Insurance agents are the men and women behind some of TV’s most unforgettable ad campaigns. Who can forget GEICO’s gecko with that adorable British accent, Allstate’s memorable “Mayhem” character or the catchy jingle “Nationwide is on your side”? Insurance agents sell auto, health, home and life insurance. Commercial insurance agents also sell property damage and liability policies, employee and executive coverage and product liability. Insurance is a heavily regulated field, and agents must be licensed by their state.
Roughly a quarter of agents work for an insurance company and often sell its products exclusively. About half work for an independent insurance agency or brokerage and sell the products of many insurance companies. Nearly 20 percent are self-employed. Commissions are an important source of income for most agents, although a smaller number hold salaried positions. Agents spend considerable time developing and pursuing sales leads. Consumer policy agents do a lot of telephone and office work, while commercial agents are more likely to be out in the field with customers. Independent agents who work for a brokerage may have irregular hours, but they also have more control over their work schedules than agents who work for an insurance company or spend most of their time in an office. There tends to be a lot of turnover in this career, because many new agents struggle to earn sufficient commission income and switch to other occupations.
Prospects for insurance agents are closely tied to the growth of the broader economy, so the slow but steady recovery from the recession is providing improved job opportunities and stability for professionals in this industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects insurance-agent employment growth of 10.4 percent between 2012 and 2022. That’s an additional 45,900 jobs that should open up before the end of that period.
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for insurance agents was $48,210 in 2013. The best-paid 10 percent made more than $117,830, while the lowest-paid 10 percent made less than $26,030. The highest salaries were paid by securities and commodities firms, outpatient care centers and local governments. The highest-paid insurance agents worked in the metropolitan areas of Bloomington, Illinois; Lake County, Illinois; and Framingham, Massachusetts.