A man with a tie

Even if you have little to no specific knowledge about careers in risk management and insurance, we bet you’re aware of insurance salespeople. But we also bet that you aren’t aware of what these professionals really do in their jobs (hint: it’s a lot different than you think).

There are two main types of sales positions in insurance: agents and brokers. Both sell insurance and risk management products, but in different ways.

Agents sell insurance on behalf of specific insurance companies. Agents who represent one specific company are called captive agents. Others are independent agents, selling insurance products for a specific group of companies.

Brokers don’t sell products from any one insurance company in particular. Instead, they broker deals between insurance buyers (individuals or businesses) and insurance carriers.

To put it in noninsurance terms, buying from an agent is like buying directly from a retailer, and buying from a broker is more like buying something through Amazon.

Because agents and brokers spend most of their time selling, they’re typically on the go from meeting to meeting, networking and closing deals. As a result, their hours can be pretty flexible, allowing for enviable work/life balance.

And many agents (and some brokers) with the entrepreneurial bug ultimately branch out independently, opening up their own agencies and brokerages.

Here’s what it takes to enter an insurance sales career.

Undergraduate degree required? For the most part, yes, but not necessarily. Some people begin a career in sales without any college education or any business training at all. But even when a degree isn’t required, it does help if you’ve studied business, finance, economics or insurance.

Advanced degree required? No.

Additional requirements? Yes. Sales agents must be licensed to sell insurance in each state they work in. Some also choose to get additional licenses that enable them to sell other things, like general securities, mutual funds and variable annuities.

Typical career path: Sales in general is an on-the-job-training career, and insurance sales is no different — most sales agents or brokers learn how to do their jobs after they’ve been hired. Many companies require new agents or brokers to shadow experienced agents or brokers to learn how their companies’ processes work, gain valuable skills and insight, and prepare themselves to produce results on their own.

Sales professionals remain sharp by taking online insurance courses and attending conferences and seminars sponsored by insurance organizations. And because continuing education is required, companies typically pick up the bill. Not a bad perk!

Salary range:

  • Entry level: $32,829
  • Senior level: $106,920
  • Median: $49,990

Entry-level job titles:

  • Insurance Agent
  • Insurance Sales Representative
  • Insurance Sales Professional
  • Insurance Producer