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Online Degrees in Insurance


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With an annual revenue topping $1.2 trillion, the insurance industry in the United States is the largest in the world. Insurers help customers and their families protect their assets from minor and catastrophic loss. Types of insurance coverage include health, life, property, casualty and more, and can be for either personal or commercial use. Because of the wide range of coverage and the many different skill sets required within the industry, insurance companies are constantly seeking employees with a mix of technical education and on-the-job experience.

Due to the large number of jobs in the industry, the education level required to obtain employment varies widely by position. The type of insurance that is being offered may also play a part in how much formal education an employee must have. Undergraduate online degrees in insurance are typically open to anybody who applies. However, some graduate degree programs do require prior insurance industry experience and/or certifications as a prerequisite to acceptance.

Insurance degrees are best suited for individuals with an interest in business, insurance, sales, mathematics, finance, or all of the above. Students who pursue the insurance field typically have the option of designing their study schedule to fit into their busy work and personal lives. These programs generally include courses in business, risk management, underwriting, property and casualty insurance, employee benefits and financial concepts.

Not all insurance-related careers require a degree. That said, obtaining a specialized education in the field can give students a thorough understanding of insurance industry practices and concepts. Insurance degrees range from certificates to master's degree programs. The chart below includes some of the different degrees available, complete with typical length of completion and careers they may lead to:

Degree

Length of Completion

Potential Careers

Certificate in Insurance

Certificate programs typically take about one year to complete. These programs can be geared toward either those seeking employment or those already working in the industry.

Insurance Sales Agent; Claims Adjuster, Appraiser, Examiner, or Investigator; Insurance Underwriter

Associate Degree in Insurance

These programs typically take two years of full-time study to complete.

Insurance Sales Agent; Claims Adjuster, Appraiser, Examiner, or Investigator; Insurance Underwriter

Bachelor's Degree in Risk Management and Insurance

These programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete.

Insurance Sales Agent; Claims Adjuster, Appraiser, Examiner, or Investigator; Insurance Underwriter; Actuary; Personal Financial Advisor

Master's Degree in Risk Management and Insurance

These programs take up to two years of full-time study after completion of a bachelor's degree.

Insurance Sales Agent; Claims Adjuster, Appraiser, Examiner, or Investigator; Insurance Underwriter; Actuary; Personal Financial Advisor

When it comes to entry-level positions in the insurance industry, many positions require nothing more than a high school diploma. Others require at least a bachelor's and attainment of particular certifications. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that most insurance sales agents need only a high school diploma to apply, although some companies do prefer a bachelor's degree. Additionally, candidates will need to pass licensing examinations in order to practice. On the other hand, actuaries typically need at least a bachelor's degree to obtain employment, often in mathematics or a related field. They also must pass a series of professional examinations to obtain the licenses needed to work in their field.

Students seeking online insurance degrees should first consider what career path they wish to follow before deciding how much time to spend on their degree. If they're interested in a career in sales, for instance, a graduate degree in risk management is probably not necessary. However, if their aim is to reach middle or upper management within a company, a master's may be worth their time. While an undergraduate program in insurance and risk management is a good first step for anybody looking to enter the insurance profession, students are advised to gain work experience in the field prior to enrolling in graduate programs.

In addition, mid-career insurance or finance professionals can upgrade their skills with continuing education certificates in key areas. Professional certification is also available in underwriting or various areas of administration -- the Chartered Life Underwriters (CLU), Accredited Advisor in Insurance (AAI) and Insurance Institute of America (IIA) certifications are some of the top certifications in the field.

A degree in insurance offers an entry point into a very diverse industry. These career-focused business programs teach students practical skills for managing risk in the context of different types of insurance: personal and commercial, life and health, property, casualty and financial insurance.

Insurance education covers business fundamentals and applied techniques for assessing, pricing and managing risk, and administering different types of insurance. Programs typically focus on:

  • Insurance types: Life insurance, health insurance, property and liability insurance, casualty insurance, commercial insurance
  • Insurance administration: Insurance operations, employee benefit plans and retirement planning, personal financial planning, insurance law and regulations, reinsurance, surety and bonds, insurance agency operations, sales management
  • Risk management: risk modeling, risk theory, risk financing, enterprise risk management, mathematical risk management (MRM), actuarial science

In addition, insurance degrees offer a general education designed to hone core communication, analytical and critical thinking skills. Some programs also emphasize business fundamentals, with courses in finance, management, marketing and accounting.

Of course, the specific curriculum varies by school. However, most insurance companies operate under the same basic principles of business. Therefore, schools often prepare insurance students by teaching similar core courses, such as:

  • Principles of Finance
  • Risk Management & Insurance
  • Corporate Risk Management
  • Property & Casualty Insurance
  • Life & Health Insurance
  • Principles of Underwriting
  • Retirement Planning & Employee Benefits
  • Global Risk Management

Depending on which school they attend and the type of degree that they seek, students may be required to complete an internship prior to graduation. Internships are typically completed at area insurance companies. Students may have the opportunity to select which department they are assigned to. Some internships can be paid positions, but mostly these allow students to make valuable career contacts within the insurance industry.

Upon graduation, students may wish to further use their knowledge of the risk management and insurance industry by specializing in one of the following fields:

  • Insurance Sales
  • Underwriting
  • Risk Analysis
  • Insurance Claims and Investigation
  • Risk Management
  • Regulatory Compliance Management
  • Insurance Operations Management

Typically, choosing a particular specialization during school is not necessary. In addition to choosing a career specialization upon graduation, students may also wish to specialize in a particular insurance niche. Regardless of the path they choose, online insurance degrees help prepare students with the knowledge to succeed in any number of different positions within the industry.

Although the insurance industry covers many different areas, the core concepts and practices within each branch remain relatively similar. Online degrees in insurance can prepare students with a broad knowledge of practices and concepts that will serve them well in almost any position they hold in the industry.

As with nearly any type of commerce, the insurance industry is seeing more consumers shop and communicate via online platforms. An online program can help students prepare to handle this new breed of customer. While taking courses online, students will gain valuable experience with various online communication platforms. email, message boards, video and messenger chat, and online networking events can be a great way for students to interact with their peers and professors while honing important web-based customer service skills.

Online programs are typically more flexible than traditional on-campus programs, making them a great fit for working adults or those with family commitments. With round-the-clock access to course materials and lectures, students can pursue their education at a time that is most convenient for them, while meeting prior commitments in other areas of their lives.

Due to the enormity of the insurance industry, there are numerous career paths and opportunities available to those possessing a degree in the field. Listed below are a few of the more popular options, along with relevant wage and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Career

Projected Job Growth 2014-2024

Mean Annual Wage in 2014

Insurance Sales Agent

9 percent

$63,730

Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators

3 percent

$63,500

Insurance Underwriters

-11 percent

$70,570

Actuaries

18 percent

$110,090

Personal Financial Advisors

30 percent

$108,090

Insurance and risk management programs can help provide graduates with the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue a rewarding career in the insurance industry. Because each student's intended career path may be different, they should carefully consider their goals before enrolling in any degree program.

For information about specific programs, or to learn more about online degrees in insurance in particular, check out any of the schools listed below.


Sources:
Actuaries, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/actuaries.htm
Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/claims-adjusters-appraisers-examiners-and-investigators.htm
Insurance Sales Agents, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/insurance-sales-agents.htm
Insurance Underwriters, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/insurance-underwriters.htm
May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
Personal Financial Advisors, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/personal-financial-advisors.htm
The U.S. Insurance Industry: Largest in the World, Market Realist, http://marketrealist.com/2015/02/us-insurance-industry-largest-world/

With two children and a full-time job, my schedule is very hectic--WGU was put on this earth for me! I was able to submit work when it was convenient for me and work at a pace that best suited me, not the highest person in my class (as I've experienced with many traditional schools). - Carlisha Moore 
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