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With an annual revenue topping $1.2 trillion, the insurance industry in the United States plays a vital role in the economy. 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.
Insurance degrees may be best suited for individuals with an interest in business, insurance, sales, mathematics, problem-solving, finance, or all of the above. In addition, students should possess excellent communication and critical-thinking skills.
Online programs in insurance and risk management can be an excellent option for high school graduates and professionals. New grads can prepare to start their careers - and those already in the workforce can improve their marketability - by pursuing a degree in a way that fits around their busy lives. 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.
What do insurance professionals do?
Insurers help customers, their families, and businesses protect their assets from minor and catastrophic loss. Types of insurance coverage can be for either personal or commercial use and include health, life, property, casualty and more.
The duties of people employed in the insurance industry can vary depending on their job profile, employer and the type of insurance involved. Some occupations and typical responsibilities include:
Insurance sales agents
- Explaining the features of different insurance products to potential clients
- Renewing policies and customizing them to suit clients' needs
- Analyzing information to determine risk on insurance applications
- Deciding whether to offer insurance, what the premiums should be and other terms
- Analyzing financial costs and risks in order to design and test insurance and other policies
- Using advanced statistics and modeling software to calculate probability and likely economic cost of events like accidents, sickness and natural disasters.
Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators
- Investigating, evaluating and deciding if insurance claims should be settled and to what degree
- Negotiating and authorizing payments
Risk management professionals
- Assessing the risks associated with running a business
- Communicating their findings to upper management
- Creating plans to avoid risks and reducing the financial impacts of adversity
Occupations and Career Outlook
Due to the enormity of the insurance industry, there are numerous career paths and opportunities available to those possessing a degree in this field. Listed below are a few of the more popular occupations, along with relevant wage and employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Projected Job Growth
(2016 - 26)
|Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate||58,880||$60,830||14.4%|
|Insurance Sales Agents||386,320||$66,990||9.7%|
|Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents||389,610||$97,440||6.1%|
Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals
Insurance studies range from certificate to master's degree programs. Educational requirements for entry into the field vary widely by the type of position being sought. The type of insurance that is being offered may also play a part in how much formal education an employee must have.
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. 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.
Those seeking entry-level positions as a risk management professional typically require a bachelor's degree, while upper-level management positions may require a master's. Professional experience may be required before they are accepted to grad school.
Online Certificate Programs in Insurance and Risk Management
Online certificate programs in insurance and risk management can be ideal for entry-level roles in the insurance industry.
What can I expect to learn in an online certificate program?
Typical duration: Up to one year
General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED
Typical coursework: Insurance and risk management certificate programs cover business fundamentals and applied techniques for assessing, pricing and managing risk, and administering different types of insurance. Depending on your program, you may focus on a particular form of risk management like personal property risk management and insurance. Some of the core subjects you may expect to study are:
- Principles of finance
- Risk management and insurance
- Health, life, and disability insurance
- Investment and asset liability management (ALM)
- Insurance regulation
- Commercial property insurance
- Corporate risk management
Possible Electives: Principles of fraud examination, managing organizational behavior, technical writing
What can I do after earning a certificate?
Some potential occupations are:
- Insurance Sales Agent
- Claims Adjuster
- Appraiser, Examiner, or Investigator
- Insurance Underwriter
Online Associate Degree Programs in Insurance and Risk Management
Online associate degree programs in insurance and risk management are usually business administration programs with a concentration in finance and risk management.
What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?
Students in an online associate degree program are generally taught practical skills for managing risk in the context of different types of insurance: personal and commercial, life and health, property, casualty and financial insurance.
Typical duration: Two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED
Typical coursework: Apart from business and insurance related subjects, students may also need to complete general education courses. Typical coursework can include:
- Life and health insurance
- Property coverage and loss adjusting
- Introduction to financial accounting
- Principles of management
- Principles of marketing
- Introduction to insurance with code and ethics
- Insurance claims handling
- Software for the insurance claims industry
- Risk assessment
- Risk control
- Risk finance
You may also be required to complete an internship at an insurance company.
Possible Electives: Marketing management, business strategy, principles of selling
What can I do after earning an associate degree?
An online associate degree in risk management may qualify you for entry-level roles in larger organizations with stringent hiring requirements. Some potential occupations are:
- Loss control specialist
- Claims adjuster
- Insurance agent
- Claims service representative
- Insurance specialist
Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Insurance and Risk Management
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a bachelor's degree in insurance is often the minimum requirement for employment in certain occupations within the industry. Fully online degrees in actuarial sciences may be rare to find, but you can programs that offer blended or hybrid programs. At this level, students may choose a specialization in the insurance field.
What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor's degree program?
Apart from core subjects like business, mathematics and statistics, students in a bachelor's degree program are taught leadership and business management skills.
Typical duration: Four years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED
Typical coursework: Courses may include:
- Business statistics
- Principles of underwriting
- Retirement planning and employee benefits
- Global risk management
- Actuarial models-life contingencies
- Principles of macroeconomics
- Principles of microeconomics
- Logistics management
In addition to coursework, you may be expected to complete an internship or capstone project along with passing your final examinations.
Possible electives: Accounting, mathematical biology, marketing, corporate finance
What can I do after earning a bachelor's degree?
Some potential occupations are:
- Insurance underwriter
- Personal financial advisor
- Business operations specialist
At this stage of education, students may want to explore undergraduate online certificate programs that offer specialized knowledge in subjects like principles of property and casualty insurance and corporate risk management. Typically, these certificate programs can be completed within a year, may require certain prerequisites and are designed to help enhance job opportunities.
Online Master's Degree Programs in Insurance and Risk Management
Online master's degrees in insurance and risk management can be in the form of a Master of Science (M.S.) in insurance and risk management or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a risk management concentration.
What can I expect to learn in an online master's degree program?
The curriculum for an MBA program includes business management subjects along with courses concentrating on risk management and insurance while MS degree coursework consists of theoretical and applied risk management.
Typical duration: One to two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Typical coursework: Coursework is designed to teach students how to analyze an organization's entire operations and identify areas that are vulnerable to risk or fraud. Coursework may include:
- Practical enterprise risk management
- Principles of risk and insurance
- Corporate risk management
- The legal and ethical environment of business
- Insurance company operations
- Integrated company analysis
- Risk financing
You may be required to complete a capstone project or master's thesis as a part of your program
Possible electives: Big data and data mining, advanced topics in risk management, global risk management, business firm valuation, mergers and acquisitions, financial modeling
What can I do after earning a master's degree?
Graduates of a master's degree in insurance and risk management can be eligible for senior management positions or even executive positions, depending on their experience, in the industry. Potential careers are:
- Business continuity planners
- Operations research analysts
- Financial managers
- Financial analysts
Online Doctoral Degree Programs in Insurance and Risk Management
A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in insurance and risk management can help prepare students for an academic or teaching career. Graduates of Ph.D. programs can also go on to leadership roles in the insurance and risk industry. Typical doctoral programs may include coursework as well as a doctoral thesis based on original research.
Many business schools are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Other professional accrediting bodies include:
Certifications and Licensures
As one might expect with anything finance related, the insurance industry is highly regulated with different professions requiring various licenses and certifications.
Insurance agents, underwriters and actuaries may require professional certifications to progress from entry-level roles to higher positions. Some certifying bodies are:
- The American College of Financial Services
- National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors
- Casualty Actuarial Society
- Society of Actuaries
Insurance sales agents may also delve into the field of financial planning and pass a series of examinations administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in order to become general securities sales representatives.
Risk managers may need professional certifications depending on the industry they are employed in. For example, The American Society for Health Care Risk Management administers the Certified Professional in Healthcare Risk Management (CPHRM) exam. A few other prominent certifying bodies are:
- Institute of Certified Construction Industry Financial Professionals (ICCIFP)
- The Professional Risk Managers' International Association (PRMIA)
Recertification or continuing education courses may be needed for any profession in the insurance and risk management industry.
Candidates may need to pass licensing examinations in order to practice. Licensing requirements can vary from state to state and the industry you are employed in.
Insurance sales agents need to be licensed by state and separate licenses may be required to sell different types of insurance. Pension actuaries need to be licensed by the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of the Treasury's Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries.
Claims adjusters' licensing requirements vary by state. Some states may require individuals to complete pre-licensing education and pass an examination while in others, claims adjusters can work under the license of the insurance company they are employed by. Claims adjusters do need to remain up-to-date with the latest developments in their industry making some states require continuing education credits to renew licensing.