For an insurance agent to sell insurance products, he must be licensed by the state.
Most insurance agents focus on a particular type of insurance like home, auto, life or health. Many insurance also sell commercial insurances to businesses. Commercial lines work with complicated property damage and policies related to liability, coverage for employees and executives, and product liability as well. Around one fourth of the insurance sales force works for an insurance company and sells its products. Half of the sales force work as independent insurance agencies or brokers and sell insurance products from various companies. One fifth of the number is self employed. Even though a few insurance agents hold salaried positions, the majority work off of commissions.
They spend a good amount of time developing and pursuing contacts and leads. Many agents in the consumer policy area spend a lot of their time doing telephone and office work. Commercial insurance agents would mostly do the field work with clients. Independent agents or brokers have more flexibility over their schedule though they do work irregular hours. On the other hand, insurance agents who work for companies spend more time in office.
Rising population and growth of economy drive the demand for these positions. As markets recover from the effects of recession, there will be more opportunities for insurance agents.
Based on the information available with the Labor department, in 2010, the median average annual remuneration of an insurance agent was $46K. The top 10% of the force made upwards of $110K while the lowest 10% made about $30K. Insurance and employee benefit funds, outpatient care centers, credit card businesses and credit firms paid the highest salaries.
The minimum qualification to become an insurance agent and start a career required for this position is a high school diploma.
Specialized sales positions may warrant college degrees. Agents who specialize in selling investment policies and offer investment advice are required to have college degrees. Also, they are also required to have specialized knowledge about the line of insurance related to the products they are selling. In order to maintain their licenses, and to stay updated in their field, they also require continuing education.
Employers and insurance businesses look for candidates with strong skills in the sales area, positive and aggressive attitudes, strong interpersonal skills and very strong verbal communication skills. They look for integrity in their candidates, they look for people they can trust and rely on. While employers do look for prior experience, they often hire people who have a zest to learn and are passionate about a career in insurance.
See more information about insurance agent careers.