Bureau of Labor Statistics

Insurance Sales Agents

insurance sales agents image
Insurance sales agents explain various insurance policies and help clients choose plans that suit them.
Quick Facts: Insurance Sales Agents
2018 Median Pay $50,600 per year
$24.33 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2016 501,400
Job Outlook, 2016-26 10% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 49,800

Summary

What Insurance Sales Agents Do

Insurance sales agents contact potential customers and sell one or more types of insurance. Insurance sales agents explain various insurance policies and help clients choose plans that suit them.

Work Environment

Most insurance sales agents work in offices, although some may spend time traveling to meet with clients. Some sales agents meet with clients during business hours and then spend evenings doing paperwork and preparing presentations to prospective clients.

How to Become an Insurance Sales Agent

Although most employers only require agents to have a high school diploma, many agents have a bachelor’s degree. Agents must be licensed in the states where they work.

Pay

The median annual wage for insurance sales agents was $50,600 in May 2018.

Job Outlook

Employment of insurance sales agents is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Faster employment growth is projected for agents selling health insurance.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for insurance sales agents.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of insurance sales agents with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about insurance sales agents by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Insurance Sales Agents Do

Insurance sales agents
Insurance sales agents commonly sell one or more types of insurance, such as property and casualty, life, health, and long-term care.

Insurance sales agents contact potential customers and sell one or more types of insurance. Insurance sales agents explain various insurance policies and help clients choose plans that suit them.

Duties

Insurance sales agents typically do the following:

  • Call potential clients in order to expand their own customer base
  • Interview prospective clients to get information about their financial resources and discuss existing coverage
  • Explain the features of various policies
  • Analyze clients’ current insurance policies and suggest additions or other changes
  • Customize insurance programs to suit individual clients
  • Handle policy renewals
  • Maintain electronic and paper records

Insurance sales agents commonly sell one or more types of insurance, such as property and casualty, life, health, and long-term care insurance.

Property and casualty insurance agents sell policies that protect people and businesses from financial loss resulting from automobile accidents, fire, theft, and other events that can damage property. For businesses, property and casualty insurance also covers workers’ compensation claims, product liability claims, or medical malpractice claims.

Life insurance agents specialize in selling policies that pay beneficiaries when a policyholder dies. Life insurance agents also sell annuities that promise a retirement income.

Health and long-term care insurance agents sell policies that cover the costs of medical care and assisted-living services for senior citizens. They also may sell dental insurance and short-term and long-term disability insurance.

Agents may specialize in selling any one of these products or function as generalists providing multiple products.

An increasing number of insurance sales agents offer their clients—especially those approaching retirement—comprehensive financial-planning services, including retirement planning and estate planning. In addition to offering insurance, these agents may become licensed to sell mutual funds, variable annuities, and other securities. This practice is most common with life insurance agents who already sell annuities, but many property and casualty agents also sell financial products.

Many agents spend a lot of time marketing their services and creating their own base of clients. They do this in a variety of ways, including making “cold” sales calls to people who are not current clients.

Potential clients often use comparison shopping tools online to learn about different policies and get information from insurance companies. Clients can either purchase a policy directly from the company’s website or contact the company to speak with a sales agent.

Insurance agents also find new clients through referrals by current clients. Keeping clients happy so that they recommend the agent to others is a key to success for insurance sales agents.

Insurance agents may work for a single insurance company or an insurance brokerage.

Captive agents are insurance sales agents who work exclusively for one insurance company. They can only sell policies provided by the company that employs them.

Independent insurance agents work for insurance brokerages, selling the policies of several companies. They match insurance policies for their clients with the company that offers the best rate and coverage.

Work Environment

Insurance sales agents
Most insurance sales agents work in offices, although some may spend much of their time traveling to meet with clients.

Insurance sales agents held about 501,400 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of insurance sales agents were as follows:

Insurance agencies and brokerages 54%
Self-employed workers 18
Direct insurance (except life, health, and medical) carriers 9
Direct health and medical insurance carriers 4

Most insurance sales agents work in offices, although some may spend time traveling to meet with clients.

Work Schedules

Some sales agents meet with clients during business hours and then spend evenings doing paperwork and preparing presentations to prospective clients. Most agents work full time, and about 1 in 5 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2016.

How to Become an Insurance Sales Agent

Insurance sales agents
Agents must be licensed in the states where they plan to work.

Although most employers only require agents to have a high school diploma, many agents have a bachelor’s degree. Agents must be licensed in the states where they work.

Education

A high school diploma is the typical requirement for insurance sales agents, although a bachelor’s degree can improve one’s job prospects. Public-speaking classes can be useful in improving sales techniques, and often agents will have taken courses in business, finance, or economics. Business knowledge is also helpful for sales agents hoping to advance to a managerial position.

Training

Insurance sales agents learn many of their job duties on the job from other agents. Many employers have new agents shadow an experienced agent. This practice allows the new agent to learn how to conduct the company’s business and to understand how the agency interacts with clients.

Because changes in tax laws, government benefits programs, and other state and federal regulations can affect clients’ insurance needs and the way in which agents conduct business, employers often expect agents to take continuing professional education courses. Agents can enhance their selling skills and broaden their knowledge of insurance and other financial services by taking courses at colleges and universities or by attending conferences and seminars sponsored by insurance organizations.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Insurance sales agents must have a license in the states where they work. Separate licenses are required for agents to sell life and health insurance and property and casualty insurance. In most states, licenses are issued only to applicants who complete specified courses and who pass state exams covering insurance fundamentals and state insurance laws. Most state licensing authorities also require agents to take continuing education courses focusing on insurance laws, consumer protection, ethics, and the technical details of various insurance policies.

As the demand for financial-planning services increases, many agents also choose to get licensed and certified to sell securities and other financial products. Licensing and certification requires substantial study time to pass an additional exam—either the Series 6 or Series 7 licensing exam, both of which are administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The Series 6 exam is for agents who want to sell only mutual funds and variable annuities. The Series 7 exam is the main FINRA series license, which qualifies agents as general securities sales representatives.

A number of organizations offer certifications that show an agent’s expertise in insurance specialties. These certifications are not required for employment, but they can give job candidates an advantage over other applicants. Certifications also can be a source of continuing education credit. For details on specific designations, contact The Institutes and The American College of Financial Services.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Insurance sales agents must evaluate the needs of each client to determine the appropriate insurance policy.

Communication skills. Insurance sales agents must be able to communicate effectively with customers by listening to their requests and suggesting suitable policies.

Initiative. Insurance sales agents need to actively seek out new customers in order to maintain a flow of commissions.

Self-confidence. Insurance sales agents should be confident when making “cold” calls (calls to prospective customers whom they have not contacted before). They must speak clearly and persuasively and maintain their composure if rejected.

Pay

Insurance Sales Agents

Median annual wages, May 2018

Sales representatives, services

$54,350

Insurance sales agents

$50,600

Total, all occupations

$38,640

 

The median annual wage for insurance sales agents was $50,600 in May 2018. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,500, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $125,610.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for insurance sales agents in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Direct health and medical insurance carriers $62,010
Direct insurance (except life, health, and medical) carriers 54,330
Insurance agencies and brokerages 48,540

Many independent agents are paid by commission only. Sales workers who are employees of an agency or an insurance carrier may be paid in one of three ways: salary only, salary plus commission, or salary plus bonus.

In general, commissions are the most common form of compensation, especially for experienced agents. The amount of the commission depends on the type and amount of insurance sold and on whether the transaction is a new policy or a renewal. When agents meet their sales goals or when an agency meets its profit goals, agents usually get bonuses. Some agents involved with financial planning receive a fee for their services rather than a commission.

Some sales agents meet with clients during business hours and then spend evenings doing paperwork and preparing presentations to prospective clients. Most agents work full time, and about 1 in 5 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2016.

Job Outlook

Insurance Sales Agents

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Insurance sales agents

10%

Total, all occupations

7%

Sales representatives, services

7%

 

Employment of insurance sales agents is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.

Because the profitability of insurance companies depends on a steady stream of new customers, the demand for insurance sales agents is expected to continue. Employment growth will likely be strongest for independent sales agents as insurance companies rely more on brokerages and less on captive agents as a way to control costs.

Many clients do their own Internet research and purchase insurance online. This practice somewhat reduces demand for insurance sales agents because many purchases can then be made without an agent’s services. However, agents will still be needed to interact with clients to help them understand their options and choose a policy that is right for them. Many customers lack the time or expertise to study the different types of insurance to decide what they need and will continue to rely on advice from insurance sales agents.

Agencies are also implementing “marketing automation,” a set of software tools that allow agents to maintain contact with their clients more efficiently. Although this is expected to improve insurance sales agents’ productivity, it is not expected to substantially reduce employment demand. Agents will still be needed to reach out to new, prospective clients and sell different insurance policies.

Employment growth should be stronger for agents selling health insurance, as this segment of the insurance industry is projected to grow faster than others. Employment of insurance sales agents in direct health and medical insurance carriers is projected to grow 28 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Job Prospects

College graduates who have sales ability, excellent customer-service skills, and expertise in a range of insurance and financial services products are likely to have the best prospects. Multilingual agents may have an advantage, because they can serve a wider customer base. In addition, insurance terminology is often technical, so agents who have a firm understanding of the relevant technical and legal terms also should be desirable to employers.

Many beginning agents fail to earn enough from commissions to meet their income goals. These agents may eventually transfer to other careers. Many job openings are likely to result from the need to replace agents who leave the occupation or retire.

Employment projections data for insurance sales agents, 2016-26

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Insurance sales agents

SOC Code41-3021
Employment, 2016501,400
Projected Employment, 2026551,200
Percent Change, 2016-2610
Numeric Change, 2016-2649,800
Employment by Industryemployment projections excel document xlsx

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of insurance sales agents.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2018 MEDIAN PAY
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. They contact customers, explain the features of the products they are selling, negotiate prices, and answer any questions that their customers may have about the products.

See How to Become One $61,660
Advertising sales agents

Advertising Sales Agents

Advertising sales agents sell advertising space to businesses and individuals. They contact potential clients, make sales presentations, and maintain client accounts.

High school diploma or equivalent $51,740
Real estate brokers and sales agents

Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents

Real estate brokers and sales agents help clients buy, sell, and rent properties. Although brokers and agents do similar work, brokers are licensed to manage their own real estate businesses. Sales agents must work with a real estate broker.

High school diploma or equivalent $50,300
Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents

Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents

Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents connect buyers and sellers in financial markets. They sell securities to individuals, advise companies in search of investors, and conduct trades.

Bachelor's degree $64,120
Sales managers

Sales Managers

Sales managers direct organizations' sales teams. They set sales goals, analyze data, and develop training programs for organizations’ sales representatives.

Bachelor's degree $124,220
Insurance underwriters

Insurance Underwriters

Insurance underwriters decide whether to provide insurance, and under what terms. They evaluate insurance applications and determine coverage amounts and premiums.

Bachelor's degree $69,380
Personal financial advisors

Personal Financial Advisors

Personal financial advisors provide advice on investments, insurance, mortgages, college savings, estate planning, taxes, and retirement to help individuals manage their finances.

Bachelor's degree $88,890

Contacts for More Info

For more information about insurance sales agents, visit

National Association of Professional Insurance Agents

Insurance Information Institute

For more information about insurance sales agents in the healthcare industry, visit

National Association of Health Underwriters

For more information about certifications, visit

The Institutes

The American College of Financial Services

For more information about securities licensure, visit

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)

Information about insurance sales agent licensure is available from state insurance department websites.

O*NET

Insurance Sales Agents

Last Modified Date: Friday, April 12, 2019

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Insurance Sales Agents,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/insurance-sales-agents.htm (visited April 20, 2019).

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