Selling insurance is a career path that depends entirely on you. Insurance agents can specialize – life, health, property and casualty are all lines that offer great opportunities. The insurance field is growing at a 22 percent rate according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you have high aspirations and a drive to succeed, you can become a very successful insurance agent.
To launch your insurance career, you need a minimum of a high school diploma, although some companies may require a college degree. You need to understand the business of insurance, so taking courses in finance, business and economics is a big plus. An insurance agent is a salesperson, so having solid relationship-building skills is essential. Besides selling skills, you need to be well organize, flexible and willing to work long hours. Insurance agents meet many of their clients during evening hours and on weekends, so be prepare to keep irregular hours.
What to Sell
When you make the decision to become an insurance agent you must decide what kind of insurance to sell. Agents who qualify to sell life and health insurance can sell either or both. Those who focus on life insurance inevitably get involve in retirement planning for their clients. Many take the Series 6 and 7 exams administered by the National Association of Securities Dealers. The first qualifies them to sell mutual funds and variable annuities, while the latter is a license to sell general securities such as stocks and bonds. Property and casualty insurance covers accidents, fire, theft, workers compensation and liability. If you are uncertain which direction to take, talk with some agents to find out more of what they do.
Requirements vary according to the state where you live, so check with the state insurance commissioner’s office for more details. All states require that you pass an exam to become licensed. Some will conduct a background check and fingerprint you. Whether or not you are require to complete a course of study prior to taking the exam also varies by state. It is a good idea to take one anyway – it will help you with the test and give you a broader knowledge base for your career. Insurance licenses are grantd by individual states. Your license in one will not allow you to sell in another, although it may be transferred.
Employee or Independent
Whether you work as an employee or an independent agent is a decision you will make at the outset of your career. A starting employee typically has a small base salary – on the magnitude of $20,000 – and earns commissions on top of that. An employee has a workplace and can benefit by being with more experienced agents. Some companies have mentoring programs to help new agents. Independent agents work for one company, too, but receive no salary or benefits. They work for commissions only, which are higher than the employed agents have, but must cover all of their own expenses. Since you are not likely to earn significant commissions starting out, be prepared for several months of no income while you build your business.
2016 Salary Information for Insurance Sales Agents
Insurance sales agents earned a median annual salary of $49,990 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, insurance sales agents earned a 25th percentile salary of $35,500, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $77,140, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 501,400 people were employed in the U.S. as insurance sales agents.