It seems the economic winds are shifting in ways the powers that be can no longer brush under the rug; career and job issues are going to be back in demand in the way they were a few years ago. That’s why I’m providing information about the career I was in and the one from which I retired, Commercial Property and Casualty Insurance. It’s just one of the many insurance careers available.
An Overview Of Insurance
There are different fields of insurance: Property, Life and Health, Professional Liability, Automobile, Investment and Medical. Each is unique, though there is some overlap. Each requires specific training and experience in order to be successful. Each have challenges to make it intellectually rewarding. Because of this expansive nature, I’m not going to explore all of them. What this article will do is to introduce you to the field in general and to pique your interest in it as something you might want to explore for yourself.
What is insurance? It’s the practice or arrangement by which there is provision of a guarantee of compensation for specified loss, damage, illness, or death in return for payment of a premium. Jokingly, with reference to life insurance, I used to say “Life insurance is where the company bets you are going to die and you bet you won’t and you hope the insurance company wins.”
What kind of jobs are there in the field? This is hardly an exhaustive list, but it includes some of the larger and better-paying lines of employment. Just note that, as in any industry, job titles and responsibilities can vary somewhat from employer to employer. That said, here’s the list:
An actuary holds an important technical job, trained in statistical analysis and the scientific determination of insurance policy terms and premiums, especially regarding life and health insurance. If you ever saw the original The Postman Always Rings Twice with Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson is the “actuary” who undoes his evil work.
Physical actuaries are rapidly being replaced by electronic computations. Today, actuarial services can tell a salesman the likelihood of left-handed, blue-eyed male over 45 with blonde hair having a heart attack on a Friday in the second week of a month with an “R” in it. Well, not exactly, but you get the idea such work is intended to help clarify and define the risks of a potentially insurable situation.
Actuaries assess risk at a macro level, determining the proper premiums and policy terms for broad categories of individuals and properties. Average income for actuaries is $96,700 and growth in the field is projected to be “much faster than average”.
2. Insurance Appraisers
Among the career paths in insurance, insurance appraisers are experts in the valuation of certain types of property, providing expert advice to insurance claims adjusters. Auto damage appraisers represent a large and particularly significant category of insurance appraisers. Average income for insurance appraisers is $64,750.
3. Insurance Claims Adjuster
Insurance claims adjusters determine if a party claiming loss due to property damage, bodily injury, etc., is owed a payment under an insurance policy, and in what amount. Most insurance claims adjusters are employees of insurance companies, but some are independent consultants who represent claimants. Average income for insurance claims adjusters is $63,500.
4. Insurance Claims Examiner
Insurance claims examiners do work similar to that of insurance claims adjusters. Examiner, rather than adjuster, is the usual title in life and health insurance. However, in property and casualty insurance, the title of examiner often designates a senior adjuster who handles the most costly or difficult claims. Every claim submitted will be “examined.” The process of determining the level of compensation is the “adjustment”. Average income for insurance claims adjusters is $63,500.
5. Insurance Investigator
Insurance investigators fill a private detective role. They assist in cases where fraud or criminality is suspected, usually larger claims. Among the classic types of fraud investigate are:
- Accidents staged for profit
- Phony claims of injury or disability
- Arson for profit
- Inflated values claimed on lost, damaged or destroyed property
- Claims for stolen items that actually were hidden, sold or given away
- Losses deliberately created through neglect or recklessness
- Patterns of repeated excessive billing by contractors
- Repair shops and medical providers (such as in the case of so-called drive-by doctoring)
- Claims on life insurance policies obtained with inaccurate representations, such as faked medical results, or where the deceased disguised suicide as an accident or murder, or where a beneficiary willfully caused the death of the named insured
- Claims entered by impostors posing as the named insured or beneficiary
These are just some of the possible scenarios in which, if suspected by other members of the claims department, an insurance investigator will be assigned the case.
6. Insurance Sales Agent
Insurance agents (also called insurance sales agents) sell one or more lines of insurance products and policies. Additionally, some insurance agents may act as financial planners, and may be licensed to sell a range of investment products in a manner similar to financial advisors. Agents who are employees of a given insurance company are sometimes referred to as “captive agents”. Independent agents who sell the products of multiple insurance companies often are called “insurance brokers”. Average income for insurance sales agents is $47,860 and growth in the field is projected to be “faster than average”.
7. Insurance Underwriter
An insurance underwriter is someone who evaluates the risk associated with a type of insurance coverage. They work in all areas of insurance, including life, health, auto, and property and casualty. In connection with evaluating risk, the underwriter’s job is to help set premium levels for policies, based on that risk. Other closely allied occupations are those of insurance examiners and insurance investigators. Average income for insurance underwriters is $70,570.
Nature Of The Field
This is a professional field, meaning more than high school education may be (but not always) required. Licensing and certification is generally a requirement in most states. Since there is a fiduciary (you handle and are responsible for someone’s money) responsibility, there is an element of accountability in the work. For example, in the state of Georgia, even the receptionists and clerks at small agencies who accept premium payments from customers are required to complete an elementary training course.
Specialized preparation is also considered necessary. There are schools which teach the essentials of the insurance trade, and advanced studies in specialized fields earns practitioners “designations” which can be important for advancement.
Large insurers commonly provide a variety of career opportunities. College degrees and advanced education can help you get ahead in many of the fields, but for the most part, advancement is based on performance. If you are a hard worker who can make sales, review claims efficiently or build an effective client base, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to increase your earnings and land promotions. On the other hand, competition is fierce in many fields, and unless you are passionate about insurance, your chances of advancement are limited.
Many insurance positions, such as being an underwriter for a major insurance company, are regular nine-to-five jobs that usually don’t require weekend work. You’ll be inside an office at a desk for most of your day, allowing you to schedule your evenings and weekends freely. As an insurance sales representative, on the other hand, you’ll be expected to work evening hours when clients are available. Independent agents travel extensively to call on customers and must remain flexible to accommodate client needs.
For the most part, you can count on insurance for stability in your career. Businesses and individuals need insurance no matter what state the economy is in. At the same time, the usual areas that you can count on to increase business often are reduced in a tough economic environment. Consumers buy fewer cars and homes. Businesses hire fewer employees who need insurance. Theft claims may increase. Large insurance companies are relatively stable, but they can rely on downsizing and replacing staff via technological advances to remain viable.
Following a career in insurance can be rewarding though rising from the bottom is slow but it can be done. My son, at 19, was an assistant manager in a retail grocery store. He didn’t like the long hours and having to work holidays. I was working for a large agency at the time and he asked me if I could see if there might be something open for him there. There was, and he started doing very simple clerical work. He’s been in the industry since 1998 and is a Vice-President, doing quite well for himself, making out better in it than I did.
Are any of you veterans of the insurance business? Would you recommend it to others? What have been some of the joys and rewards you’ve experienced? Share with us those aspects of the business that are not attractive to you.