How to Become an Insurance Salesperson: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become an insurance salesperson. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in insurance sales. View article »

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  • 0:00 Become an Insurance…
  • 0:36 Career Requirements
  • 1:20 Career Steps

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Video Transcript

Become an Insurance Salesperson

Insurance sales agents sell property and casualty, health, life or a combination of these types of insurance. There are generally two types of insurance salespeople: captive agents who work for a single insurance company and sell that company's policies and independent insurance agents who are employed by brokerages and sell policies offered by multiple insurance companies. Evenings and weekends may often be spent completing paperwork or meeting with clients whose schedules don't allow for weekday appointments.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent; bachelor's degree common
Degree Field Any major; business, economics and finance suggested
Training On-the-job training usually mandatory for new insurance agents
Licensure and Certification Licensure is required by the state; voluntary certification is advantageous
Key Skills Analytical mind; excellent customer-service skills; initiative and self-confidence for seeking out and attaining new clients
Salary $48,200 (2015 median salary for insurance sales agents)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Getting into the insurance sales career requires a minimum of a high school diploma, though many insurance salespeople hold bachelor's degrees. Any major is acceptable, though courses in business, economics and finance are beneficial. On-the-job training is usually mandatory for new insurance agents. Licensure is required by the state. Certification is advantageous but not mandatory. The key skills include analytical mind, excellent customer-service skills, and an initiative and self-confidence for seeking out and attaining new clients. In 2015, insurance sales agents earned a median annual salary of $48,200, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now let's check out the career steps for insurance sales agents.

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Career Steps

Step 1: Earn a Degree

When high school graduates qualify for employment as insurance salespeople, college graduates are expected to have the best job prospects in this field, according to the BLS. Some universities and colleges offer bachelor's degree programs in insurance and risk management, which cover topics like risk management principles, life and health insurance, commercial risk management and employee benefits. A degree in or related to business is also a viable option. In fact, the BLS notes that education and knowledge in business can lead to advancement to managerial positions.

To get the most out of your degree, take courses geared towards a sales career. No matter what degree program an aspiring insurance salesperson enrolls in, they should take courses that provide them with the skills necessary for the profession. Courses in finance, math and accounting may prove beneficial for the task of gathering and analyzing clients' financial data, while courses in marketing and public speaking can help students sharpen their sales skills. Additionally, students should learn a second language during college, since, according to the BLS, multilingual salespeople should have an advantage in the job market.

You should also gain sales experience. During college, future insurance salespeople can further develop their selling skills by working in a sales position. A job in retail or wholesale sales, for example, can transfer nicely to a career in insurance sales. Another option is to complete an internship program in insurance. In fact, some degree programs incorporate internships into their curricula.

Step 2: Earn Licensure

Before selling insurance in the Unites States, insurance agents must earn licensure from their state of employment. Different forms of licensure are required for the sale of different types of insurance. For example, a separate license is required for the sale of property and casualty insurance as well as life and health insurance. Applicants usually need to complete state-mandated courses and pass exams in order to obtain licenses.

To really shine in your field, get licensed to sell other services and products. Along with insurance, these salespeople can sell annuities, mutual funds and financial planning services, like estate planning for elderly clients. Separate licensure is required for the sale of such services and products. To sell variable annuities and mutual funds, one must pass the Series 6 exam administered by the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), while someone who wants to general securities must pass the NASDs Series 7 exam.

Additionally, renew your license. In many states, insurance sales licensure must be renewed every two years. This involves taking continuing education courses that focus on insurance law, ethics and policies for different types of insurance.

Step 3: Obtain Employment

Beginning insurance salespeople can find work with insurance agencies, though most work for brokerage firms. Once hired, new employees will undergo an on-the-job training period in which they shadow more experienced salespeople. It's important to note that, since they have little or no clientele, entry-level insurance agents are often unsuccessful in meeting their sales goals, which means they often do not earn enough commission to live on. For this reason, many insurance salespeople leave the occupation to pursue other careers.

It is also important to continue your education. Many employers expect salespeople to stay up-to-date in laws and regulations pertinent to insurance. As such, take college courses in insurance and attend industry conferences.

Step 4: Join a Professional Organization

Aspiring insurance salespersons seeking to advance their careers may consider joining a professional organization, such as the Association for Professional Insurance Agents (PIA), which offers members access to continuing education, networking opportunities, industry-related events, publications and other services for professional growth.

To recap, with a high school diploma, postsecondary degree, experience and licensure, an insurance sales agent can earn about $48,000 a year to sell property and casualty, health, life or a combination of these types of insurance.

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