The Million Dollar CPCU – A Ridonculous Return on Investment!

This article originally published in

Back in 2011 when I started working on my CPCU I didn’t know a single person who had their CPCU. I was going on blind faith and what I thought was good advice. I hadn’t discovered the CPCU Candidates Group on Facebook, the InsurancePros subreddit and InsNerds was just a glimmer in my eye. I had no idea that the local CPCU Society Chapter would’ve been happy to have me show up at their monthly meetings even though I hadn’t finished the program yet. I was truly going on blind faith and hoping against hope that CPCU truly was the way to lap my coworkers who had more insurance experience than me.

I was hoping CPCU would have this effect

I happened to find a list of local CPCUs and I started looking them up in the company’s intranet. The intranet gave me their job titles, and luckily the company published the pay bands each job belonged in and the ranges of those pay bands. In other words, I had enough info to create a decent estimate of what the median CPCU in the company was getting paid. I had to make some assumptions, of course. I assumed that each CPCU was paid at midpoint of the pay band. The company didn’t publish pay bands for the executive levels, so I couldn’t get any salary estimate for anyone above VPs or above, so I just didn’t include them. This probably means I underestimated the real number (since I was cutting out a lot of high earners including pretty much all of the C-level positions, almost all of whom had CPCUs).

With a couple of hundred people in my little database I felt confident my number was somewhat reflective of reality and I was floored when I saw the results. In my estimation the average CPCU in the company was making around $80,000! At the time I was an entry level claims rep, barely out of the call center, and making around $40,000 a year. I figured that even if it took me 10 years to get to that salary level the CPCU was a solid investment and I kept chugging along.

After I finished my CPCU and fell in love with the CPCU Society I saw that they published a stat that the average CPCU makes 29% more than non-CPCUs in the same job title. That’s pretty cool. I’m all about making almost a third more than my teammates!

Fast forward a few years and it turns out my calculations were pretty darn accurate. For the last three years I’ve been making about twice what I used to make and my career trajectory only seems to be going straight up. And I’m not alone. After hosting the New Designee Open House at the CPCU Annual Meeting every year from 2012 to now, and attending almost every CPCU Society Leadership Summit I’ve connected with hundreds of fellow CPCUs and though conversations usually don’t veer into the topic of salary (silly social taboos) it has become very clear that the great majority of CPCUs get promoted or recruited away within the two years following finishing the program. Some of my friends went through CPCU while they were in very entry level roles not only got new jobs, they are now in jobs much higher up in the industry than when they finished CPCU.

Recently a conversation broke out in the CPCU Candidates group and several people confirmed that their salary had doubled after CPCU so it appears to be pretty common, especially for those who do it early in their careers. Also, the earlier you do it, the more time you have to cash in on it!

I’m bad at math, but let’s see what we can do (Carly will correct my math post-publication I’m sure). reports that a “Claims Adjuster I” in Des Moines, Iowa (a low-cost of living major insurance hub) makes between $34,700 and $47,500 per year. Since it’s hard to negotiate a high percentile in the pay band as a young college grad with little experience let’s go with the 25th percentile of $38,500. So our hypothetical example, 25 year old Gina, is making $38,500 when she starts CPCU.

Gina gets her CPCU and within 2-3 years has leveraged to grow into an “Underwriter III” type role. According to that role normally requires 5 years experience, but with a CPCU I can assure you it can easily be cut down to 2 years. The range for that role is $59,900 to $119,000. Since she’s a CPCU and had a lot more opportunity to negotiate (and was getting recruited on LinkedIn by a lot of outside recruiters), plus she reads InsNerds so she’s invested a lot in her professional development, she’s at the 50% percentile of the pay band. I’d say that’s a conservative assumption for a hungry CPCU in the current talent wars. So she’s making $90,000. She has literally more than doubled her salary. To be conservative, let’s say she just doubled her salary and is now at $77,000.

Assuming she works until age 65 she gets to enjoy her $38,500 higher salary from age 27 to age 60, that’s 33 years for a total lifetime extra earnings of $1,270,500! That’s without counting any raises or the fact that she’s likely to get better raises with her CPCU than without. I’m not a finance guy but holy wow, those are big numbers.

Also, keep in mind that chances are her company paid for CPCU in its entirety costing her nothing out of pocket! But  let’s assume that she can’t get her company to pay for it (and she never read our Doing CPCU on a Budget article) so she pays for it out of pocket. As of today, the cost of doing CPCU is:

CPCU 500: Recommended Package $207 + test $276

CPCU 520: Recommended Package $207 + test $276

Ok, I’m going to assume all tests cost the same, so 8 tests x $483 = $3,864. Let’s call it $4,000 or so. There you go. A $4,000 investment that pays back over $1,000,000. I don’t even know how to calculate the rate of return on that it’s so ridonculously high! (Yes, it’s so high the word ridiculous just doesn’t do it so we have to go all Urban Dictionary on you). No, we don’t get commission for every person we get to do CPCU, we just love the program because it was a career maker for us and for so many of our friends.

Carly was soundly asleep when I wrote this. All grammatical and math errors exclusively my fault.

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 and a passionate speaker.

5 thoughts on “The Million Dollar CPCU – A Ridonculous Return on Investment!”

  1. Hello Tony,
    Thanks for writing on this topic it was very informative. A little bit about me, I have 4 years of insurance experience and I completed my CPCU in January 2017. However, I have yet to a recruiter contact me on LinkedIn for a job that I would actually be interested in. Also now most jobs I post out for I’m over qualified and on others they’re seeking people that have a CPCU with 10 years of insurance experience. Can you write a article about how to make the CPCU designation work for you after you worked for it? Thanks

    • Who is “he”? This article is certainly meant to sell you into getting a CPCU, because I absolutely believe in CPCU and I’ve seen it do AMAZING things for a few hundred of my closest friends’ careers. I do have my own CPCU and it has been career making for me. Also, I want to clarify that I don’t get any kickback from The Institutes or the CPCU Society for encouraging people to pursue CPCU. I don’t even get a discount on the annual meeting… I do this because I love what it does for people.

  2. Hello Tony,
    I really appreciate all of the hard work that you and your team put into making these articles. I am currently a junior at UHD and doing at Bachelor Degree in Insurance and Risk Management. Your articles inspire me to pursue a career in Insurance and I am deeply grateful. Right now I am planning on taking the CPCU as I go along my university studies, so wish me luck!
    I know that most people recommend that I wait until I have my job, but I decided to take it as I go because the information will still be fresh in my mind.

    • Thanks for your comment! Knocking out a couple of tests during college is a great idea. The only reason to wait is to let your employer pay for them, but you won’t do any damage to your career by doing them during college.


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