How to Become an Insurance Agent

Smiling woman in blue meeting with a man in a grey shirt and a dark-haired woman in a dark red shirt

Are you an entrepreneur or aspiring to be one? Selling and servicing insurance is a rewarding career opportunity that allows you to be an entrepreneur. As an insurance agent, you will build and manage your own business, have the potential to earn a good living and help people make informed decisions about their personal or business insurance program. Does this sound like a career for you?

Insurance is an important part of people’s lives. It helps protect families and businesses by reducing financial uncertainty from unexpected events like car accidents or death and unforeseen disasters like fire, weather events or theft. It takes tenacity, training and lots of hard work, but at the end of each day, you’ll know that you’ve helped someone, sometimes profoundly.

Even in the digital age with the convenience of online shopping, a lot of people prefer to do business in person or over the phone when purchasing insurance. Insurance shoppers understand that coverage can be complicated, so they rely on a professional insurance agent to be sure they have the protection they need.

Whether you have experience or are new to the field, you may be wondering what the job entails and if it’s the right long-term career move for you. Here are five common questions (with detailed answers) that applicants often ask the sales team at Erie Insurance. You will learn about job duties, skills, earning potential, licensing and more.

What do insurance agents do?

As a licensed agent, you are contracted with an insurance company to sell a variety of products, including auto, home, life, business and long-term care insurance, to match the needs of your customers. Some insurers use exclusive or captive agents who represent a single company. Others, like Erie Insurance, use independent agents, who may represent one or multiple insurance companies.

Related: How to Become an Erie Insurance Agent

Acting as a liaison between the insurance company and the customer, you work with each of your clients to understand their needs, evaluate their potential risks and their budget to put together an insurance plan. You prepare quotes, explain coverage details and complete the policy application process for your customers. You need to be familiar with different types of insurance policies, forms and coverages.

The relationships that you develop with people in your community are the foundation of your business. Your professional reputation in your local community makes you a natural first point of contact for your customers when they need to file a claim or update their coverage because of a life event like buying a new home or having a child. You need to proactively develop a network of clients through numerous channels—referrals, cold calling, email, social media, advertising, mailings, business events and community activities.

As the owner of the insurance agency, you’ll also have a variety of other responsibilities, such as:

  • Maintaining an office, bookkeeping systems, databases and records.
  • Ensuring all paperwork for the insurance policies is completed and appropriately filed.
  • Attending meetings, seminars and continuing education classes to learn about products and services.
  • Developing detailed business and marketing plans to grow the agency and meet sales goals.

You’ll spend a large portion of your time immersed in all of these activities to develop your business.

What skills do I need to become a successful agent?

For starters, you’ll need to excel at sales, marketing and management to operate a thriving insurance agency, especially at the startup level. Here are some other qualities that are common among successful agents:

  • Strong interpersonal skills: You have a knack for nurturing and creating long-lasting business relationships. You have excellent communication skills.
  • Credibility: You’re knowledgeable and know how to present information effectively to influence others. You’re always looking for ways to help your customers and grow your business. You have personal or career experience focused on service.
  • A great work ethic: You’re enthusiastic about insurance and are willing to learn the necessary skills. You are not deterred if you don’t close a sale from time to time, and you are committed to self-development.
  • Confidence: Your customers can tell that you believe in what you’re selling. You have an ability to set and achieve business goals that are ambitious but achievable.   

Related: 8 Signs That You Might Be a Great ERIE Agent

What are the benefits of working in the insurance industry?

In addition to helping people, you get to work in a stable and growing industry. Insurance is one of those industries that is considered recession-proof, because people will need insurance as long as risks exist. Insurance is also considered a lifeline of the economy because it helps people and businesses carefully manage risk to generate growth and strengthen investments.

What’s even more exciting is the future employment outlook for insurance agents. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of insurance sales agents is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019  to 2029—faster than the average for all occupations.

RelatedWhat Do ERIE Agents Love Most About Their Jobs

Do insurance agents make a good salary?

If you’re willing to work hard and sell personal, commercial and life insurance, you have the potential to earn a six-figure income. An agency earns first year commissions on new business in the first year and renewal commissions on business that is renewed each year. There are also opportunities to generate additional revenue with production and profitability bonuses. Some insurance carriers, including Erie Insurance, often offer travel incentives to award top sales performers with all-expense-paid trips. ERIE also provides monthly and annual bonuses for production and profitability.

As your agency grows, your business will usually increase in value. It have the potential of helping you enhance your retirement planning goals, be passed on to family members or be sold to another agent.

How do I become licensed to sell insurance?

To become an agent, you need to hold a current property/casualty license and life/health license in your state.  To prepare for the state licensing exam you need to take a three-day pre-licensing course or complete a self-study course for each license. A college degree is not required, but having a background in insurance, business or finance can be an asset. It’s also beneficial if you have sales experience.

Here are some of the steps that you’ll need to take:

  • Pick a line of business. Agents are required to be licensed for specific lines of business. Knowing what type of coverage you want to sell can help you choose your insurance career path.
  • Meet your state’s education requirement. In all states, you will need to complete pre-licensing requirements. For example, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department requires candidates to complete 24 hours of general pre-licensing education and three hours of instruction in ethics.
  • Pass the state insurance exam. Test-takers generally spend 35 to 40 hours studying for the property and casualty exam, which is a timed, multiple-choice test. The number of questions on the exam will depend on the state and the license for which you are applying.
  • Apply for a license. One way that you can submit your license application online is through the National Insurance Producer Registry (NIPR).
  • Gain an insurance company appointment. After you are licensed, you’ll need to apply and secure an appointment with an insurance company.

For more information about the license requirements, you can find a directory listing of state insurance departments through the Insurance Information Institute website.

Become your own boss

Ready to take the next step toward an insurance career? When you become an insurance agency owner, you’ll enjoy building your own business and developing a rewarding career.

Becoming an Erie Insurance agent is a great opportunity to develop your own business while representing a Fortune 500® company that has been in business for since 1925. You’ll be backed by a highly engaged and experienced Home Office and branch team to help you succeed. Find out more about what it takes to become an ERIE agent.

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