What Does an Insurance Agent Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

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Image by Jo Zixuan Zhou © The Balance 2019

An insurance agent helps clients choose insurance policies that suit their needs. The agent may also be called an insurance sales agent. Clients include individuals and families as well as businesses.

Types of insurance include property and casualty, life, health, disability, long-term care insurance, and even livestock and equine insurance. Many insurance agents also sell investment products, such as mutual funds, variable annuities, and other securities.

Insurance Agent Duties & Responsibilities

As part of their day's regular duties and tasks, an insurance agent may perform some or all of the following:

  • Generate and follow up on leads, schedule appointments, identify client needs, and market appropriate products.
  • Close the sale with current prospective customers.
  • Meet new business production goals and objectives.
  • Provide customer support in a friendly, prompt, and accurate manner.
  • Network and build business referral relationships.
  • Input quotes and work renewals for customers.

Some agents are known as captive agents, which means that they work for a specific insurance company and only sell that company's products, while other agents work independently or for a broker, and sell products from multiple insurance companies. Agents that represent multiple companies must potentially become familiar with a broader base of products from multiple vendors as part of their job responsibilities.

Insurance Agent Salary

An insurance agent's salary varies based on the area of expertise, level of experience, education, certifications, and other factors.

  • Median Annual Salary: $50,600 ($24.33 /hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $125,610 ($60.39/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $27,500 ($13.22/hour)

Education, Training & Certification

The insurance agent position involves fulfilling education and training requirements as follows:

  • Education: Employers prefer to hire insurance agents who have college degrees, particularly in business or economics. They might consider hiring a high school graduate who has proven sales ability.
  • Experience: Prior sales experience in any industry is helpful, but not required.
  • License: Every state requires insurance agents to be licensed. They need separate licenses to sell life and health insurance or property and casualty insurance. In most states, sales agents must complete pre-licensing courses and pass state examinations.

Insurance Agent Skills & Competencies

In addition to education, training, and licensing requirements, insurance agents also need certain soft skills, or personal qualities, to do their job.

  • Listening Skills: In order to understand clients' needs, an insurance agent needs excellent listening skills.
  • Reading Comprehension: They must be able to understand written documents describing insurance instruments.
  • Verbal Communication: Insurance agents have to convey information about the products they sell.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Their ability to sell policies depends on their relationships with other people. Agents must be able to establish a good rapport with potential clients, understand their needs, and persuade clients to give the agent their business.
  • Strong computer skills: Agents need to use various software, including Outlook, Word, Excel, agency management software, and insurance quoting software.
  • Enthusiasm: They must have knowledge about the role that insurance and financial products play in members' everyday lives.
  • Selling ability: An agent must be ethically assertive, a self-starter, and able to influence others.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth outlook for insurance agents from 2016 to 2026 relative to other occupations and industries is 10%, driven by a continued need for insurance products. This growth rate compares to the projected 7% growth for all occupations.

Work Environment

Most are independent agents who work for insurance agencies and brokerages, while others are captive agents employed by insurance carriers.

Work Schedule

Most insurance agent jobs are full-time positions with a 40-hour workweek.

How to Get the Job

PREPARE

Before you start applying for insurance agent jobs, get your cover letter and resume in order. Review and update your education, work and volunteer experience, and any skills or certifications that may be applicable to the job.

NETWORK

Success as an insurance agent requires the ability to network and make connections. Sharpen your skills and broaden your network by getting involved in volunteer opportunities in your community. Search online sites such as VolunteerMatch.org, or contact various non-profit organizations directly.

You can also network by attending events organized by various insurance industry trade organizations, such as the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents.

APPLY

Check the careers section of websites for local and national insurance carriers to locate job openings. Look at job search resources such as Indeed.com, Monster.com, and Glassdoor.com for available positions. If you can't find a job as an insurance agent right away, you might be able to take a related job in the insurance industry to gain experience.

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