CPCU vs CIC: 10 Things You Need to Know

In 2019 we added a video companion to this article:

It is certainly no secret that we are huge fans of continuing education and that both of us are CPCUs. We get lots of questions about which designation(s) to get, especially between CPCU and CIC. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Valued differently depending on area of the industry:

CPCU has historically been more valued by carriers, while CIC is more recognized in the agency world. Both are valued in both worlds, but they’ve each tended to be bigger in their home turf, so to speak. If you’re a carrier employee who deals mostly with fellow carrier employees, CPCU provides academic insights into industry foundational principles and might be your best bet. If you’re an insurance agent, sales manager, or carrier personnel who regularly deals with insurance agents, and you want to understand practical applications of the most current coverages or learn about agency management and risk management ideas and solutions, CIC might be a better choice.



2. Level of academic rigor:

We have heard that CPCU is more academically rigorous. Earning a CIC is like attending a university. Experienced faculty members guide you as you learn foundational concepts and advanced learning opportunities. However, like attending a university where you attend it can make a difference. Some regions might have great CIC course leaders while others might not. The CIC designation is more practical and can be more current, especially when it comes to teaching you coverage issues with real-world examples like the most recent ISO forms. CPCU takes a while to update each course. CIC has has the huge advantage of teaching you how agencies actually operate in the real world.


3. Self-study vs classroom:

CPCU can be earned through self-study and as slowly or as quickly as you want. CIC is earned by attending classroom and/or online courses. To earn the CIC designation, you must pass the examinations for five of the seven 16-hour courses that are offered.  After passing your first exam, you have five years to earn the designation. If you also want to learn about risk management, one of the Certified Risk Manager or Certified Personal Risk Manager courses may be substituted for one of the courses required for a CIC. If you choose to do some of the CIC in person classes, those require you to be there in person for 2 days which can be tricky if you’re still in an entry level role and can’t get employer support to be out of the office for that long.


4. Test types:

CPCU examinations are multiple choice. To prepare for the exam, you have the option to take online practice tests that are very similar to the real test. CIC examinations are short answer/essay based. The course you attend prepares you for the examinations. Examinations are created on-site and are tailored to what is taught throughout the course. The examinations are rigorous but fair and give you the opportunity to showcase your knowledge in the written responses you submit.


5. Standardization:

CPCU is very standardized and uses the same textbooks, practice guides, and tests throughout the country. CIC curriculum is constantly reviewed and updated to include state-specific information augmented with real-world examples. The courses are taught by experienced, practicing insurance agents and/or practitioners in other relevant areas of the industry. This allows CIC to always remain relevant, but quality of local lecturers can vary widely in different regions.


6. Continuing Education Requirements:

Historically CPCU had no continuing education requirement, but that has recently changed and CPCUs are required to earn continuing education to be considered CPCU CPD. However, a CPCU who does absolutely no continuing education after getting CPCU does not lose the right to use the letters. CICs must complete yearly updates by attending  a 16-hour class in order to maintain the designation. There are many advanced courses offered online or on site that also help meet this requirement. You can lose your CIC letters if you fail to do the yearly update.


7. Are there cool events associated with each designation?

CPCU gives you access to the CPCU Society, the biggest professional group in the industry. The network includes local chapters, national events twice a year, and interest groups dealing with specific areas of the industry. CIC offers update opportunities at specialized coverage and risk management seminars as well as membership to The National Alliance Research Academy. CICs who are also Academy members have access to a library of webinars and industry publications to augment continuing education efforts.


8. Level of social involvement:

CPCU is a mostly solitary pursuit because it’s self-study, but it becomes very social once you finish and start taking advantage of amazing networking opportunities like their society meetings. In addition, some companies or local society chapters offer classes or study groups. CIC offers networking opportunities at all classroom courses, plus the option of attending risk management and industry-specific coverage classes where specialized networks can be formed.


9. In person classes:

CIC offers classroom courses in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico. Many states offer a full rotation of the CIC Program annually. CIC in-person classes give you the option to ask clarifying questions and learn from other participants of your class. Faculty also teach using presentations and visual assets like videos. You’re also likely to make great connections with the leaders of the local agencies and brokerages.


10. Both CPCU and CIC are great investments in your insurance career, and you will never regret doing either or both of them!

For more information about earning a CIC and other designations from The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research, visit https://www.scic.com .
For more information about earning CPCU and other designations from The Institutes, visit https://www.theinstitutes.org .

About Antonio Canas

Tony started in insurance in 2009 and immediately became a designation addict and shortly thereafter a proud insurance nerd. He has worked in claims, underwriting, finance and sales management, at 4 carriers, 6 cities and 5 states. Tony is passionate about insurance, technology and especially helping the insurance industry figure out how to retain and engage the younger generation of insurance professionals. Tony is a co-founder of InsNerds.com and a passionate speaker.

8 thoughts on “CPCU vs CIC: 10 Things You Need to Know”

  1. It might be interesting to ask those insurance professionals who have earned BOTH designations, for their feedback, and even better, ask those insurance professionals who have TAUGHT in both designation programs for their objective feedback…..

    Richard G. Clarke


  2. As an executive search consultant for almost 40 years I can attest that any insurance designation exhibits commitment to our industry. Any and all roles within your profession, should show some form of Continued Education. It is a resume and career builder.

  3. Hi.
    I’m relocating to canada from India.im currently working for seven years in reinsurance claims with the national government in India. I’m a fellow of insurance institute if India.
    Am not sure if I should go for a cpcu(USA)
    Cip (canada) or acii(uk) journey before I go for my Mba. PleaSe suggest what’s relevant to Canadian re/insurance industry.

  4. I have been working at the agency level for about 10 years (everything from a personal lines agent to managing partner) and would like to transition to working for a carrier. Will the CPCU help set me apart from other applicants? or is experience in the industry more highly regarded?

    • Experience in the industry is always very helpful but CPCU or CIC would absolutely also help you stand out. If you want to stay on the agency side I’d suggest CIC.


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