Majoring in Risk Management — What to Expect

Two college women walk away from an academic building near a mature tree.

“What’s your major?”

College students are asked that question constantly, whether by family, friends or a random person at a party. For many, it’s not always easy to answer, considering that between 20 and 50 percent of students enter college undeclared and about 85 percent of students change their major at least once.

The truth of the matter is that as a teenager, you shouldn’t be expected to know how you want to spend the rest of your life. Instead of immediately choosing a college major, you should focus on researching and learning about available career paths, considering those that seem like good opportunities, and then looking at relevant college majors that could be useful in those careers.

One undergraduate major we encourage students to consider — and one that’s growing nationwide — is risk management and insurance (RMI). An RMI degree is essentially a business degree geared toward careers in the $1.1 trillion insurance industry. Most students are surprised to find that this major even exists, but it’s actually been around for more than 100 years — since the first higher education classes on insurance began at the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1900s.

To give you a better understanding of this field of study, here’s an overview of what to expect as an RMI major — from the classes you’ll take to the jobs you’ll be qualified for on graduation day.

Expect to Have Options

Many schools that offer RMI majors are growing their programs, so they’re anxious to recruit and offer scholarships to the best and brightest. If you’re interested, take a look at this list of 45 schools that offer RMI degrees. Digging a little deeper, here are the top five schools with the largest risk management and insurance programs, according to Business Insurance magazine:

  1. Temple University
  2. University of Georgia
  3. University of Wisconsin–Madison
  4. University of South Carolina
  5. Appalachian State University

Expect to Meet Ambitious Fellow Students

Students who are serious about finding a stable job after school that utilizes their skills and interests — and pays well — are signing up for RMI majors. These students also tend to look for learning and networking opportunities outside the classroom. Many of them become connected with Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS) — the international risk management, insurance and actuarial science collegiate fraternity. Individual chapters within the GIS fraternity have a ton of worthwhile ways for their students to get involved, from attending insurance conferences around the country to bringing in guest speakers and hosting professional development events.

Check out the most popular reasons students choose an RMI major, according to research from St. John’s University:

  • Job opportunities
  • Opportunity for advancement
  • Industry stability and job security

Expect to Earn a Business Degree With Real-World Applications

Because an RMI degree is essentially a business degree focused on risk management and insurance, you’ll not only learn about business broadly, but you’ll also gain specific, practical business knowledge that’s useful in countless real-world situations. RMI students develop a range of valuable skills, like finding innovative solutions to problems, assessing probabilities and developing detailed analytical abilities. RMI students also focus on personal skills, like talking, listening and thinking ahead, as well as finding new ways to do things.

In light of this, you can expect to take a wide variety of classes that will help you hone these skills — including courses like “Insurance Company Operations,” “Macroeconomics,” “Introduction to Statistics for Business,” and “Corporate Risk Management and Estate Planning.”

Expect to Land an Internship

Let’s start with the following understatement: internships are a good way to secure a job in the insurance field. More specifically, internships are a huge opportunity to get a foot in the door at top organizations and learn about what day-to-day life is like in these careers. Fortunately, many top RMI programs build an internship experience into their curricula.

In addition to tried-and-true internships, most schools offer plenty of other ways to learn more about the industry and begin forming connections, including career fairs, job office resources, insurance clubs and local GIS chapters.

Expect to Get a Job

Many schools that offer RMI degrees boast job-placement rates well above 90 percent. With this major, it’s the norm for graduates to find a career in the field within three months of graduating, if not long before graduation. And most positions offer significant opportunities for advancement and growth. These perks are why the industry says that insurance offers the “career trifecta” — it’s stable, rewarding and limitless.

“There’s no doubt you’ll be offered a job,” said Tim Cook, director of the Risk and Insurance Studies Center at Virginia Commonwealth University. “And not only will you have a job, but you’ll also have the chance to advance.”

The graduates of one of the top RMI programs earn an average starting salary of $58,000, with an average bonus of almost $4,000. Numbers like these mean that those with an RMI degree will earn more in an entry-level position than the average college graduate will at any point in his or her career — not a bad way to enter the real world!

Expect to Keep Learning

For insurance professionals, learning never stops. Continuing education is a great way to jump-start your career and expand into other specialties. RMI grads know this — 86 percent of them plan to earn a professional designation, like the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) or Associate in Risk Management (ARM) designation, according to St. John’s research.

An insurance career is definitely a stable career, but with emerging technologies and new kinds of risk, it’s also always changing — and there’s always something new and interesting to learn. For successful insurance professionals, a college degree in RMI is just the starting point for a lifelong pursuit of knowledge.