There is a myth out there, especially among students, that working in insurance means selling insurance. There certainly are many sales jobs in the insurance industry, and those can be very rewarding and incredibly profitable for those that have the right personality, skills and patience to play the long game and build their book of business. But selling insurance certainly isn’t for everyone.
Today, we take the time to explore what many of the non-sales jobs insurance jobs are about, demystifying the lingo and explaining in simple terms what they do, with a focus on how they might fit the careers of new graduates.
When you buy an insurance policy, what you’re buying is the promise that the insurance company will pay when something unfortunate happens, in other words, ultimately claims is the product. This promise isn’t fulfilled automatically, but rather it gets taken care of by the dedicated people of the company’s claims department. Claims people investigate the events and evaluate how much the insurance company owes and then cut you the check to get you back on your feet. Claims careers are deeply rewarding, but they can also be very fast paced and stressful. Claims is one of the most common areas where new insurance professionals start their careers since there are a lot of jobs in the area.
At the entry level, claims jobs involve a lot of phone and email and can be rather specialized dealing with a specific type of policy (auto or homeowners only) or a specific type of coverage within the policy (property damage or injuries only). You will usually find yourself in a centralized location dealing with claims that might have happened hundreds of miles away.<
Middle level claims role are more likely to be “field” based, meaning that you are more likely to work outside of the office investigating the accident and dealing with the customer in person. You can also grow to deal with bigger, more complicated claims, and you can grow to become a supervisor or manager leading other claims people.
Underwriters are the professionals in charge of helping the insurance company decide which policies to write, whether to make exceptions to the guidelines, and to some extent how much to charge for a policy. Underwriting is at the very heart of what an insurance company does and in many carriers, it’s somewhat of a rite of passage if you want to grow into the executive levels.
Underwriting jobs vary a lot between carriers and between product lines. In personal lines (home, auto and renter’s insurance) a lot of the underwriting functions are getting automated away by newer software platforms, and the remaining underwriting jobs are moving towards “portfolio underwriting” where the underwriter is not making decisions on specific policies but rather on entire books of business (or collection of policies). On the other hand, in commercial lines (insurance for businesses), underwriters are much more likely to make decisions for individual policies, and the work is less automated.
In some of the bigger or more specialized lines of businesses, you also find Underwriting Assistants (UA) who do a lot of the clerical work of writing a complex insurance policy. An UA role in the right company and line of business is a great way to get your foot in the door and get the training to become an Underwriter later.
At the entry levels, Underwriters are likely to work from the office and work on less complex policies. As they grow into the middle levels, Underwriters can grow to become Field Underwriters (specialized underwriters that work outside of the office), Underwriting Managers supervising other underwriters, or Staff Underwriters who help shape the underwriting guidelines that the other underwriters will be working with.
Actuaries are specialized mathematicians heavily trained in the use of spreadsheets and advanced mathematical models to price insurance policies. Actuaries generally have degrees in Actuarial Science, and they tend to dedicate their first few years working to pursue the actuarial exams to get certified as Actuarial Fellows. This side of the industry is VERY specialized, and we don’t tend to talk about it much at InsNerds, but if serious math gets you excited, Actuary is a great career to consider, and one of the best paying areas of the insurance industry.
Customer Service Representatives/Account Representatives/Account Managers/Account Executives:
Insurance producers and agents whose main job is to sell insurance, generally prefer to focus their efforts on finding new customers and selling new policies so they hire Account Representatives to manage the servicing aspects of the policies they sell. Servicing policies involves making changes when the customer requests them, securing signatures, collecting payment and anything else required after a policy has already been sold. These roles require a lot of experience at the Account Manager and Account Executive levels but offer a good entry level job at the CSR or Account Representative level. It’s a great way to learn the agency/brokerage side of the business without jumping head first into a commission only agent/producer role.
Insurance companies employ thousands of Finance professionals who are in charge of many back office roles such as reporting financial results, forecasting future results, and helping the company model any other aspects of its operations. There are many entry level roles for which you only need a Bachelor in Finance and an analytical mind. At the entry levels, you are likely to find yourself working on reports while at the middle levels you are more likely to become a trusted partner helping the leaders in an area of the company make intelligent, numbers based decisions for their area.
Insurance companies employ thousands of Marketing professionals who take care of all of the customer facing aspects of the company including advertising, managing customer facing websites, social media, mailings and all other aspects of how the company attracts, engages and serves the customer.
Many insurance companies have back office roles in charge of inputting data into systems and moving data from one system to another. These roles tend to be rather dry but can offer a great way to get your foot in the door, especially if you’re still working on finishing your college degree. This is the kind of role that you can get into easily and take advantage of tuition reimbursement programs while you learn the business. You can later move to a supervisory role or to a more interesting part of the business such as Underwriting or Claims. Processing positions are likely to decline as technology gets better and legacy systems get replaced by modern systems that don’t require a lot of processors.
Sales Managers/Territory Managers:
It’s a bit weird to mention Sales Managers in an article that’s specifically about non-sales roles in the industry, but bear with us, we’ll explain ourselves: Sales/Territory Managers manage the relationship between the insurance company and a group of agencies in a particular geographic area. While they work very closely with the agents who do the selling, they themselves are not selling to the public, rather helping the agents sell the company’s products better. These kinds of roles are very rewarding, but they’re generally not entry level, most Sales Managers or Territory Managers come from Underwriting.
IT and Project Managers:
Insurance companies run thousands of different specialized software systems that have to be built, maintained, and updated. Keeping those systems running requires lots of IT professionals with different specialties and skilled Project Managers to organize their efforts. If you have a degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering or Software Engineering chances are we have a job for you.
Legal and Compliance:
One of the benefits insurance policies offer is defending you if you get sued. Because of this and because of the complexity of working in a heavily regulated industry, we also employ thousands of lawyers and related professionals which deal with the many aspects of keeping the company running legally and defending our customers when needed.
This was not meant to be an exhaustive list of roles. We just want to dispel the myth that insurance careers are all about selling. We truly do have lots of very rewarding jobs that have very little to do with selling and offer awesome, rewarding careers.