Most employers require agents to have a high school diploma; however, more than one-third of insurance sales agents have a bachelor's degree. Agents must be licensed in the jurisdictions where they work.
Public speaking classes can be useful in improving sales techniques, and often agents will have taken courses in business, finance, or economics. Business knowledge is also helpful for sales agents hoping to advance to a managerial position.
Insurance sales agents learn many of their job duties on the job from other agents. Many employers have new agents shadow an experienced agent. This allows the new agent to learn how to conduct the company’s business and how the agency interacts with clients.
Employers also are increasingly placing greater emphasis on continuing professional education as the variety of financial products sold by insurance sales agents increases. Changes in tax laws, government benefits programs, and other local and federal regulations can affect the insurance needs of clients and the way in which agents conduct business. Agents can enhance their selling skills and broaden their knowledge of insurance and other financial services by taking courses at colleges and universities or by attending conferences and seminars sponsored by insurance organizations.
Insurance sales agents must have a license in each of the jurisdictions where they work. Separate licenses are required for agents to sell life and health insurance and property and casualty insurance. In most cases, licenses are issued only to applicants who complete specified courses and who pass state exams covering insurance fundamentals and insurance laws. Most licensing authorities also require agents to take continuing education courses every two years, focusing on insurance laws, consumer protection, ethics, and the technical details of various insurance policies.
As the demand for financial products and financial planning services increases, many agents also choose to get licensed and certified to sell securities and other financial products.
A number of organizations offer certifications that show an agent’s expertise in insurance specialties. These certifications are not required for employment, but they can give job candidates an advantage over other applicants. Certifications can also be a source of continuing education credit.