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How to Become a Surety Agent

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Surety agents guarantee the obligations and take on the liability of another person. If you have ever posted bail or become bonded to gain employment or to fulfill a contract, you have worked with a surety agent. Typically, agents must be licensed by the state to work as an employee of a bonding or insurance company or as an independent agent. Qualifications for application as a surety agent will vary from state to state. Applicant's typically must be at least 18 years old, pass a fingerprint and background check and complete educational requirements and an exam.

Contact your state's licensing agency and find out what qualifications and procedures you must comply with. Look for a state department of insurance, a public regulations commission or a licensing agency within the list of your state's administrative departments and agencies to locate licensing information. Each state has its own process for licensing and vetting surety agents.

Complete any education and apprentice requirements. Prior to taking a licensing exam, applicants are often required to complete some combination of education and on-the-job training. The time required to finish educational and work requirements can potentially take six months or more to complete.

For example, an agent in New Mexico must take authorized education courses pertaining to the ethics, statutes and laws of the state. Additionally, applicant's must apprentice under a licensed agent that educates the applicant about how to apply the classroom training.

Complete and return all required paperwork and fees. The combination of forms and paperwork will vary from state to state. Study your state's requirements carefully before proceeding with the application process and call the agency directly with any questions or concerns. A misstep in the process could delay your application.

In New Mexico, applicants fill out two forms, one for a license and one for the exam, and are also required to file a fingerprint card which includes a background check. Each form and the fingerprint card require payment of separate fees. The agent license fee is $30, the exam registration fee is $80 and fingerprint cards and filing require a $44 fee. Applicants must also complete certification forms as proof of education and apprenticeship requirements.

Take the exam. Exam fees are usually paid separately from the licensing fee and some state's may use a third-party exam service to manage the exam taking and scoring process. Other states may manage the proctoring and scoring of the exam through its own offices. Typically applicants wait to find out if their license application has been accepted before being able to schedule the exam.

New Mexico uses Prometric testing services to schedule and administer the agent exam.

Wait for word from the licensing agency. Agents are not licensed until they receive notification from the insurance board. Notification typically arrives in the mail and includes a copy of the license and instructions on keeping the license current. Some states may require continuing education and yearly renewal. Fees for renewal may vary.


Alex Burke holds a degree in environmental design and a Master of Arts in information management. She's worked as a licensed interior designer, artist, database administrator and nightclub manager. A perpetual student, Burke writes Web content on a variety of topics, including art, interior design, database design, culture, health and business.

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