Most insurance agents, or producers, work in offices. Agencies can be large, with 100 or more agents in an office, but most are smaller. Many agents work alone, with a few other agents, or with customer service personnel. Some agents may spend much of their time traveling to meet with clients in the clients' home or office, closing sales, and investigating claims.
Agents generally determine their own hours of work and it is not uncommon for them to schedule evening and weekend appointments for their clients convenience. Other agents meet with clients during daytime business hours and then also work some evenings doing paperwork and preparing presentations for other prospective clients. Although most agents work a 40-hour week, some may work much longer. It is generally a good idea for an agent to have staff who are themselves licensed so that they can work directly with clients of the agency, and to help prepare for appointments.
On the whole, people generally consider the insurance agent work environment provides more freedom, autonomy, and personal interaction than they would have in other jobs at a similar pay scale.Agent Education and Training
Individual states determine license requirements of agents, and every agent involved in the solicitation, selling, or negotiation of insurance must meet their state's requirements, including the passing of an exam to qualify them as a producer and then paying the license fees to obtain a license. Licensing requirements vary by state but typically require some insurance-related coursework (pre-licensing) before taking the state exam. Although some agents are hired right out of college, many are hired by insurance companies after working as customer service representatives, or in another field.
Some colleges offer courses that help agents understand technical aspects of insurance policies as well as fundamentals of the insurance industry. Many colleges and universities offer courses in insurance, and a few schools offer a bachelor's degree in the field. These degrees, however, usually focus on the claims or actuarial areas rather than on skills necessary to be an agent.
College courses in finance, mathematics, accounting, economics, business law, marketing, and business administration enable insurance sales agents to understand how social and economic conditions relate to the insurance industry. Courses in psychology, sociology, and public speaking can benefit an individual by improving sales techniques. In addition, familiarity with computers and various software is important because insurance companies use computers to help determine premium rates, communicate with agents, etc. Also, the agent can find many programs that can help him/her run his/her agency more effectively as a business.
Agents learn many of their job duties on the job from other agents. Many employers have their new agents shadow an experienced agent for a period of time. This junior/senior rep partnership allows the agent to learn how to interact with clients and answer their questions, how to handle certain situations, and how the agency interacts with clients in general, as well as how to ask the right questions and write applications for insurance policies.Continuing Education - Insurance Agent Career Requirements
States require insurance producers to meet continuing education requirements throughout their careers. It is good for agents to focus their continuing education to enhance their knowledge in those areas where they want to grow and excel so that they may be of most help to their clients. This state required insurance continuing education needs to be in areas of insurance technical knowledge, or state law/ethics, not on marketing or office skills.
Insurers are also requiring continuing professional education as the diversity and complexity of financial products sold by insurance agents increases. It is important for insurance agents to keep up to date on issues affecting their clients. Tax law changes as well as changes in government benefit programs and other state and federal regulations can affect the insurance needs of clients and the way in which agents conduct business. Agents can improve their selling skills and knowledge of insurance and other financial services by taking appropriate industry continuing education courses as well as courses offered through colleges, and by attending institutes, conferences, and seminars sponsored by insurance companies and related organizations.
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