|Number of Jobs:||90,200|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Business Jobs||#7|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#44|
Prospects for insurance agents are closely tied to the growth rate of the broader economy, so the slow but steady recovery from the recession is providing improved job opportunities and stability. The major consumer products sold by agents are auto, health, home, and life insurance. Commercial insurance agents sell primarily to businesses: property damage and liability policies, employee and executive coverage, and product liability. Agents must be licensed by the states where they sell insurance.
Roughly a quarter of agents work for an insurance company and often sell its products exclusively. About half work for an independent insurance agency or brokerage and sell the products of many insurance companies. Nearly 20 percent are self-employed. Commissions are an important source of income for most in this business, although a smaller number hold salaried positions. As a salesperson, agents spend considerable time developing and pursuing sales leads. Consumer-policy agents do a lot of telephone and office work. Commercial agents are more likely to be out in the field with customers. Independent agents who work for a brokerage may have irregular hours, but they also have more control over their work schedules than agents who work for an insurance company or spend most of their time in an office. There is a lot of turnover in this career as many new agents struggle to earn sufficient commission income and switch to other occupations.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects insurance-agent employment growth of 21.9 percent between 2010 and 2020. That's an addition of 90,200 new jobs and 94,200 replacement jobs.
According to the BLS, the mean annual salary for insurance agents was $47,450 in 2011. The best-paid 10 percent made an average of $115,300, while the lowest-paid 10 percent were paid $25,910, on average. The highest salaries were paid by outpatient care centers, securities and commodities firms, and insurance and employee benefit funds. The highest-paid insurance agents worked in the metropolitan areas of Bloomington, Ill., St. Joseph, Mo., and El Centro, Calif.
High school diplomas are sufficient for most insurance agent positions. College degrees may be required for specialized sales positions, and especially for agents who also are licensed to sell investment products and provide investment advice to clients. Substantial knowledge of individual lines of insurance is needed and insurance agents have continuing education requirements to retain their state licenses and make sure they maintain current knowledge of their field.
Insurance requires more expertise than many other sales jobs, says Robert Rusbuldt, president of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. But at the end of the day, employers are looking for strong sales skills, an aggressive, positive attitude, and very strong interpersonal and verbal communications skills. "Being an extrovert helps—you are in sales, after all," he says. "Being able to forge relationships with people, particularly in the commercial lines of business," is very important. "Employers want to know that you're a person of integrity and someone they can rely on," he says.
While knowledge of insurance and prior training in the field are always a plus, Rusbuldt says hiring managers want people who are willing to learn and hungry for a career in the field. "You can teach insurance," he says. "You can't teach the willingness to learn."
|Stress Level||Above Average|