Insurance Degrees and Career Paths



Workers can enter the insurance industry with anything from a high school diploma to a graduate degree. According to an O*NET survey, 35 percent of claims adjusters who responded had a bachelor’s degree compared to 81 percent of underwriters. Yet unlike with some fields, in which higher educational barriers to entry equate to greater demand and job growth potential, this is not necessarily true in the world of insurance. Underwriter jobs, for instance, are shrinking due to computer automation. Meanwhile, sales jobs, which rely on interpersonal skills more than formal education, are anticipated to grow at a rate of 10% this decade. The industry, then, welcomes a variety of people with a mix of backgrounds, knowledge and skills. A few of the more common career paths are outlined below. Actuary Actuaries assess risk so they can set premiums. They usually specialize in one type of insurance. For instance, property insurance actuaries will analyze data about natural disasters to determine how much the insurance company would have to pay out in benefits should an earthquake occur. This helps the company set appropriate premiums so it can remain profitable even if disaster strikes. Claims Adjuster When an insured person needs to make a claim — perhaps due to a car accident, home theft or earthquake damage — the insurance company must assess the damage and compensate the insured person. To do this, an adjuster conducts interviews, inspects the scene and gathers other information to get a clear sense of what happened. This information is reported to a claims examiner (see below). The adjuster then makes a specific offer to the claimant for how much the company will pay. If this amount is rejected, the adjuster works with company lawyers to back up the company’s position. However, some adjusters are hired directly by claimants; their goal is to get larger offers than those offered by insurance companies. Claims Examiner Examiners work closely with claims adjusters. They review submitted claims to determine whether they should be paid or denied. Their main job, then, is to decide whether claims are reasonable; they leave the precise compensation to claims adjusters. Insurance Claims and Policy Processing  Clerks do administrative work, processing policies that are bought by customers as well as claims that are made. They make sure that records are up to date so that their colleagues — adjusters, sales agents, underwriters and others — are working with accurate information. Insurance Investigator If the examiner believes a claim to be suspicious, she or he refers the case to an investigator, whose role is to protect the company from suspected insurance fraud. An investigator may, for instance, do initial research to find out if a house fire was the result of arson, which would constitute fraud and void the claim. Insurance Sales Agent As the name implies, insurance sales agents sell insurance policies of all types to customers. They work in three general areas: property and casualty insurance; life insurance; and health insurance. Their goal is to help customers purchase a plan that suits their needs, whether it is a business who needs to insure against product liability or an individual who needs to cover a car against theft. Agents help customers consider premium costs, deductibles and other financial considerations. Agents can either work for one insurance company or they can work for brokerages, in which case they show individual clients options from multiple companies and pair them with the best one for them. Insurance Underwriter Whereas actuaries look at risks broadly, underwriters apply these risks to specific cases, assessing the likelihood that the insurance company will profit by selling insurance to a person or business. For instance, they judge whether to provide insurance to a homeowner who lives in an area prone to fires or whether to provide auto insurance to a driver with a history of accidents. Underwriters must balance risk and reward. If they do not issue insurance, the company loses out on income from premiums. If they do, the insurance company may lose money if a claim is made.