Insurance Agent Career Profile

An insurance agent career can involve several career paths. Its common denominators are having good business skills and a real aptitude for this often highly technical line of work. The insurance agent's job is one of the classic "steady jobs" of the past, but it has evolved a lot and now includes insurance across financial products and other esoteric business propositions.

The work environment

Insurance covers all industries and all walks of life. These are the basic fields of insurance practices:

  • Business insurance
  • Public liability insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Workers compensation
  • Accident insurance
  • Fire insurance
  • Property insurance
  • Income insurance
  • Underwriting

Education and training

The baseline entry point for insurance is a college degree. Most agents are trained on the job, or by the employer enrolling them in formal training courses. This is the basic training in the industry. It gives a good grounding in industry practices for employees working in insurance sales and claims.

At higher levels of insurance operations and for career progression, industry experience and specific formal qualifications are required. Degrees in business administration and management, financial management, usually at Masters Level, are necessary. The technical nature of the insurance business is also much more important at these middle levels.

Industry voluntary certifications are one of the basic benchmarks for qualifications. These certifications are also an indication of the increasing levels of complexity in terms of the work environment. For example, these are certifications for underwriting:

  • The Registered Health Underwriter (RHU)
  • The Registered Employee Benefits Consultant (REBC)

There are many related qualifications. Formal qualifications do cover many areas relevant to insurance, like risk management, which is covered by both financial and business management degrees.

Many people in the insurance business are specialists, qualified in the niche areas of their markets.  Those in general insurance have higher business qualifications and work in the traditional retail insurance areas. Senior managers and business owners are highly experienced in the industry and have multiple qualifications across the range of their businesses. Insurance agents in the financial or health sectors qualify in financial or health management.

The work environment

The working conditions for insurance agents are good, being high-end business standard accommodation and facilities. There is some requirement for travel to do claims assessments and sales, but overall the insurance industry is considered an up-market working environment.

The actual work is compartmentalized in terms of activities:

  • Sales
  • Customer relations
  • Administration
  • Policy related work
  • Claims assessments and determinations

Insurance is both a sales and customer focused industry. These two fundamental elements may conflict with each other. Claims disputes by clients can be hard work for an insurance agent. In some cases agents have to apply policies they may not personally agree with in relation to claims by clients they've known for years.

Insurance is a high cash flow business, and demands for policy sales in particular are very like a sales job. At higher levels decisions also involve good business judgment, and risk assessment skills regarding policies which may be worth very large amounts.

Insurance is big business. A successful insurance agent can earn salary, bonuses, and commissions which are the equivalent of their original annual salary on one policy sale.