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How to Get an Insurance License

Whether you've just decided to start your insurance career, or you are looking to add insurance to your already-existing financial services or insurance repertoire, we've outlined what you need to know to take the first steps toward your career goals.

Getting Started in the Insurance Industry

Step 1: Decide What Kind of Insurance You Want to Sell

The first thing you want to do is decide what type or types of insurance you’d like to specialize in. In the industry, these are referred to as “lines of authority.” Here’s a rundown of the most common:

  • Life insurance: Selling policies and annuities related to providing for a beneficiary upon the death of the insured.
  • Health insurance: Selling medical, disability, Medicare supplement, and long-term care policies.
  • Property insurance: Selling homeowner, commercial property, and inland marine policies.
  • Casualty insurance: Selling auto, workers compensation, crime coverage, and professional liability policies.
  • Variable products insurance: Selling insurance products with an investment element. To sell this kind of insurance, you need certain securities licenses.
  • Personal lines insurance: Selling products like auto insurance, homeowners insurance, renters insurance, and policies for boats, motorcycles, and snowmobiles to individual consumers only.

Another option is becoming an adjuster, which is the business of investigating and adjusting claims on an insurance policy. Insurance adjusters also solicit for the adjustment business.

In a number of cases, you don’t have to pick just one line of authority. Individuals often combine certain lines, such as property and casualty insurance.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download this free Launching Your Insurance Career eBook.

Step 2: Understand the General Requirements

After you’ve decided what kind of insurance agent you want to be, the next step is to understand the basic requirements:

  • You need to be at least 18 years old to become an insurance agent.
  • You need to complete prelicensing education for your line of authority, which is determined by each state. The number of hours you’ll have to complete and the cost also varies by state.
  • You need to pass the state insurance licensing exam for your line or lines of authority. A prelicensing exam preparation package can help.
  • You need to pass a background check. The process varies by state and, in some cases, includes fingerprinting.
  • You need continuing education to keep or renew your license.

Step 3: Decide on a State and Find Out Its Requirements

Now that you have a basic idea of what you need to do, it’s time to decide whether you want to sell insurance in your home state or some other state. (You can sell in more than one state, but you must abide by the rules for each.) As you saw in Step 2, each state regulates its own insurance licensing process, and each state’s regulations or rules are slightly different, so this is why deciding on where is so important.

Each state's website will also tell you what kind of continuing education you need to keep or renew your license.

Step 4: Research Agencies

Now is also the time to research any agencies for which you want to work. Many have additional requirements for candidates or agents to follow that you’ll need to be aware of if you want to work there. Also, some agencies will hire you before you have a license, and they might have specific processes you need to follow.

Step 5: Pass Your State Exam and Apply at Insurance Agencies

You’ve done your research and know what you want to do. So, it’s time to get out there, get the hours of education required by the state and agency of your choice, take the exam, and pass it. Armed with your license and your knowledge, you’re ready for an exciting and rewarding career as an insurance agent. Good luck, and don’t forget about keeping up with your continuing education.