How Can I Become a Life Insurance Underwriter?

Research what it takes to become a life insurance underwriter. Learn about education requirements, job duties, salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Risk Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Life Insurance Underwriter?

Life insurance underwriters use sophisticated software to determine the risk of providing life insurance to an individual or group. They communicate with insurance companies and insurance agents, screen applicants and evaluate recommendations produced by software. They also contact medical personnel to gather more information and set appropriate premiums for clients. These professionals are then responsible for making the decision to offer insurance. The table below outlines some career facts about life insurance underwriters.

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Business administration, finance or a related major
Key Responsibilities Collect information to determine the risk involved in approving a life insurance policy for an applicant and be knowledgeable of changes in the industry
Licensure/Certification Certification is required by some employers
Job Growth (2014-2024)* -11% for all insurance underwriters
Median Salary (2015)* $65,040 for all insurance underwriters

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Training Do I Need as a Life Insurance Underwriter?

Life insurance underwriters gather and review information from insurance applicants to determine the risks involved in approving their life insurance policies. There are many factors to consider in calculating the risk, which requires a variety of training and skills.

Employers prefer you have either experience in the insurance industry or a bachelor's degree in business administration, finance or a related major. These degrees are most desirable because of the advance coursework in accounting and business law. You'll also need to possess strong verbal and written communication, competency with computers and the ability to exercise good judgment and attention to detail.

Once employed as an underwriter, you'll want to remain current with changes in the industry, including upgrades to insurance software, legal requirements and industry standards. If you wish to seek advancement into a management or supervisory role, you'll need additional training and perhaps a business-related master's degree. If you enter into life insurance sales, you must obtain a state license, which requires additional education and the passage of an exam.

How Does a Typical Career Begin?

New underwriters typically work as either an assistant underwriter or underwriter trainee. You may participate in an on-the-job training program that may last from a few months up to a year. Under the supervision of an experienced risk analyst, you'll learn how to collect the data needed to evaluate risk. You'll perform practice evaluations to learn how the process unfolds and how decisions are made.

What Is Involved In Underwriting?

Underwriting involves collecting information from various sources and using them to determine the risk involved in approving a life insurance policy for the applicant. The goal is not to expose the company to too much loss. As a life insurance underwriter, you'll also:

  • Assess benefits
  • Weigh costs
  • Decide coverage
  • Set fees
  • Write policies

Where Will I Work?

The majority of underwriters are employed by insurance companies. Most work 40-hour weeks in an office setting. You may work with insurance agents, insurance carriers and insurance buyers.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Those interested in becoming a life insurance underwriter may also wish to consider some related alternative careers. For instance, actuaries use mathematics to help businesses and clients determine potential risks and minimize costs. Actuaries generally need a bachelor's degree to gain entry-level employment. Insurance sales agents only need a high school diploma. They work for insurance companies to sell clients insurance plans. Budget analysts work for various organizations and help create budgets. They need a bachelor's degree in a related field to gain entry.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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