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If you want to become an insurance agent, there are lots of paths you can take. Whether you want to sell health insurance policies to employers, life insurance policies to individuals, or property & casualty insurance to small business owners, the insurance industry offers many options.
Consider which areas you would enjoy most, and then take a look at the requirements and job prospects in that subsector. From licensing requirements to pay to technology tools used on the job, there can be many differences within insurance, so it’s useful to think about which direction you want to go.
However, if you want to first gain a general overview of how to become an insurance agent and what to expect when becoming one, this guide will help you get a lay of the land. Here, we’ll discuss:
- Education Requirements to Become an Insurance Agent
- Obtaining Insurance Licensing and Carrier Appointments
- Getting a Job as an Agent
- Leveraging Technology Once You Become an Agent
Education Requirements to Become an Insurance Agent
Insurance agent educational requirements tend to be pretty flexible, but much depends on the type of agent you want to become, the state you want to work in, and where you want to work.
Do You Need a College Degree to Become an Insurance Agent?
You typically don’t need a specific type of bachelor’s degree, or any college degree for that matter, to become an insurance agent. And, if you have an idea of where you might want to work, it’s a good idea to check out their current job listings to see if they have education requirements. However, to sell insurance policies, you will need to be licensed in the state where you want to do business.
But, that doesn’t mean you should forego higher education and jump right into sales. There are degrees available that can help you better prepare for a career in insurance. Studying areas such as the following might help you better perform your job:
- Business Management
- Risk Management
Some schools even offer majors or concentrations specifically in insurance, but you don’t need to narrow your focus that much. Studying a broader subject or one outside insurance is a valuable way to connect with clients or learn to run your insurance business better.
For example, a communications or marketing degree could help you grow your insurance business, as much of the job requires getting the word out to find clients. This means marketing your business both online and off. And learning the basics of marketing can give you insight into how to get started.
Ultimately, you have a lot of educational options if you want to become an insurance agent. Since the industry has so many different avenues to go down, consider studying whatever areas you feel most naturally drawn to and then seeing how you can apply that knowledge to your career as an insurance agent.
While you might not need a specific type of college degree to become an insurance agent, they do typically have education requirements specific to obtaining a license. In many states, you need to complete what’s called prelicensing education.
For example, in California, if you want to become a property insurance broker-agent, you need to complete 20 hours of general prelicensing education and 12 hours of ethics and California Insurance Code education.
Check with your state’s department of insurance to find specific educational requirements and details like where you can go to complete these prelicensing hours.
Similar to prelicensing education, agents often need to complete a certain number of continuing education hours to maintain their licenses. These requirements can differ by state and type of insurance agent, so again, you should check with your state’s department of insurance.
Obtaining Insurance Licensing and Carrier Appointments
After completing any required prelicensing education that your state or line of insurance may require, there are then a few steps you need to take to obtain your insurance license and actually become an insurance agent.
Insurance Agent License Requirements
Like with education requirements, insurance agent license requirements also depend on where you’re obtaining your license. So, you should check with the department of insurance in the state you want to work. In general, though, to obtain your insurance agent license you need to:
- Pass an Exam
- Complete a Background Check
- Submit an Application
- Pay an Application Fee (tends to be relatively small, e.g., $50 in Texas for general lines of insurance)
Insurance Carrier Appointments
Once you take the steps necessary to obtain your insurance agent license, you then might try to get insurance carrier appointments if you want to sell policies as an independent insurance agent. You can’t simply go out and sell policies however you want from the top insurance agencies as soon as you get your license. You need to first get approval, also known as a carrier appointment. You can obtain carrier appointments by applying directly with the insurance carrier that you’d like to sell policies for.
However, you might not be able to obtain these carrier appointments on your own if you’re brand new, at least from the biggest names. That’s why many new agents start their careers working in-house at respected carriers. Or, if you want to start out as an independent insurance agent, you could take steps like working with an insurance wholesaler, which would have access to more insurance lines that you can then deliver to clients.
Getting a Job as an Insurance Agent
Once you’ve become a licensed insurance agent, it’s time to look for your first job as an insurance agent. Remember, there are many paths to choose from. Even after you’ve obtained a license for a certain type of insurance, such as property & casualty insurance, you then have several options for where to work.
You could apply for jobs at big-name insurance carriers, join a smaller insurance agency as an independent agent, work on your own with a wholesaler, etc. Finding these jobs is much like it would be in most other fields; look for opportunities to become an insurance agent via:
- Job boards, e.g., Indeed, ZipRecruiter
- Insurance carriers’ and agencies’ websites
- Recommendations from existing insurance agents
Insurance Agent Job Description
Since there are many types of insurance agent jobs, the specific job description can vary. In general, though, the job description for an insurance agent is as follows, according to careers site Indeed:
“An Insurance Agent, or Insurance Sales Agent, assists clients in selecting insurance policies that best meets their needs, preferences and budgets. Their main duties include creating client payment methods, recommending risk management strategies to clients and providing policy proceeds after clients’ submitted claims are approved.”
Still, you should take a close look at the job description of anywhere you want to apply to become an insurance agent. Depending on the agency or carrier, you may act more as your own business owner, responsible for your own line of business. At others, you may be more of an employee, where you sell insurance but follow more of the company’s needs rather than charting your own course.
Average Insurance Agent Salary
Insurance agent salaries can vary widely, depending on where you decide to work. Some agencies might pay you a healthy base salary with some commission and bonus potential. Others might be 100% commission-based, so while you could earn good money, there are no guarantees.
Overall, the median pay for insurance sales agents in the US is $52,180, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you want to become an insurance agent and are confident in your sales capabilities, it’s certainly possible to earn six figures per year. But it’s important to be realistic about how well you think you can sell policies and how much you want to be dependent on commissions and/or bonuses.
Leveraging Technology Once You Become an Agent
Once you figure out the type of insurance agent you’d like to become, you can start taking advantage of the growing field of insurtech that helps you do your job better.
For example, tools like Wheelhouse, which is currently only available to commercial property & casualty agents and brokers, enable insurance agents to provide bindable quotes online from multiple insurance carriers. So, if you’re an independent insurance agent, that can be a great way to easily provide quotes and sell policies digitally.
Other insurtech tools can also help you increase your sales, ranging from automated chatbots that answer common customer questions to underwriting solutions that help speed up the process of evaluating potential clients and delivering policy quotes.
If these types of areas sound intriguing to you, especially if you enjoy sales, then becoming an insurance agent can be a great decision for you. Despite being a long-running industry, insurance also has a lot of new areas, such as insurtech, that can help make becoming an insurance agent an exciting choice.