How to Become a Life Insurance Underwriter

Learn how to become a life insurance underwriter. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in the field of insurance underwriting.

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  • 0:01 Life insurance Underwriters
  • 0:28 Career Requirements
  • 1:17 Steps to Become an Underwriter

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Life Insurance Underwriters

Life insurance underwriters assess the potential risks of providing insurance coverage to policyholders using a specific set of criteria. Computer programs help underwriters make calculations to determine risk. Life insurance underwriters then use the provided data to decide on the appropriate coverage and insurance premium. Many work hours may be spent seated at a desk and looking at a computer screen.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree preferred
Degree Field Not specified; coursework in mathematics, finance, business, and economics beneficial
Certification Several certification options available
Experience Related experience can sometimes replace a degree
Key Skills Ability to work well with others and make mathematical calculations; attention to detail; strong evaluation and analytical skills; ability to use computer software related to the insurance industry
Median Salary (2015) $65,040 (for all insurance underwriters)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

A bachelor's degree is preferred by many employers, though related experience can sometimes be used in place of a degree. While there is not one specific major required, having completed coursework in mathematics, finance, business and economics can be beneficial. Several industry certification options are available and preferred or required by employers.

Life insurance underwriters typically have the ability to work well with others, have attention to detail, strong evaluation and analytical skills. They use computer software related to the insurance industry and make mathematical calculations.

According to 2015 data, compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, insurance underwriters earned a median annual wage of $65,040.

Steps to Become an Underwriter

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Some students choose to pursue a degree in financing or business administration or another related program, such as a Bachelor of Science in Insurance. Other students acquire an education in business law or accounting.

Students aspiring to work as life insurance underwriters should volunteer or work part-time in an insurance company. Students can learn about the insurance industry, as well as develop their skills while working on their undergraduate degree. The acquired knowledge can be an asset when applying for a permanent position. Students should also consider work or co-op programs for college students offered by some insurance companies.

Step 2: Get Work Experience

Recent college graduates may want to consider entry-level jobs in order to gain more work experience before applying for more complex positions. By starting out in entry-level jobs, such as insurance policy processing clerks and procurement clerks, candidates can learn about the insurance industry, acquire skills in using computers and develop their analytical and reasoning abilities for more complex work.

Step 3: Complete Training

Job training is typically a requirement of all trainees or assistants starting out in the underwriting business. Candidates who have acquired insurance experience or received a degree can work as a trainee under the supervision of an experienced worker, helping them to perform routine research and applications. During this time, a life insurance underwriter also studies more complex claim files.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

Most employers expect insurance underwriters to obtain certification. Through the coursework required for certification, new employees stay up-to-date on changes within insurance industry policies and standards, especially as they may apply to federal and state regulatory requirements. Introductory certification is offered through organizations that include The Institutes and the American College.

These organizations also offer continuing education courses for underwriters participate in continuing education. Because of various changes that regularly impact the insurance industry, it can be beneficial to continue training.

Step 5: Gain Experience

Insurance underwriters learn and obtain new skills on the job. With enough experience, promotion to a senior position or management position, which may involve mentoring, training, or managing the performance of newer employees, is possible for underwriters that demonstrate leadership ability.

Life insurance underwriters use specific criteria to assess the risks of providing insurance coverage to individuals seeking a policy. A bachelor's degree in a relevant field is preferred by employers, though experience may be enough for employment. As of 2015, insurance underwriters earned a median wage of just over $65,000 annually.

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