When insurance carriers create a policy, whether for life insurance, auto insurance, homeowners’ insurance or any other kind of coverage, the company is taking a risk. If the policyholder doesn’t need the coverage, then the insurer never has to pay. However, if a covered event does happen, a high-value claim could cost significantly more than the policyholder’s premiums, or even a lifetime of premiums.
Naturally, insurance companies want to decrease risks and reduce the amount of money they have to pay. Insurance underwriters are the professionals who assess risk and use that knowledge to guide the creation of insurance policies. They analyze applications based on specific criteria, with the help of computer software. If necessary, insurance underwriters may have to conduct further research, including reaching out to experts in fields like medicine and reviewing documents like the applicant’s credit history. Based on the software recommendations, insurance underwriters figure out how much a risk the applicant is. They must decide whether to accept or decline an application for coverage and what terms of coverage, such as premiums and coverage amounts, the company will offer.
Naturally, most insurance underwriters work for insurance carriers, though some work in insurance agencies and brokerages, credit intermediation and company management. Often, insurance underwriters specialize in a field or subfield of insurance, such as life insurance, car insurance or health insurance.
If you’re just starting out your journey to a career as an insurance underwriter, the first step is to earn a college degree. There is no single degree that that makes for success as an insurance underwriter. However, several popular options can provide you with the skills you will need. Studying finance, business, economics and math can help you gain a strong foundation of knowledge, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Computer skills are also important for this career, so taking courses in computers during your education can provide you with valuable tools to succeed.
Even after you have earned your undergraduate degree, you will need substantial on-the-job training to succeed as an insurance underwriter. As a trainee, you will study risk and begin working on simple insurance applications, all under the supervision of experienced senior underwriters. The more experience you gain, the responsibilities you will take on, including handling more complicated insurance applications without constant supervision. Having prior work experience in the insurance industry can help you learn and advance faster.
If you want to eventually advance to senior or management positions, or even if you just want a competitive edge in a tough job market, you can take courses to earn a professional certification from an organization like The Institutes or the American College of Financial Services.
Insurance underwriters earn wages well above the average income for all occupations, with a median annual salary of $62,870, according to the BLS. Salaries are typically highest for insurance underwriters who work in credit intermediation (relatively small, about three percent) and directly for insurance carriers (the majority, about 72 percent). While the job outlook is less than promising, candidates can take steps to give themselves an advantage in a job search. Aspiring insurance underwriters who study finance and cultivate communication and computer skills will have the most job opportunities in this field.
Insurance underwriters evaluate the risks of insuring an applicant to minimize the financial risk to insurance carriers. They combine math and analytical skills to make important decisions about who to cover, how much coverage to offer and for what premium cost.