All Things Political

Insurance Agent Job Outlook

Employment is expected to grow about as fast as average for all occupations. Opportunities will be best for college graduates who have sales ability, excellent interpersonal skills, and expertise in a wide range of insurance and financial services.

Employment change. Employment of insurance sales agents is expected to increase by 12 percent over the 2008–18 period, which is about as fast as average for all occupations. Future demand for insurance sales agents depends largely on the variety of financial products and volume of sales. Sales of health insurance, long-term-care insurance, and other comprehensive financial planning services designed specifically for the elderly are expected to rise sharply as the population ages. In addition, a growing population will increase demand for insurance for automobiles, homes, and high-priced valuables and equipment. As new businesses emerge and existing firms expand their insurance coverage, sales of commercial insurance also should increase, including coverage such as product liability, workers' compensation, employee benefits, and pollution liability insurance.

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Employment of agents will not keep up with the rising level of insurance sales, however. Many insurance carriers are trying to contain costs and are shedding their captive agents—those agents working directly for insurance carriers. Instead carriers are relying more on independent agents or brokers.

It is unlikely that the Internet will threaten the jobs of these agents. The automation of policy and claims processing allows insurance agents to take on more clients. Most clients value their relationship with their agent and prefer personal service, discussing their policies directly with their agents, rather than through a computer. Insurance law and investments are becoming more complex, and many people and businesses lack the time and expertise to buy insurance without the advice of an agent.

Job prospects. College graduates who have sales ability, excellent interpersonal skills, and expertise in a wide range of insurance and financial services should enjoy the best prospects. Multilingual agents should have an advantage, because they can serve a wider range of customers. Additionally, insurance language tends to be quite technical, so agents who have a firm understanding of relevant technical and legal terms will also be desirable to employers. Many beginning agents fail to earn enough from commissions to meet their income goals and eventually transfer to other careers. Many job openings are likely to result from the need to replace agents who leave the occupation or retire.

Agents may face some competition from traditional securities brokers and bankers, as they also sell insurance policies. Insurance sales agents will need to expand the products and services they offer as consolidation increases among insurance companies, banks, and brokerage firms and as demands increase from clients for more comprehensive financial planning.

Independent agents who incorporate new technology into their existing businesses will remain competitive. Agents who use the Internet to market their products will reach a broader client base and expand their business. Agents who offer better customer service also will remain competitive.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition

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