pre-licensure and licensure requirements in my state?

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.

2. Are there any continuing education requirements to maintain my license?

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.

3. Are there additional career options once I’ve earned licensure as an insurance agent?

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.

4. Should I join an insurance industry trade association?

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.

5. What are some of the most important skills needed to succeed in this career?

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.

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%

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:

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:

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