Insurance sales agents assist individuals, families, and businesses in choosing the most appropriate insurance policies to fit their needs. They specialize in one or more types of insurance, such as property and casualty, life, health, disability, and long-term care. More insurance sales agents are offering new comprehensive financial planning services to their clients. These services can include retirement planning, estate planning, or pension plans for businesses, and may require the insurance sales agent to become licensed to sell mutual funds, variable annuities, and other securities. Computer technology has increased efficiency and allowed agents to accept more clients at one time. Increasingly, insurance customers are obtaining quotes directly from a company’s Web site, which reduces the amount of time agents spend with clients.
Insurance sales agents need to be excellent communicators in order to infuse their clients with confidence. Because they are often unsupervised, they must be able to plan their time efficiently and be motivated enough to look for new clients. They also need to be flexible, enthusiastic, confident, disciplined, hard working, and good problem-solvers.
In 2002, insurance sales agents earned a median annual salary of $40,750. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $21,730, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $101,460. Median annual salaries were $40,480 in agencies, brokerages, and other insurance related activities, and $43,560 in insurance carriers. Benefits such as retirement plans and life and health insurance were best in insurance carriers.
Training and Education
Employers usually require a bachelor’s degree in business or economics for entry-level insurance sales agent positions. College courses in finance, mathematics, accounting, economics, business law, marketing, and business administration provide a strong background for the field. Training in psychology, sociology, and public speaking can greatly improve sales ability. However, some high school graduates with proven sales ability are hired for these positions. Many entry-level insurance sales agents transfer from other occupations where they have gained technical experience in a particular field. Insurance sales agents must obtain a State license by completing prelicensing courses and passing an exam covering insurance fundamentals and State insurance laws. They also have the option of completing various professional designation programs, as well as earning designation as a “Certified Financial Planner” or “Chartered Financial Consultant”.
In 2002, insurance underwriters held about 381,000 jobs. Most worked for insurance agencies and brokerages, while a decreasing number worked for insurance carriers. A small number worked for banks and securities brokerages. 25% were self-employed.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of insurance sales agents is expected to increase more slowly than the average. However, job opportunities will be favorable for those with the right skills, such as flexibility, ambition, competitive, and persuasive. Those who have excellent interpersonal communication skills and those who are multilingual will also be in high demand. Future demand for these workers will depend on the volume of sales of insurance and the growth of the general population.