Insurance agents sell many types of insurance, such as life, health, property and casualty. Property and casualty is liability insurance that helps protect you against losses if you are held legally responsible for someone's injury or property damage. Agents can work for a company or independently; those who sell insurance from multiple companies to their customers are called insurance brokers. To work as an insurance agent or broker in New York, you must have a license for the type of insurance you wish to sell.
You are only required to have a high school diploma to become an insurance agent in New York, but many choose to get a bachelor’s degree to help improve their business skills and job prospects. A business degree is particularly helpful if you eventually want to move up into management. Most insurance companies provide on-the-job training, and you will also need to continue your professional education throughout your career as an insurance agent, so that you can stay abreast of the constant changes in state and federal insurance regulations. Some insurance companies also sponsor seminars and conferences to help their employees improve their selling skills.
You are required to have a property and casualty agent license to become an insurance agent in New York. To get this license, you need a sponsorship from an insurance company, 90 hours of insurance education courses approved by the New York Department of Financial Services, and a passing score on the department’s licensing exam. After you have completed those steps, within two years of passing the exam you must submit an online application and an application fee to the NYDFS. If you are not a New York resident but would like to be licensed as an insurance agent in the state, you may be exempt from the class and exams if you hold a license in your home state.
Once you are licensed as an insurance agent, you have two options when it comes to employment. The first, and arguably easiest, is to apply for jobs with insurance firms that are already established. Many insurance firms are branching out into financial services, so they may also require you to take one or more Financial Industry Regulatory Authority exams depending on which financial products they want you to sell.
Your second option is to become an independent insurance agent. This gives you the flexibility of being your own boss and setting your own hours, but requires you to register your business with the state and shoulder the startup costs, including agency licensing, location costs and insurance for your own business.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate of insurance agents should rise by about 10 percent between 2012 and 2022, about the average growth for all occupations. The growth rate for independent agents is expected to be higher than that of those employed by agencies. A college degree and sales experience will greatly increase your chances of finding employment as an insurance agent.