How to Get a Life Insurance License in California

Written by: Mary Gerardine

Last updated:

Getting your California life insurance license is the first step towards becoming a life insurance agent in the state.

The California Department of Insurance (CDI) requires you to complete a five-step process to become a life insurance agent in California — from taking the life insurance exam to applying for a license.

These steps will take a few weeks to complete so we recommend you bookmark this page so you can use it as a reference throughout the process.

How to Get Your California Life Insurance License

  1. Complete a California Insurance Pre-license Course (Kaplan Education Company – $149+)
  2. Get a Fingerprint-Based Background Check (Accurate Biometrics – $59 processing fee + $17 FBI processing fee + $32 Department of Justice processing fee + $10 CDI contractor rolling fee)
  3. Take the California Life Insurance Licensing Exam (PSI Exams – $88 exam fee + $33 convenience fee)
  4. Complete a California Life Insurance License Application (National Insurance Producer Registry (NIPR) or Sircon – $188 application fee. NIPR charges $5.60 transaction fee while Sircon doesn’t have a service fee)
  5. Watch for Your Application Results

Life Insurance License California

Obtaining your California life insurance license isn’t difficult. Just follow these five steps to start your journey toward becoming a life insurance agent. Once you earn this license, check out our guide on how to get your California property and casualty (P&C) license as well.

Step 1: Complete a California Insurance Pre-license Course

Before you take the California life insurance licensing exam, it’s important to make time to acquire the knowledge you’ll need to pass this exam on your first attempt. Completing a pre-license education course will equip you with the necessary information and tools you’ll need to prepare for your exam.

California requires 20 hours of life insurance pre-licensing education. You also must complete 12 hours of ethics and California Insurance Code to satisfy the state’s 32-hour pre-licensing education requirements.

A pre-license education course provides very specific industry knowledge that will be tested during the exam. There is very little information on the test that could be considered “common sense”. Pre-license education courses are self-paced and include study materials like practice exams and flashcards.

Beyond helping you effectively prepare for and pass the life insurance licensing exam on your first try, taking a pre-license education course also will give you a solid understanding of your duties as a life insurance agent.

Recommended

Doing a pre-licensing education course dramatically increases your chance of passing your exam on your first attempt, which can end up saving you both time and money in the long run. For pre-licensing education, StateRequirement recommends:

4.7 out of 5 starsKaplan Education Company

Step 2: Get a Fingerprint-Based Background Check

After you complete the California life insurance pre-licensing education requirements, you must get a fingerprint-based background check before you can take the California life insurance licensing exam.

The CDI’s contracted fingerprint vendor is Accurate Biometrics. The fee for fingerprinting services is $59 plus the $17 FBI processing fee, the $32 Department of Justice processing fee, and the $10 CDI contractor rolling fee.

You also have the option to take your fingerprint at a PSI test center. The total processing fee for PSI’s fingerprint impressions is $68.95, including the $17 FBI processing fee, the $32 Department of Justice processing fee, and a $19.95 CDI contractor rolling fee charged at PSI’s test centers. 

To properly get a fingerprint-based background check, you must pay the applicable fees and do the following:

  1. Complete the Request for Live Scan Service (Form BCIA 8016) and print the Licensing Applicant Instructions (Form LIC 442-39A).
  2. Take your completed Request for Live Scan Service form to an authorized live scan fingerprint vendor.
  3. Complete the fingerprint impressions.

Keep a copy of your completed Request for Live Scan Service (Form BCIA 8016) for your records. Give the copy of the form to the live scan service vendor that’ll provide you with the Automated Transaction Identifier (ATI) number assigned to your fingerprint impressions. If your fingerprint impressions are rejected, the ATI number will allow for you to have your fingerprint impressions redone at no charge.

Step 3: Take the California Life Insurance Licensing Exam

After you complete the fingerprinting requirement, it’s time to take the California life insurance exam.

California uses PSI Exams as its official testing service for delivering licensure exams. Schedule an appointment to take the life insurance license exam. PSI now provides license applicants with the option to take a remote, online, proctored license exam for all insurance licensing examinations. 

The California life insurance exam contains a total of 75 scored questions that includes two sections: general and state-specific. The general section deals with basic life insurance product knowledge. The state section covers insurance concepts and terms, rules, regulations, and practices specific to California.

You’ll have 105 minutes to complete the exam. The California life insurance exam fee is $88, which you must pay at the time of reservation by credit card, debit card, or voucher. The exam is a proctored test, meaning an official proctor will closely monitor you in a controlled environment.

After taking the state licensing exam, you will receive a diagnostic report indicating your scores in the general knowledge section and in the state-specific section, and what areas you need to improve.

If you happen to fail the California life insurance exam, you can schedule an appointment to retake it as soon as 24 hours after your first attempt. You may only retake the same exam up to 10 times within the same 12-month period or the CDI will ban you from retaking that license exam for a year after the date of your last failed attempt.

Tip

Check out our in-depth insurance exam guide for tips to help you pass on the first attempt.

The best way to understand if you are prepared for the test is to take a Life Insurance Practice Exam.

Step 4: Complete a California Life Insurance License Application

Once you pass the life insurance exam and complete the background check, you can apply for your California life insurance license. The application fee is $188. There’s no service fee if you apply via Sircon. If you apply via the NIPR, you must pay a $5.60 transaction fee. You can submit your application to the NIPR’s Attachment Warehouse or the California Department of Insurance via mail:

California Department of Insurance
Producer Licensing Bureau
|320 Capitol Mall
Sacramento, CA 95814

The CDI will issue a life insurance license to individuals who are at least 18 years old and have passed the proper licensing exam. You should submit your completed license application within 12 months of passing the exam.

To apply for a life insurance license in California, make sure you comply with the insurance licensing requirements as defined under the California Insurance Code

Send any questions or supporting documents to the CDI Contact Form.

Step 5: Watch for Your Application Results

After you complete the previous four steps, the CDI will review your application and background check. It reviews filings in the order it receives them, and this process usually takes two to three weeks from the date you send your application. 

You can print your license from the Sircon or NIPR websites. Sircon charges a $5.60 fee to print a license. You also can check the status of your license application by visiting the CDI Check License Application Status Service (CLASS) page.

Congratulations!

You’re now ready to get started as a life insurance agent in California.

Steps After Securing Your California Life Insurance License

Once you complete the above steps and have your California life insurance license, there are a few steps you’ll need to take in order to a) excel as an insurance agent, and b) maintain your life insurance license.

Let’s take a brief look at these below.

Obtain All Relevant Securities Licenses

If you’re planning on selling advanced life insurance products, you’ll likely need to pass the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam and obtain the relevant securities licenses (e.g., Series 6, 7, and 63).

For more information on this step, you can have a look at our in-depth Securities Licensing overview.

Choose a Means of Selling

You’ll have to decide whether you’d prefer working as a captive agent employed by one company, or running your own business as an independent agent.

If you’re just starting out, you’ll likely benefit from working as a captive agent, but this will ultimately depend on your personal aspirations and opportunities.

Develop Your Marketing Approach

To succeed as an insurance agent, you’ll need to adopt a marketing approach that’s effective for you.

We recommend finding and sticking to a niche, as well organizing all client appointments for the start of your week. This is because this can improve your overall client conversions.

Keep Your License Valid

In California, you will need to take 24 hours of continuing education (CE) credits every two years to renew your license. California also requires life insurance agents to complete eight hours of California-specific annuities training before soliciting individual customers in order to sell annuities.

In addition, if a life insurance agent sells an annuity product in a subsequent license term, the agent must complete a four-hour, California-specific annuity training course during that license term.

If you have a non-resident license and have good standing in your home state, you don’t need to take CE courses in California. To find out if you need to take California courses, go to the Sircon website and click on “Continuing Education Transcript Inquiry.”

In California, you also must renew and manage your life insurance license every two years. To avoid delays in renewing your license, you must complete CE hours at least 60 days before your license expires. 

Failing to complete the required annuity training before the expiration of your license won’t affect your license renewal. Having said that, you’ll be in violation of the California Insurance Code if you sold any annuity products during a license term and didn’t complete the four-hour annuity training during that license term. The license renewal fee is $188 and the late fee is $282.

For a more in-depth look at each one of these steps, check out our Steps After Getting Your Insurance License guide.

California Department of Insurance Contact Information

Mailing Address

California Department of Insurance
Producer Licensing Bureau
320 Capitol Mall
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (800) 967-9331

Email: Contact Form

Website: http://www.insurance.ca.gov/

License Search: California License Status Inquiry

California Life Insurance License FAQ

How much does it cost to get a life insurance license in California?

Getting a California life insurance license requires paying several fees. This includes the pre-license education course ($149), fingerprinting via Accurate Biometrics ($118), exam registration and license examination via PSI Exams ($121), and California insurance license application via NIPR ($193.60) or Sircon or ($188 without no service fee).

How long does it take to process a life insurance license application in California?

The processing time for a life insurance license application in California is usually two to three weeks after your application is received. This means that you should expect to receive your license within this time frame after you pass the California licensing exam and submit your application. Visit the California Department of Insurance website for more information.

Can I get a temporary life insurance agent license in California?

No. You cannot get a temporary life insurance agent license in California. The CDI is not issuing temporary licenses at this time. You need to meet the insurance license qualifications and apply for a regular California license. You can bookmark this page for the latest updates.

Do I need to get my securities license on top of a life insurance license in California?

You probably need a securities license besides a life insurance license in California. Having a securities license lets you sell more products tied to the securities market. Since a life insurance license only allows you to sell basic life insurance products, you will need FINRA accreditation for a securities license.

What can I sell with a life insurance license in California?

With a life insurance license in California, you can sell life insurance policies that pay a beneficiary upon an insured person’s death. You can also sell annuities that pay a set income at retirement. However, you may need a securities license to sell products connected with the securities market.

How much can you make with a life insurance license in California?

In California, the average annual salary for a life insurance agent is approximately $88,968, which equates to about $42.77 per hour. This figure can vary widely, with salaries ranging from as low as $18,000 to as high as $145,000 per year, depending on factors like skill level, location, and experience of the licensed insurance agent.

What are the limitations of a California life insurance license?

Obtaining a California life insurance license only allows you to sell life insurance and annuities. You may need other licenses to sell other insurance products (e.g., the combined life and health insurance license). You need FINRA accreditation for a securities license so you can sell securities, including stocks and bonds.

How hard is it to get a life insurance license in California?

Getting a life insurance license in California is not that difficult. It is a simple process that involves completing an education course, passing a fingerprint-based background check, passing an exam, and applying for the license. This process ensures that you are well-prepared and knowledgeable to sell insurance policies to your clients.

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