Qualifications of a Life Insurance Agent?

Although there are no college education requirements for life and health insurance agents, these insurance professionals must meet career-focused educational requirements and pass a licensure exam before they are qualified to work with the public. Life and health agents earn other qualifications through on-the-job training and continuing professional education.

Pre-Licensing Education

Before becoming licensed, prospective life and health insurance agents must meet pre-licensing educational requirements. Each state sets its own minimum standards, from 32 to 40 hours of classroom time at an approved community college, school or training center. Pre-licensing insurance courses cover terminology, insurance practices, ethics, types of policies and riders, underwriting basics and insurance contracts to prepare students for the state’s licensing exam. Some states allow prospective agents to take a competency exam after an independent study course instead of fulfilling the classroom hour qualification.

License Exam

Licensing life and health insurance agents is regulated by each state’s individual department of insurance. Future life and health insurance agents must pass a licensing exam that covers aspects of life insurance, health insurance and annuities, which are investment vehicles that life insurance agents are allowed to offer their clients without a separate securities license. To pass the licensing exam, students must be familiar with the types of life and health insurance policies, provisions and riders for each and insurance regulations.

On-the-Job Training

Newly-licensed life and health insurance agents typically work with a more experienced agent or field trainer for several months to learn sales practices and familiarize themselves with the exact provisions of each policy the company or brokerage carries.

Continuing Education

Licensed life and health insurance agents must complete continuing education, typically 30-40 hours every two years, to maintain their qualifications. Continuing education requirements ensure that agents keep current on regulatory changes and developments in life and health insurance. Some states require at least some of the continuing education credits to cover ethics. CE classes must be approved by the state department of insurance.

Agents can take some continuing education courses online, but most states require at least half of the continuing education hours to be taken in person, in a traditional classroom setting. Community colleges, technical schools and insurance professional organizations offer continuing education classes for life and health insurance agents.

Professional Designations

Some continuing education programs lead to professional designations. These additional qualifications indicate a specific area of expertise. CLU (Chartered Life Underwriter) the highest designation in life insurance, requires agents to take 8 courses in life insurance and estate planning. RHU (Registered Health Underwriter) is a 3-course sequence for health insurance agents.

Securities License

Some life and health insurance agents also hold a Series 6 securities license. Administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Series 6 is a limited securities license that qualifies a life insurance agent to offer types of life insurance policies that have investment components, such as some whole life policies. Agents with a Series 6 license can also offer mutual funds and certain other financial planning options in addition to the fixed annuities that any licensed life insurance agent can offer.

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