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Insurance Underwriters

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Insurance Underwriters Overview: Among the career paths in insurance, insurance underwriters analyze insurance applications, determining whether they should be accepted or rejected. They may be employed either by insurance carriers (insurance companies), or by independent insurance brokerage firms. While they normally fill a back-office role in support of insurance sales agents (insurance agents), they sometimes accompany the latter on sales calls to clients or prospective clients.

Find Job Openings: Use this tool to search current job openings in this field.

Education: A Bachelor's Degree is expected. Coursework in business, finance or accounting can be helpful, but not required. A high degree of computer literacy is increasingly important, since the data analysis involved in the job is commonly computerized. An MBA can be a useful credential, depending on the firm.

Certification: Entry-level jobs usually require no special training or certification. However, obtaining some formal certification often is important to advance in the field. The IIA and the AICPCU (The Insurance Institute of America and The American Institute for Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriters, respectively) are the leaders in insurance underwriting training and certification. The most respected credential that they offer is Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter (CPCU). It requires passing 8 out of 11 courses and having at least 3 years of relevant insurance industry. The CPCU is awarded either in commercial or in personal insurance.

Duties and Responsibilities: Depending on the type of insurance being requested, insurance underwriters may conduct independent investigations of applicants, such as credit or background checks. Also, if property insurance is sought, insurance underwriters may need to enlist help from professional appraisers. Actuaries assess risk at a macro level, determining the proper premiums and policy terms for broad categories of individuals and properties. Insurance underwriters work at a micro level, analyzing specific applications for insurance, and setting the specific policy terms and conditions for each that they accept, within guidelines set by the insurance carriers. Among these terms and conditions is the premium to be paid by the insured.

Typical Schedule: The majority of insurance underwriters work close to a standard 40 hour week, normally from fixed office locations. However, some insurance underwriting jobs do require varying degrees of travel, such as those related to the insuring of workplaces, construction sites, ships, etc. In these cases, the insurance underwriter usually most inspect the venue to assess the risk.

What's to Like: Insurance underwriting will appeal to analytic people. It also can lead to opportunities in general management within the insurance industry.

What's Not to Like: In some specialties, such as the writing of various lines of personal insurance, where you are processing data in a fixed office location, the job can become somewhat mechanical and repetitive.

Salary Range: Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual compensation was about $52,000 as of May 2006, with the top 10% earning over $92,000.

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