Learn About Being an Insurance Agent

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

What does an insurance agent do?

Insurance agents provide customers with various types of insurance policies and help them choose policies that best meet their needs. Health and long-term care insurance agents sell policies that provide medical care and cover the cost of assisted-living services in old age. They may also sell short-term and long-term disability, vision insurance, and dental. Property and casualty insurance agents sell policies that protect against financial loss from auto accidents, theft, fire, and other events that damage property. Some casualty insurance agents also sell workers’ compensation and medical malpractice insurance. Some of an agent’s primary responsibilities include:

  • Calling potential customers to inquire about their current policies and adding to their customer base

  • Interviewing prospective clients about their financial resources and the coverage they require

  • Analyzing customer policies and needs and suggesting changes or additions to their policies

  • Customizing insurance programs to suit the needs of individual clients

  • Maintaining electronic and paper records and handle all policy renewals

  • Helping policyholders settle claims

Average salary

Salaries vary according to the geographic location and experience levels of the insurance agent. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $57,084 per year

  • Some salaries range from $19,000 to $185,000 per year.

Insurance agent requirements

There are several qualifications required to obtain a position as an insurance agent. They include:

Education

While employers will consider candidates who have only a high school diploma or GED along with proven sales experience, many employers prefer candidates who hold a minimum of a college degree. Some of the best fields of discipline for an aspiring insurance agent are finance, economics, and business. Some colleges and universities offer courses in insurance, and there are even several schools that offer major or minor degree programs in insurance. 

Regardless of the degree that the aspiring agent chooses, courses on topics such as communication, psychology, sociology, economics, business administration, finance, and accounting will help prepare them for employment in the insurance field.

Training

Agents generally receive on-the-job training from another more experienced agent. Through mentorship, new agents acquire the skills and practice to successfully sell insurance. They learn how to write insurance policies, communicate with current and potential clients, generate new business, and run their businesses.

After their initial on-the-job training, insurance agents still need to stay updated on important issues related to their industry. They need to be knowledgeable about changes in government programs, laws, and regulations that could impact their customers’ policies. For this reason, agents need to participate in continuing education programs, such as forums and seminars, and read industry publications.

Certifications and licenses

While certifications are generally optional, each state does have its own licensing requirements and agents are required to have a license for their specific state.

Life and Health Insurance License

Depending on the state, health insurance agents are generally required to complete pre-licensing courses and then pass a licensing exam. That said, some states waive the pre-licensing course of candidates who hold a college degree. Aspiring insurance agents should always contact the state licensing department to ensure they fully understand the licensing requirements for their state. After applying for and being granted a license, agents may be required to complete continuing education courses to maintain or renew the license.

Property and Casualty Agent License

This license allows an agent to sell home, auto and business insurance policies to both businesses and individuals. They may also sell several subtypes of insurance, including workers’ compensation, professional liability, renters, commercial property and commercial general liability insurance. To become a licensed P&C agent, you typically must pass a general knowledge exam. The exams are timed and usually include a series of multiple-choice questions. Requirements vary by state. After passing the exam, aspiring agents must be fingerprinted, undergo a background check and apply for a license through their state’s licensing provider.

Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC)

Offered by the National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research, this professional certification is designed to demonstrate an agent’s proficiency in the insurance industry and provide them with a competitive edge. Candidates can earn this certification by taking five CIC courses of their choice — there are seven in total — and passing the corresponding exams within five years after passing the first exam. You could also earn the certification by taking four CIC courses and one Certified Risk Manager (CRM) or one Certified Personal Risk Manager Program (CPRM) course and then passing all related exams within five years.

Skills

There are several skills necessary to succeed in the role of an insurance agent. They include:

Communication

This includes both written and verbal communication, active listening and the ability to read non-verbal cues. Insurance agents work with both internal and external customers daily. They may help a potential customer assess their risks, discuss an existing policy or listen closely to identify a customer’s needs and determine the right policy to meet them. They need to be able to explain sometimes complex policy information in a way that customers will fully understand. They must also be able to maintain communication with a team and keep everyone informed to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Customer service

Insurance agents must have strong customer service skills to maintain long-term customers. This means actively listening to their clients and recommending insurance products that best meet their needs and goals. An agent with great customer service skills is responsive, honest, professional and attentive.

Patience

Like every sales position, insurance agents must be both patient and persistent. While some customers may be able to make a rapid decision regarding their insurance, others may require patience and more convincing. Agents need to understand that time, space and support can all be required to make an informed decision. 

Quick learner

Insurance agents need to be knowledgeable about a wide range of insurance products to meet the varying needs of different people. They must have in-depth knowledge of how the products work, understand how the plans are administered and what they can do to troubleshoot along the way.

Insurance agent work environment

Insurance agents typically work in office environments. The office can be large with more than 100 agents, although typically most agencies are small with only a few agents. When agents aren’t in their offices, they are often traveling and meeting with clients in their homes or offices. Some agents work only during business hours while others work in the evenings to meet with prospective clients. Their work environment generally has the following characteristics:

  • Extended periods of time sitting at a desk

  • Using computers, printers, fax machines and other office equipment

  • May require travel

How to become an insurance agent

These are the steps typically required to begin your career as an insurance agent:

1. Pursue an education.

While some agencies may accept candidates with only a high school diploma when they have prior sales experience, most employers prefer candidates to have a college degree. Perform a search for open insurance agent positions in your geographic area and determine the level of education generally required for those roles. Obtain that level of education.

2. Obtain a license.

Insurance agents are typically required to hold a license, although the licensing requirements can vary from state to state. Contact your state licensing department to determine your state’s requirements and take the licensing course — usually required, although not always — and pass the exam.

3. Gain experience.

If there are no entry-level positions in your area, identify open roles where you can obtain sales experience. This is a sales position and any proven success in sales will give you an edge over other candidates.

4. Update your resume.

Once you have the required experience and education, update your resume. Include your highest level of education, licensing and certification information and your relevant work history. Emphasize the skills you used in previous positions that are transferrable to this role.

5. Apply for jobs.

Search for open insurance agent positions in your geographic area and identify the positions for which you are most qualified. Apply using your updated resume and a cover letter. Be sure to customize the cover letter for each position you are applying for, using the relevant keywords mentioned in the job description.

Insurance agent job description example

Gold Star Health is seeking a licensed insurance agent to join its team. This person will be responsible for building a network, finding prospective customers and ensuring the customers are protected financially for whatever life throws their way. Our organization provides a unique team environment and provides agents with our own cutting-edge technology to sell insurance. Our agents work with more than 20 different carriers selling auto, home, workers compensation, pet, event, professional and more.

The ideal agent will be someone who proactively communicates with customers, shares their expertise with customers to help them and build trust and can communicate about complex policies in a way customers will easily understand. Candidates must have both a property and casualty state insurance license and a life and health state insurance license.

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