How to Become a Licensed Insurance Agent

Despite the difficult economy—under which pretty much every industry has suffered—going into insurance is still a relatively stable career choice. That’s because everyone needs insurance—both individuals and businesses, for a wide range of purposes. If you’re looking to get into the insurance industry, here’s how to get started.

Check your state’s initial course requirements. Every state requires a certain number of introductory course credits and the passing of a licensing exam before you earn your insurance license. How many credits, and which classes, depend on both the state you live in and the branch of insurance you mean to work in. You can find this information with your state’s Department of Insurance website–this link goes to California’s.

Fill out the forms and send in the fees. Your state’s Department of Insurance will also require you to fill out certain forms. These will differ depending on the state and the type of insurance you’re selling. Contact your state’s Department of Insurance to get the forms; you may also have to pay a fee and document the courses you took—although some insurance CE programs will send that information along to the state for you. Send in all the paperwork as stipulated by your state.

That’s pretty much all that’s required to earn a license. But getting your license doesn’t guarantee you’ll have a successful business—or get hired. Here are a few other frequently-asked questions about getting started in a career as an insurance agent.

Do I need a Bachelor’s degree? It depends. If you’re planning to work as a captive agent—and many insurance agents get their start this way, although 100% captive agents are becoming more rare—it can be helpful to have a degree. Companies frequently give preferential hiring status to those with a Bachelor’s—especially if it’s in finance, business, insurance, or economics.

But you can also get hired with no college degree, especially if you already have on-the-job experience or a background in sales. And if you want to be an independent agent with your own practice, it’s not likely to matter.

Captive or independent agent? Deciding whether to work for a single insurance company—and sell only their product—or work as an independent agent, selling products from many different companies, is a decision you’ll have to make at the start of your insurance career. There are pros and cons to each scenario; check out our article exploring the subject in greater depth here.

Will my company pay for my licensing and course fees? If you’re hired straight out of college or without any prior experience as a captive agent, it’s possible your company could pay your licensing and educational fees. Talk to your boss to see what types of tuition reimbursement policies are available.

The insurance business can be quite stable and lucrative—and if you have an interest in the field, it may be worth your time to give it a try. Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics for more information regarding the training, qualifications, average salaries, and advancement opportunities available for insurance agents.

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