Insurance agents sell policies to individuals, groups, and companies. They also help clients file claims. Types of insurance include life, health, product and property, disability, long-term care, and casualty insurance. Some agents work for insurance companies, while others are independent and sell the policies of several insurers. Insurance agent certification and licensing standards vary by state and the type of insurance product.
Certification for Insurance Agents
The American Institute for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (AICPCU) and the Insurance Institute of America (IIA) jointly offer several certification and designation programs. The most well known program is the Certificate in General Insurance, which covers fundamental insurance principles and types of coverage. Other certifications offered by these organizations include Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), Associate in Claims (AIC), Associate in Insurance Services (AIS), Associate in Personal Insurance (API), and Accredited Advisor in Insurance (AAI).
Each state requires insurance agents to hold a license to sell policies. Most states require separate licenses to sell property and casualty insurance versus life and health insurance. The majority of states also require licensed insurance agents to complete continuing education programs every two years. Agents may take continuing education courses to learn more about various policies or to keep up with changing tax laws and government regulations that impact the insurance industry.
Most states require prospective insurance agents to complete pre-licensing coursework before taking state licensing exams. States typically require a specific number of pre-licensing class hours for each type of insurance. In many states, applicants who hold certain certifications from other states or specific professional designations may be exempt from some pre-licensing requirements. There is no requirement that insurance agents hold a college degree to obtain a license, but most employers prefer to hire applicants who hold an associate's or bachelor's degree in fields such as business, accounting, economics, math, or finance.
Education for Licensing
Pre-licensing training courses that prepare individuals for state certification exams are offered by special schools for insurance agents and some insurance companies. Additionally, the AICPCU, IIA, and the National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research (NAIER) provide pre-licensing courses and seminars. The curriculum for insurance agent certification and licensing courses includes commercial insurance, property and casualty, life and health, liability, and government regulations.
Due to the growing diversity of the United States, there is an increasing need for insurance agents who can speak languages other than English. The burgeoning elderly population is also expected to spur growth in some insurance products, including long-term-care and health insurance. College graduates with good people skills and knowledge of several insurance and financial products will have an edge in the job market. The number of insurance sales jobs is expected to grow 9% between 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Insurance agents earned a median annual salary of $48,200 in May 2015.
With the proper certification and licensing, insurance agents can sell a variety of products, either independently or with a company, and can expect a median salary of $48,200 in this ever-growing field.