A few jobs in the insurance industry, especially in office and administrative support occupations, require no more than a high school diploma. However, employers prefer to hire workers with a college education for most jobs, including sales, managerial, and professional jobs. When specialized training is required, it usually is obtained on the job or through independent study during work or after work hours.
Graduation from high school or a 2-year postsecondary business program is adequate preparation for most beginning office and administrative support jobs. Courses in word processing and business math are assets, and the ability to operate computers is essential. These and other special skills also help beginners advance to higher paying positions. On-the-job training usually is provided for clerical jobs such as customer service representatives. Because representatives in call centers must be knowledgeable about insurance products in order to provide advice to clients, more States are requiring customer service representatives to become licensed.
Management, business, financial, and professional jobs require the same college training as similar jobs in other industries. Managerial positions usually are filled by promoting college-educated employees from within the company. For beginning underwriting jobs, many insurance companies prefer college graduates who have a degree in business administration or a related field. However, some companies prefer to hire liberal arts graduates at a lower cost, and many insurers send them to company schools or enroll them in outside institutes for professional training. As an underwriter’s career develops, it becomes beneficial to earn one of the voluntary professional certifications in underwriting.
Most companies prefer to hire college graduates for claims adjuster and examiner positions. No specific college major is required, although most workers in these positions have a business, accounting, engineering, legal, or medical background. Licensing requirements for these workers vary by State and can include prelicensing education or passing a licensing exam. In some cases, professional designations may be substituted for the exam requirement. Separate or additional requirements may apply to public adjusters. For example, some States may require public adjusters to file a surety bond. Often, claims adjusters working for companies can work under the company license and do not need to become licensed themselves. In addition, many adjusters and examiners choose to pursue certain certifications and designations to distinguish themselves. Many State licenses and professional designations require continuing education for renewal. Continuing education is important because adjusters and examiners must be knowledgeable about changes in the laws, recent court decisions, and new medical procedures. Auto damage appraisers typically begin as auto body repairers and then are hired by insurance companies or independent adjusting firms. Most companies prefer auto damage appraisers to have formal training, and many vocational colleges offer 2-year programs on how to estimate and repair damaged vehicles. Some States require them to be licensed, and certification may be required or preferred. Computer skills also are an important qualification for many auto damage appraiser positions. As with adjusters and examiners, continuing education is important for appraisers because many new car models and repair techniques are introduced each year.
Most insurance companies prefer to hire former law enforcement or private investigators as insurance investigators. Many experienced claims adjusters or examiners also can become investigators. Licensing requirements vary among States. Most employers look for individuals with ingenuity and who are persistent and assertive. Investigators must not be afraid of confrontation, should communicate well, and should be able to think on their feet. Good interviewing and interrogation skills also are important and usually are developed in earlier careers in law enforcement.
For actuarial jobs, companies prefer candidates to have degrees in actuarial science, mathematics, or statistics. However, candidates with degrees in business, finance, or economics are becoming more common. Actuaries must pass a series of national examinations to become fully qualified. Completion of all the exams takes from 5 to 10 years. Some of the exams may be taken while an individual is in college, but most require extensive home study. Many companies grant study time to their actuarial students to prepare for the exams.
Although some employers hire high school graduates with potential or proven sales ability for entry-level sales positions, most prefer to hire college graduates. All insurance sales agents must obtain licenses in the States in which they plan to sell insurance. In most States, licenses are issued only to applicants who complete specified courses and pass written examinations covering insurance fundamentals and State insurance laws. New agents receive training from their employer, either at work or at the insurance company’s home office. Sometimes, entry-level employees attend company-sponsored classes to prepare for examinations. Others study on their own and, as on-the-job training, accompany experienced agents when they meet with prospective clients. After obtaining a license, agents must earn continuing education credits throughout their careers in order to remain licensed insurance sales agents.
Insurance sales agents wishing to sell securities and other financial products must meet State licensing requirements in these areas. Specifically, they must pass an additional examination-either the Series 6 or Series 7 licensing exam, both of which are administered by the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD). The Series 6 exam is for individuals who wish to sell only mutual funds and variable annuities; the Series 7 exam is the main NASD series license and qualifies agents as general securities representatives. To demonstrate further competency in the area of financial planning, many agents also find it worthwhile to obtain a certified financial planner (CFP) or chartered financial consultant (ChFC) designation.
Opportunities for advancement are relatively good in the insurance industry. Office and administrative support workers can advance to higher paying claims-adjusting positions and entry-level underwriting jobs. Sales workers may advance by handling greater numbers of accounts and more complex commercial insurance policies. A master’s degree, particularly in business administration or a related field, is an asset for advancement into higher levels of management. Many insurance companies expect their employees to take continuing education courses to improve their professionalism and their knowledge of the industry.