Everything You Need to Start a Career in Insurance

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Jun 3, 2021

Jun 3, 2021 • by Rebecca Smith

So, you’re set on joining 500,000-some other insurance sales agents in a field whose job growth significantly outpaces the national average. 

Or maybe you’re set on a career as an insurance adjuster or examiner. Perhaps you want to join the comparatively rarefied ranks of actuary science.

Whatever your particular passion for insurance, there’s no shortage of opportunity in this industry. But you do need to have what it takes. Before you commit to a future in this business, make sure you’re on your way to completing this insurance career checklist.

A Niche to Pursue

First things first. Every aspiring insurance professional needs to know exactly what they’d like to do in the wide world of insurance.

Okay, maybe not “exactly.” You don’t need to, and almost certainly can’t, map out what could be a 40-year career in the insurance business before you land your first job.

But you can narrow down the types of jobs you’re likely to pursue before you begin the job search process. Ideally, you’ll do this before beginning your training too, at least if you’re preparing to obtain an insurance license right out of the gate.

Zeroing in on an insurance niche that works for you is important in an industry with so many potential career paths. For example, let’s say you’re an aspiring insurance agent. You might be content to pursue a well-worn line of business like auto insurance or property coverage, or a lesser-known specialty like working with term life policyholders looking to sell their policies for a lump sum. 

Your choice is your own, but don’t think it doesn’t matter immensely for what comes next. It does. You’ll want to make that choice as early as you can so that you can begin thinking about what comes next.

The Right Educational Foundation

You don’t absolutely have to set your insurance niche in stone before you enroll in a degree or certification program. Not all entry-level insurance careers require role-specific degrees, anyway, especially not on the customer service side of the business. Many junior roles don’t require post-secondary degrees at all. Account managers, claims adjusters, claims examiners — these positions are all open to high school graduates.

Nevertheless, to progress much beyond the entry level, you’ll need to have something more than a high school diploma. And you’ll want that degree to be relevant to your insurance aspirations. 

If you aspire to become an actuary, you’ll need some sort of mathematics degree; statistics is a popular choice. If you’re pursuing a career in insurance sales or want to become an insurance broker, a degree in business (and perhaps an MBA, if you have lofty ambitions) is helpful.

A Strong Professional Network (Or a Willingness to Build One)

This is a prerequisite for most successful careers, but it’s especially important in an industry that rewards high social intelligence. Once you’re entrenched with an insurance agency or underwriter, you’ll rise or fall based on merit, but getting your foot in the door will take a lot of pavement-pounding. Even in a seller’s market for talent, insurance jobs are in high demand, and you’ll want to make sure your name is at the top of every hiring manager’s list.

What’s involved in getting to that point? You’ve heard it before: a strong LinkedIn game, a polished CV with a compelling personal statement, a willingness to hit job fair after job fair after job fair. In this, at least, insurance isn’t much different than other lines of professional services work.

State- and Role-Specific Credentials and Licensure

If you aspire to an insurance career that requires a license, or will require one as you gain seniority, familiarize yourself with the different types of insurance licenses. There’s no universal insurance license that allows you to sell just any type of insurance, and you’ll need to make sure you’re right with the law in the state(s) where you choose to do business.

The Right Mix of Soft Skills

Insurance is a people-centric business. Yes, even commercial insurance. You don’t need to be an out-and-out “people person” to make it in insurance, but with few exceptions, you do need to be comfortable and engaging in conversation with others. If you think you need to improve your speaking skills, you can always consider taking public speaking classes to help enhance your professional development. 

You’ll also need to be able to work well in a setting that’s at once competitive and collaborative. On the sales side, you’ll of course want to compare favorably with your fellow agents. But you’ll also need to suppress your killer instinct for the good of the organization when needed.

A Willingness to Learn on the Job

Finally, successful insurance professionals are willing to learn on the job. More than that, they relish the opportunity to do so. If you prefer not to reflect on missteps, this might not be the industry for you.

You Have What It Takes

You have what it takes to make your way in the insurance business. 

That’s a fact. Perhaps you don’t have all these pieces in place right now. Maybe it’ll take some time for you to study for and pass your licensure exam, grow your professional network, and learn your way through an entry-level role until you’re confident enough to take on a position of serious responsibility.

But you have what it takes to land and succeed in the insurance job you’ve always wanted. Now it’s time to take the next step.