Online Degrees in Risk Management

Risk management professionals help insurance companies and other organizations assess the risks associated with running their business. After making their assessments, risk managers create plans to avoid these risks and reduce the financial impact should the worst case scenario occur. Risk exists in both the public and private sectors, and can include any event from weather, blackouts, or computer hacking, to organized fraud and robbery.

While careers in the insurance industry are the most obvious fit, the risk discipline isn't just contained to this field. Risk managers assess the probability of risk across a number of different areas, including business continuity and regulatory compliance. After conducting their research, they use their findings to create recommendations for reducing exposure to risk on a company-wide level. They develop strategies for managing risk in almost all industry sectors, from health care to finance, and work with both large corporations and small family businesses.

Educational requirements for entry into the field vary widely by the type of position being sought. Entry-level positions with insurance companies typically require a bachelor's degree, while upper-level management positions may require a master's. Online degrees in risk management can be an excellent option for students wanting to improve their marketability while pursuing a degree that fits around their busy lives. Students in these programs can expect to take courses in business, risk management, economics, insurance, finance and math.

While undergrad degrees in risk management are usually open to anyone, those seeking graduate-level degrees typically need a bachelor's degree prior to enrollment. Professional experience may also be required before they are accepted to grad school. Because the field is so highly interlinked with the corporate world, students should possess a strong interest in business, mathematics, and problem-solving. Students should also have excellent communication and critical thinking skills.

Choosing the Right Risk Management Degree

Risk managers are required to have a thorough understanding of the risks presented by running a business, as well as a comprehension of how to avoid those risks and respond appropriately when needed. Because of this, most entry-level positions do require some formal education. Online programs in the field range from certificates to master's degree programs. The chart below outlines some of the different types of degrees available, along with potential careers for each:


Length of Completion

Potential Careers

Certificate in Risk Management

These programs typically take 1-2 years to complete and are often taken concurrently with a bachelor's degree program at a college or university.

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

Bachelor's 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; Human Resources Manager

Master's in Business Continuity, Security, and Risk Management

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; Human Resources Manager; Compensation and Benefits Manager; Management Analyst

While there are a wide variety of positions available to risk management professionals, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that most require at least a bachelor's degree to obtain employment in entry-level positions. For certain specializations, graduates may also need to pass licensing examinations or earn professional certifications and designations.

What to Expect in a Risk Management Program

Online degree programs in this field can provide students with a well-rounded base of knowledge in business, insurance, and risk management policies and practices. Risk managers must use their mathematical skills and business knowledge to analyze a company's risks, take steps to minimize those risks, and respond appropriately to any emergencies that arise. They may also be responsible for monitoring these risks and making sure the company is in compliance with all applicable rules, regulations, and laws.

As with all degrees, the curriculum in a risk management program will vary from school to school. While exact class structure and course loads differ, most programs cover a similar set of core topics. Students can expect to take courses in:

  • Employee Benefits and Retirement Planning
  • Financial Concepts
  • Risk Modeling
  • Principles of Risk Management and Insurance
  • Corporate Risk Management
  • Disaster Management
  • Life and Health Insurance
  • Property and Casualty Insurance
  • Global Risk Management

Some programs may allow students to specialize in a specific area of risk management. Popular degree concentrations include:

  • Insurance Underwriting
  • Corporate Risk Management
  • Business Analysis
  • Insurance Claims and Investigation
  • Risk Management Consulting
  • Regulatory Compliance Management
  • Human Resources
  • Employee Benefits and Compensation
  • Insurance Operations Management

While choosing a specialization may not be necessary, combining a degree in risk management with studies in another area of business can help graduates land jobs in specialized fields. For example, a student who wishes to work in HR may want to major in risk management and minor in human resources.

Benefits of an Online Degree Program

In today's world, risk managers must be able to effectively research and communicate using a wide range of technology and internet applications. Online risk management degree programs help students gain experience with technologies they may need in their future work, preparing them for the inevitably of using digital devices on-the-job. Students will also gain online communication skills through the use of email, message boards and video chat with their professors and peers.

Many students pursuing risk management degrees are already professionals working in a corporate field or the insurance industry. Because of this, pursuing an online degree in risk management may be an ideal fit. Online schools provide students with a unique flexibility not found in traditional degree programs. In most cases, online students can fit their studies around their busy professional and personal lives.

Risk Management Careers

Degrees in risk management offer graduates a broad range of possible career paths. The table below lists some of the more popular options, along with relevant wage and employment data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Average Salary
Expected Job Growth
(2014 - 2024)
Management Analysts637,690$91,91012%
Insurance Sales Agents385,700$67,7609.7%
Human Resources Managers129,810$120,2108.9%
Compensation and Benefits Managers15,230$126,9005%
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

A degree can open the door to opportunities in a number of corporate or insurance careers. If you'd like to learn more about online degrees in risk management, check out the schools and programs listed below.

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
Compensation & Benefits Managers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/compensation-and-benefits-managers.htm
Human Resources Managers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.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
Management Analysts, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/management-analysts.htm
May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm

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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