Looking for a solid career that won't require a four-year college degree? The insurance industry may be the right place for you. Armed with only a high school diploma or a two-year associate's degree, you'll find plenty of entry-level jobs are open to you in this field, including customer-service representative, administrative assistant and sales agent.
At Mutual of Omaha, most of the entry-level positions for high school graduates are in the customer-service operations center, where customer-service representatives (CSRs) answer calls. Those who succeed as CSRs genuinely care about helping others and enjoy supporting people as they experience key life events.
While the job may sound simple, it's not, says Sharon Rues Pettid, Mutual of Omaha's manager of human resources. CSRs have to learn about a variety of insurance products and answer questions from customers, insurance sales agents and even the company's field offices. "It's an ideal position because you're learning about every facet of our business," Pettid says.
CSRs start off learning one product line and earn about $24,000 a year at Mutual of Omaha, Pettid says. As they learn more product lines, their pay goes up. Those with previous call-center or customer-service experience earn more, she adds.
To advance, a CSR can move to a team serving large group policyholders, or go into product development or sales support. "It's a great way to learn the business and then move up," Pettid says.
Insurance is a paperwork-intensive business, so there's always demand for administrative assistants, especially in the property and casualty insurance business, says William Wolfe, an account executive with Insurance Personnel Service, an insurance staffing firm in San Francisco.
In this entry-level insurance job, you'll serve an insurance broker's commercial customers by answering questions about policies, adjusting coverage, or creating identification cards and proof-of-insurance documents. Salaries for administrative assistants range from $30,000 to $40,000 a year, with the higher salaries being paid in high-cost areas, Wolfe says.
"Even for entry-level people, the next step is to take insurance courses through the insurance education associations and to obtain your insurance casualty license so you can discuss premiums and coverage with clients," he says.
Those courses typically take one to three months to complete, and most brokers cover the cost, Wolfe says, adding that "some go-getters will get the license prior to being employed, which looks good to an employer because it shows initiative."
When seeking a job as an administrative assistant to a broker, you'll be competing with four-year college graduates. To beat them out, focus on your communication skills and computer literacy and make sure your appearance is professional, Wolfe recommends.
Sell Your Way into Insurance
Got the gift of gab combined with persuasive charm? Then sales can be a good entry-point into an insurance career. "There's no requirement for a degree," says Jeff Gipson, president of The James Allen Companies Inc., a Cape Girardeau, Missouri, insurance recruitment firm. "If you do well, your clients aren't going to ask you for your diploma before they sit down with you."
What you will need is a state-issued insurance license for each product line you sell. States typically require prelicensing education; some have licensing exams.
Gipson recommends that those without a degree boost their credibility by seeking industry designations such as the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), the Associate in Personal Insurance (API) or the Accredited Advisor in Insurance (AAI) offered by the American Institute for CPCU and the Insurance Institute of America.
Since you'll likely be competing with more educated applicants, set yourself apart by pitching your excellent communication skills and networking abilities.
Once you've worked in insurance, your industry knowledge will be a valuable commodity. "Industry experience makes you more competitive in the job market," Pettid says. And if you decide to further your education, it's likely your insurance company employer will reimburse your tuition costs.
"A company's benefit or total rewards package should be a critical part of your decision-making process," says Emily Wang, a State Farm Insurance recruiter. "You should look for an insurance company that supports your professional development though insurance designations and tuition reimbursement programs."
Mutual of Omaha, for example, offers tuition reimbursement to full-time and part-time employees seeking college degrees and also sponsors employees who attend industry education programs and earn insurance industry certifications.
Best of all, you're likely to find the market continually offers career opportunities. "All companies and individuals need insurance," Wolfe says. "The need for it is not going to go away. There's always going to be a job market in the insurance field."