Should I Become a Health Insurance Agent?
|Degree Level||High school diploma or equivalent; bachelor's common|
|Degree Field||Insurance, business, finance, or related field|
|Licensure/Certification||State license required; voluntary certification available|
|Key Skills||Strong customer service, analytical, written and verbal communication, time-management, critical-thinking, decision-making skills; ability to handle rejection and take initiative|
|Salary||$64,790 (2015 for insurance sales agents)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net
Health insurance agents sell health-related products and insurance to their clients. They typically seek out clients, presenting them with health insurance options that meet their needs and, if necessary, assist with getting claims settled. Working weekends and evenings might be necessary to meet clients' scheduling needs. The education requirements are quite lax. A high school diploma is the minimum requirement, though health insurance agents must be licensed by their state. These workers also need strong customer-service and analytical skills, as well as verbal and written communication, time management, critical thinking and decision-making skills. These skills can lead to higher sales and, in turn, higher commission. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, insurance sales agents in general earned $64,790 per year as of May 2015.
Now let's explore the steps aspiring health insurance agents take toward this career.
Step 1: Acquire a College Education
A health insurance agent who can show a proven sales ability may be hired with just a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma. However, many employers prefer their health insurance agents to possess a college degree. Relevant majors for health insurance agents include finance, economics and business. Many colleges and universities offer courses in insurance, and select schools offer majors or minors in insurance. No matter what you choose to major in, you can help prepare yourself for the career by taking relevant coursework in sociology, communication, psychology, economics, business administration, accounting and finance.
Step 2: Obtain State Licensure
Every state requires insurance agents to be licensed, and separate licenses are issued for different types of insurance. So a health insurance agent must obtain licensure to sell health insurance. Depending on the state, this generally requires a health insurance agent to complete pre-licensing courses prior to taking licensing exams. However, some states may waive pre-licensing course requirements for those who hold a college degree.
Keep in mind that, since every state's laws are different, it's important that aspiring insurance agents contact the state licensing department before pursuing licensure to make sure they understand the state-specific requirements. The state licensing commission can provide information on education and exam requirements, including education waivers and provide you with a list of pre-licensing courses approved by the state licensing commission. After obtaining a license, you may need to complete continuing education courses to renew and maintain your licensure.
Step 3: Complete On-the-Job Training
Upon being hired, a new health insurance agent typically works under an experienced agent for an extended amount of time. This mentor system allows new agents to acquire the skills and practice necessary to succeed in the career. By watching an experienced worker, new health insurance agents learn how to communicate with clients, write insurance policies and conduct business appropriately.
Health insurance agents need to keep updated on important issues for insurance sales even after they complete the initial job training. Various changes in government programs, regulations and laws can occur and impact policies. As such, many take advantage of learning opportunities, such as industry forums and seminars, continuing education courses and industry publications.
Here's one last tip for success: consider earning professional certification. While certification isn't mandatory, employers may favor applicants with a professional credential that demonstrates skill and proficiency. It may also lead to greater advancement opportunities within the field. The main certifying body for these professionals is the National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research, which offers the Certified Insurance Counselor designation.
A career as a health insurance agent generally requires a high school diploma and state licensure, though a bachelor's degree and voluntary certification may improve job opportunities.