The people involved in the insurance industry profess that they provide security for a living, since their product is financial protection in the event of a crisis or emergency. This protection is always in demand, and the insurance industry is thus one of the nation’s largest employers, with over two million workers. Seventy percent of them are involved in administrative or sales posts in three main areas: Life, health, and property and liability. The life insurance agent collects monthly or yearly payments from a policyholder; if the policyholder dies while covered by the policy, the designated members of his family receive a substantial sum of money. Sometimes life insurance agents arrange for more creative benefits, such as college tuition payments for children. Ensuring proper coverage for hospital and doctor visits is the domain of the health insurer, who most likely works for groups of employers rather than soliciting clients among the general public. Some health insurers are employed by the government to enforce Medicaid policies. Finally, property and liability agents insure instances of damage done both to and by their policyholders. They must also be fluent in the world of health insurance since they cover workmen’s compensation; an employee injured at work will deal with this agent rather than a health insurance agent.
Agents work for one insurance agency, whereas brokers work independently and sell policies through many agencies. Beyond this distinction, however, agents and brokers fill many of the same functions. Each meets with potential clients and advises them on the most appropriate coverage. When claims are made, they have to settle the claim equitably for both the client and the agency. Agents and brokers can be salaried employees of an agency or, more likely, work partly or fully on commission on the premiums they sell. Because most agents work on commission, they must spend quite a bit of time networking and finding new customers. Some large agencies cover all areas under one of the three divisions, while smaller ones specialize in one area, car insurance, for instance. Besides keeping up with customers and courting new ones, insurance agents and brokers have administrative tasks to do, such as keeping records of sales. Lucky and successful agents will have a staff to handle these matters.
Life and health insurance agents and brokers must be licensed by their state, which means passing an insurance examination. Agents who sell investment-oriented policies must also be licensed by the National Association of Securities Dealers or the Securities and Exchange Commission. While a college degree is not necessary for these positions, many agencies are seeking college-educated applicants, and a degree is an especially good idea if you want to advance to managerial positions. Some agencies even offer training programs for undergraduates, in the hope that students will work part time while in school and become full members of the company upon graduation. Some of these programs even provide tuition reimbursement for students employed with their agencies.
Occasionally insurance agents have dual professions-some property insurance agents are also real estate agents, for example. Field representatives attempt to generate new business for agents and brokers. They conduct and attend insurance conferences in order to remain fluent in the latest topics in insurance. At times field representatives will educate insurers about advancements in the field.
The most prestigious title in the insurance industry is held by the underwriter, who has the stressful task of reading applications that are submitted by agents to determine whether the agency should accept the risk a particular client presents. Underwriters depend on studies done by actuaries that determine levels of risk. Insurance adjusters are also players in the industry. When an accident occurs, an adjuster visits the site to assess the damage and determine the funds the insurer will award.