Insurance, General

The insurance industry includes a number of different professionals who sell, evaluate and process policies and claims. Read more about the insurance industry here, including employment outlook, entry-level educational requirements and potential earnings for agents, clerks and underwriters.

Is a Career in the Insurance Industry for Me?

Career Overviews

Insurance is a financial tool used to guard against monetary losses due to disasters, illness and death. There are many types of insurance, including health, life, disability and property policies. Professionals employed in the insurance industry may hold positions as claims clerks, sales agents or underwriters.

Although a 40-hour work week is standard, sales agents may put in extra time to accommodate clients' schedules. Employment in 24-hour call centers can lead to an irregular schedule. Most insurance agents work in an office setting, but some workers may travel to meet with clients or examine properties.

Professional Duties

Insurance sales agents meet with clients and discuss insurance options. Insurance underwriters review insurance applications submitted by prospective clients and determine the risks attached to their policies. Underwriters may decline to offer policies if the risks are too high. Insurance claims clerks calculate how much a client will receive when a claim is submitted. If there is an issue or a dispute with a claim, they may send the paperwork to another department for further investigation.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment of insurance underwriters was expected to decrease by 6% nationwide from 2012-2022, due to the use of underwriting software. During the same 10-year period, an average growth in jobs was projected for insurance sales agents, as well as financial clerks who process insurance claims and policies. Computer-literate college graduates with good communication skills and a familiarity with a variety of products and services may have an edge in the job market. As of May 2013, insurance claims clerks earned a median yearly salary of $36,230, while insurance sales agents and underwriters earned $48,210 and $63,780, respectively (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in the Insurance Industry?

Educational Requirements

Most administrative support jobs in the insurance industry can be obtained with a high school diploma or a 2-year degree. With a high school diploma, you may also be able to find a job in insurance sales, but many employers prefer to hire college graduates. Insurance underwriters usually need to have a bachelor's degree in business or a related field.

Educational Options

Although there are a number of degree programs that can prepare you to work in the insurance industry, some schools offer programs designed specifically for insurance agents. If you're not ready to commit to four years of school, you can start with an associate's degree in business administration. Some associate's programs offer concentrations in management or finance. Depending on your course of study, you may explore the relationship between insurance and risk management and pursue topics in managerial accounting and corporate finance.

A bachelor's degree program in insurance and risk management can prepare you for a career in insurance sales, claims and underwriting. Coursework may include topics in commercial property, risk management, life insurance and employee benefits.

Licensing and Certification

Insurance sales agents need a state-issued license, which you can obtain by passing a series of exams. In terms of advancement and salary potential, underwriters can also benefit from an industry certification, such as the Associate in Commercial Underwriting (ACU) or the Associate in Personal Insurance (API) credential.

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