What Does a Life Insurance Agent Do?

By: Kaplan Financial Education
March 7, 2019
Life insurance agent considering all factors affecting a policy

As someone considering a career in the insurance industry, you may be wondering what different types of insurance agents do. This article explores the day-to-day work of a life insurance agent to help you get a better feel for whether this is a good career move for you.

Life insurance agents have the important job of helping people prepare for unexpected circumstances. The main tasks of a life insurance agent are to: 1) sell life insurance policies and annuities to clients; and 2) to work with clients and beneficiaries to process insurance claims promptly. Being a life insurance agent involves a lot of selling, which means an interest in and knack for marketing is a must.

A typical day for a life insurance agent involves actively pursuing potential clients by phone, mail, email, or social media; making presentations to clients or groups; and meeting with clients to discuss long-term goals and coverage options. There is a lot of paperwork required in the insurance industry; processing changes in beneficiary and policy loan applications and updating records are frequent job tasks. You’ll also do a fair amount of crunching numbers to determine rates when helping clients find the best products to suit their needs.

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It is not enough to pass a life insurance licensing exam or a life and health licensing exam. A life insurance agent must stay up-to-date on regulation changes and industry updates. For this reason, it is important for life insurance agents to participate in education opportunities (including mandatory continuing education for license renewal), read professional publications, maintain personal networks, and participate in professional organizations. Successful life insurance agents will also be actively involved in their community—it helps build their reputation locally and network for prospective clients.

Captive Life Insurance Agent vs. Independent Life Insurance Agent

There are two different routes for employment that a life insurance agent can go: become a captive agent or an independent life insurance agent (non-captive agent). A captive insurance agent works for one insurance company and exclusively sells that company’s products. An independent life insurance agent works for a brokerage and is able to sell multiple companies’ products.

There are benefits and challenges to both career paths. Being a captive agent for an insurance group or firm generally means your office expenses are paid for, and you receive benefits like a pension, life and health insurance, continuing education training, and credit union membership. Some captive agents are even salary-based. The downside to being a captive agent is the limitations of what you can sell. You may also find you have to meet quotas of selling certain policies for the company. An independent life insurance agent has more product offerings available and is able to work with clients to ensure the product they are selling most closely aligns with the client’s needs. You will be required to use your own resources to start the business and market it though.

Important Skills for Success

Regardless of whether you become a captive or non-captive agent, there are some key skills you will need to be a successful life insurance agent. Agents need to have excellent interpersonal skills and be comfortable with people from all walks of life and in various emotional states. A life insurance agent will meet with beneficiaries upon death and will need to help them process their claim as promptly and smoothly as possible. Communication skills are also important in this career. Not only is it important to understand the ins and outs of all products you sell, but you need to be able to explain them in a way that is easy to understand in order to be successful. You can learn more about the traits that make an insurance agent successful, and that includes life insurance sales, here.

Being tech savvy is becoming increasingly important for success as well. Many prospective clients will find you via your website, review sites, and social media. It is important that you have a good web presence and are willing to adopt the next important platform. All insurance agents must be self-starters who are determined to succeed. Building a book of business takes time and dedication, and it requires hearing ‘no’ a lot to get to a ‘yes.’


Does this career sound like a good fit for you? If so, check out our article on how to become an insurance agent. If you are ready to start studying for your life only or life and health insurance license, explore some of our insurance exam prep study options .

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