According to the Department of Commerce, the insurance industry is one of the largest in terms of revenue. Insurers play a key role in the economy and have a stabilizing effect on the financial system - from fueling the capital markets to providing a measure of financial security and income to individuals and businesses through the payment of claims.
Generally speaking, insurance is designed to minimize potential financial losses and property damages caused by natural disasters, accidents, illness, injuries, insolvency, or any other perilous contingency. In exchange for premiums, the insurance industry safeguards the assets of its policyholders and helps them get back on track in the event that such losses or damages occur. Individuals and institutions purchase insurance coverage to ensure their economic welfare.
Although it's quite possible that any quantifiable risk has its insurance counterpart, the two broadest categories of insurance are life and non-life. Subsequently, insurance providers are classified by the type of insurance coverage they offer. The Life insurance companies sell life insurance, annuities and pensions products, while Non-life or general or property and casualty insurance companies sell a myriad of other types of insurance, including automobile and homeowners policies.
Life insurance provides a cash benefit to a decedent's beneficiaries, which might represent the sole source of financial support available to the dependents of a deceased wage earner. Annuities reduce the likelihood of retirees outliving their assets and make it possible for them to maintain their standard of living. Property/casualty insurance (auto, home, and commercial) covers accidental loss or property damage plus it reduces or eliminates legal liability for unintentional damages caused to other people or their property. Specialized insurance products protect lenders and borrowers, shielding businesses such as exporters from customer defaults and facilitating the financing of mortgages and other credit transactions.
Insurance companies assume billions of dollars in risks each year, allowing enterprises who participate in the economy to produce goods and services free of the paralyzing fear that some adverse circumstances could leave them destitute or unable to function. Furthermore, as part of the Financial Services industry, insurers act as financial intermediaries when they invest the funds collected from participating policyholders in real estate, or corporate equities and bonds. These investments, in turn, spur economic growth by infusing businesses with capital used for research, expansions, and other ventures.
The insurance field offers diverse career opportunities for people with all types of skills - interpersonal, math, organizational, technological, and business. Some of the most commonly-known job titles include Insurance Underwriters, Claims Adjusters, Examiners, and Investigators, Insurance Agents and Brokers, and Actuaries.
Insurance Underwriters rely on complex technical data from loss control specialists and actuarial studies to identify and estimate financial risks and exposure involved in issuing an insurance policy to individuals or businesses. When deciding whether to accept an applicant as well as how much insurance coverage applicants are eligible for and what premium to charge them, underwriters consider a number of factors related to applicant’s medical condition, occupation, and income. Commercial account underwriters may have to examine the company’s entire business operation. Most underwriters specialize in one of the three major kinds of insurance: life, health, or property and casualty. They may further specialize in individual or group policies or by the type of risk, such as fire or automobile.
Claims Adjusters, Examiners, and Investigators, who are employed by a property/casualty insurer, review and validate insurance claims against the terms of the policy and determine the applicability of the confirmed coverage to the facts of the loss and the extent of insurance company's obligation to the insured. Adjusters and Examiners provide background for investigation, securing records, statements, and eyewitness accounts and arranging for inspections of damaged property or sustained injury. They negotiate with policyholders, claimants, and/or their representatives to settle claims as appropriate, report overpayments, underpayments, or other irregularities, confer with legal counsel on claims requiring litigation, as well as calculate and authorize benefit payments. Public adjusters, on the other hand, deal with insurers on behalf of policyholders in return for a portion of a claims settlement. Investigators are responsible for ensuring the prompt and thorough investigation and impartial and equitable conclusion of assigned claims through effective research, negotiation, and interaction with insured individuals, claimants, and attorneys, if necessary. They gather information, including police and/or fire reports along with damage appraisals and interpret claims estimates based on the application of product knowledge, e.g. parts of a car or building materials. Adjusters, Examiners, and Investigators are expected to exercise vigilance in detecting and preventing potential fraud and to suggest and execute a plan of action for each suspicious account.
The main focus of Insurance Agents and Brokers is to market and sell insurance products and services to prospective clients or existing policyholders. They serve as ambassadors of future business, and as a rule, must generate leads by actively soliciting new clients. Agents and Brokers are required to assess clients’ investment objectives, risk tolerance, time horizon, and unique circumstances to make sound recommendations that best match customers’ needs with insurance products and services.
Actuaries rely on their math skills and knowledge of statistics and finance to calculate insurance rates, ascertain cash reserves, and to construct probability tables to forecast risk and liability for payment of future benefits. They analyze critical structural elements and statistical data, such as mortality, accident, sickness, disability, and retirement rates influencing specific insurance risks to determine their aggregate effect upon expected profitability, competitiveness, and pricing equity. Actuaries report financial results and financial risks imbedded in product design, underwriting, pricing, funding, and marketing decisions to the management. They frequently participate in the development of pension and group benefit plans. Successful actuaries continually update their skills and stay current on government legislation and social trends that effect risk. A bachelor's degree in Mathematics, Statistics, Actuarial Science, Finance, or a related field is required to enter the profession. To receive full professional status in their specialty, actuaries should join the Society of Actuaries (SOA) or the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS).
Since insurers offer a wide variety of insurance products and financial risk management services and tools to the public, businesses, and organizations, insurance training programs vary in length, focus, and intensity. Short-term programs, often operated by insurance agencies or private trade schools, prepare students for entry-level careers and are geared toward introducing them to the various types of insurance, insurance selling techniques, codes of ethics along with current laws and regulations governing insurance. Insurance sales professionals must get licensed upon satisfying the mandatory eligibility criteria, which to a certain extent varies by state. Most states require for insurance salespeople to pass a written exam on insurance fundamentals and state insurance laws. Some also stipulate completion of a minimum number of contact hours in an approved course of insurance study. In addition, the insurance industry provides education advancement opportunities through the certification of industry professionals by specific insurance societies.
Glendale Community College offers Insurance Specialist and Insurance Professional certificate programs. The Insurance Specialist certificate is designed to prepare students for entry-level positions in insurance offices such as appraiser, agent, estimator, administrative assistant, broker, and salesperson. The Insurance Professional certificate is designed for students who currently hold a 2-year or higher degree and/or have employment experience in an insurance office or an insurance-related business. The curriculum will qualify students for positions above entry-level in insurance offices, such as appraiser, agent, estimator, administrative assistant, broker, salesperson, and various management positions. Coursework required for either certificates is intended to help prepare students for insurance certifications.
Bachelor’s insurance programs can provide background for risk analyses and management, financial planning, loss control, actuary, and auditing careers.
Students interested in pursuing a Bachelor’s degree should meet with an academic and/or transfer counselor to discuss transfer requirements.
A few four-year colleges and universities offer master's and doctoral degrees. A solid education enhances job candidates’ employment prospects and leads to professional growth opportunities within the industry. Applicants with work experience are always looked favorably upon by employers. To break into the industry, one should consider securing an internship position with an insurance company or agency. It could be of great value to newcomers seeking to acquire practical experience and to develop an edge over their competition. Current and prospective GCC students interested in obtaining an internship should contact Student Employment Services.
Key Skills & Characteristics
- Extensive knowledge of insurance products and components, laws and regulations, as well as marketing and sales techniques.
- Enjoy influencing, motivating, and leading others.
- Entrepreneurial mindset, ambition and a desire to succeed.
- A strong commitment to integrity and ethical business practices.
- Effective interpersonal, negotiating, and interviewing skills.
- Ability to communicate professionally with clients and all levels of management and staff.
- Ability to write and interpret reports, business correspondence, and procedure manuals.
- Ability to use mathematical and logical thinking skills to solve practical problems and deal with a number of variables.
- Highly developed customer service skills, capacity to competently present information and respond to questions and inquiries.
- Proficiency with personal computers and pertinent mainframe systems and software packages.
- Ability to prioritize responsibilities in a fast paced work environment.
- Willingness to travel reasonable distances usually within an assigned territory.
- Inquisitiveness and an interest in investigative work.
Related Job Titles
*Commercial Lines Underwriter *Property Risk Analyst *Claims Auditor *Claims Examiner *Claims Manager *Claims Assistant *Claims Appraiser *Insurance Auditor *Insurance Examiner *Personal Financial Advisor *Financial Planner *Statistician *Economist *Risk Manager *Cost Containment Specialist *Actuarial Trainee
Please visit the GCC Career Center to research specific occupational information and learn more about your selected career path.