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How To Start a Career in Insurance

By Tonya Sandersfeld

Starting a career in the insurance field can be very rewarding! There are so many different positions available in insurance that it's possible to find one to suit everyone. If you are a people person, you can become a sales agent. If you are not a people person, you can work behind the scenes to process claims. If you are good with computers, you can work as an adjuster or provide clerical support. If not, you can field clients' questions at a call center. However, the most successful candidates in the insurance field are good with numbers, from actuaries to investigators to managers. In addition, the U.S. government has recently passed a law which allows all financial institutions to sell all financial products. In other words, insurance agencies can sell mutual funds, banks can sell retirement plans, and financial analysts can sell insurance. So, having an above-average talent for math is now even more important!

1. Obtain a proper education. The first step in becoming an insurance professional is to become educated in the insurance field. Some colleges offer a bachelor's degree in insurance, but more often, insurance agents will obtain a degree in a related field, such as economics, finance, accounting, marketing or mathematics. Getting a college degree is not a requirement for starting an insurance career, but it can give your career a big jump-start. However, if you are good in math, are a born salesperson, and have at least a high-school diploma, you can still become an insurance professional.

2. Become licensed. It is necessary to become licensed in insurance for the state in which you intend to work. Depending upon the state, licensure may consist of completing a series of classes satisfactorily, attending a short licensure program, or studying for and taking the licensure exam on your own. To determine the exact requirements for the state in which you live or intend to work, consult your state government's website. No matter which state you live in, you will need to become licensed for each type of insurance that you intend to sell - property/casualty and life/health are the two most common areas of licensure.

3. Fulfill continuing education requirements. Even after you have become licensed to sell insurance, you will need to continue taking classes to meet the continuing education requirements for your state. The insurance field changes quickly, so it's vital to keep up with changing laws and codes.

4. Determine if you would like to join an agency or work independently. Most insurance agents work either for an insurance agency which employs anywhere from two to one hundred agents; or they start their own business. The advantages to owning your own business are obvious - you are your own boss, and you can set your own policies and procedures, as well as your own hours in many cases. However, you will be getting paid solely by commission, which can be difficult when you're building a business. Typically, an insurance agent gets a commission of between three percent and ten percent annually on each policy that he sells. If you have only a few clients in the beginning, it can be difficult to sustain your business. Insurance agencies will usually pay their agents a salary in addition to their commissions.

5. Find a job! Once you've become licensed to sell insurance and decided which insurance career path to pursue, it's a simple matter to find available jobs. All of the usual websites, such as Monster and CareerBuilder, can steer you toward open insurance positions. You can also try looking in the classifieds. Another useful method for job-hunting in the insurance field is to go to the website of an insurance carrier, such as American Family, State Farm or Allstate. They will have a link to a career opportunities page, which can provide you with many job possibilities, from entry level all the way up to managerial positions.

If you invest just a little bit of time in your insurance education, you're sure to find yourself on a rewarding, exciting career path. And if by chance, the insurance field isn't for you, it can be a great starting place for a variety of other finance-related fields!

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