Getting your California insurance license is the first step to becoming an insurance agent in California. Whether you’re interested in selling property and casualty insurance, life insurance, health insurance, or any combination of those lines of authority, this article has the information you need to get started.
The California Department of Insurance has a 6-step process on how to become an insurance agent in California. We’ll walk you through step-by-step; from the license application to insurance test prep, to the California insurance exam, and beyond.
This guide has everything you need to know to get your CA insurance license quickly and easily.
How to Get Your California Insurance License
Getting your insurance license in California is easy! Just follow our step-by-step guide. Be sure to bookmark this page so that you can visit it again throughout this process.
Step 1. Which Insurance Licenses Do You Need?
The first step to getting your insurance license is choosing which licenses you need. The most common licenses new insurance agents get are the property & casualty license (P&C), life and health insurance license (L&H).
The types of insurance products and policies you’ll be selling will determine which licenses you need. Here are some examples of the types of policies you can market with each license:
- Property and Casualty Insurance License – Auto Insurance, Home Insurance, Business Insurance, etc…
- Life and Health Insurance License – Life Insurance, Annuities, Medicare, Health Insurance, etc…
Most insurance agents and producers choose to get both P&C and L&H licenses, but if you plan on specializing in only one category then you don’t need every license.
Insurance adjusters require a separate license. You can find more information on becoming an insurance adjuster here: California Insurance Adjuster License.
If you plan on specializing as a life insurance agent, then you may also need to hold a certain FINRA securities license.
Step 2. Fingerprinting and Background Check
California requires that all insurance license applicants provide fingerprints prior to licensing. Giving your fingerprints will initiate a background check. If you have any prior misdemeanors or felonies, this may affect the outcome of your licensing efforts.
Schedule to have your fingerprint impressions taken before the license examination. Accurate Biometrics is CDI’s preferred vendor, call (866) 361-9944 to find the location nearest to you. The fee for having fingerprints taken is $59, including the FBI processing fee of $17, DOJ processing fee of $32, and the CDI’s contractor’s rolling fee of $10.
You also have the option to take your fingerprint at a PSI test center. The total processing fee for the fingerprint impressions taken is $68.95 which includes all associated fees.
Staff at the licensing department mention that having your fingerprints completed prior to testing with PSI will ensure that there are no unnecessary delays in your license process.
To ensure fingerprint impressions are properly recorded you must pay the fingerprinting fee and complete the following:
- Complete the applicant information portion on the Request for Live Scan Service form.
- Keep a copy of the License Scan form for your records. Take the completed BCIA 8016 form to a DOJ authorized Live Scan vendor.
- Give a copy of the form to the live scan service vendor who will provide you with the Automated Transaction Identifier (ATI) number that is 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.
In addition, if a license is not issued within twelve months of the date the fingerprints are submitted, a new set of fingerprint impressions will be required.
If you have any further questions regarding fingerprinting or the background check, call the California Department of Insurance at (800) 967-9331 or email the License Department contact form.
Step 3. California Insurance Pre-License Education
After you’ve determined which licenses you need, you must now take your California insurance pre-license education courses.
Most folks choose to take their insurance pre-license course online. These courses are created specifically to give you the skills you need to pass the test. The types of licenses you choose (also known as “lines of authority”) will determine which courses you take.
California requires 12 hours of Ethics, plus 20 hours per line of authority, to meet the 32-hour pre-license education requirement.
If you are applying for more than one line of authority, you don’t need to take the 12-hour Ethics requirement twice.
This means that if you wish to get licenses in Property and Casualty or Life and Health, you must take 40 hours on top of the 12-hour Ethics requirement, with a total of 52 hours of pre-license education.
You will receive a certificate upon completion of the course. Keep this certificate, as you will need it when taking your exam.
For California insurance pre-license education courses and exam prep, StateRequirement recommends:
Step 4. California Insurance License Exam
The next step after completing all of your pre-licensure coursework is to take the insurance exam. You will take one exam for each line of insurance you wish to carry. Life, Accident & Health, and Property & Casualty (P&C) lines are combined as one test each, so you wouldn’t take four tests, you would only take two altogether. You must pass your exams within one year of completing your pre-license education course.
This is a proctored test, which means that you will be in a controlled environment with a person watching you. For people who haven’t tested in a situation like this should be aware of this fact, and work on taming their nerves prior to sitting for the exam. One great way to get some experience with insurance testing is taking an insurance practice exam.
For PSI Exam Site, the fee for each attempt of the exams is $88, plus a $33 convenience fee ($121 total) for each “combined producer exam” (P&C and L&H). When you show up you must have a photo ID and the original pre-license education certificate. You have one hundred ninety-five (195) minutes to complete each exam, which both have one hundred fifty (150) questions.
To register for the California Insurance License Exam in a PSI Exam Site, visit PSI Exams – California and choose the CA PSI Site and the exam title you wish to take.
You also have the option to take your exam with no convenience fee at a CDI Exam Site. The fee for each attempt of the exams is $55, for each “combined producer exam” (P&C and L&H).
To register for the California Insurance License Exam in a CDI Exam Site, visit PSI Exams – California and choose the CA CDI Site and the exam title you wish to take.
Neither PSI Exams nor the California Department of Insurance advertises what a “passing score” is, or how the exams are scored. After taking the exams, you will receive a pass or fail letter. If you fail, your letter will include a “diagnostic report indicating your strengths and weaknesses.
Check out our Insurance Exam Guide. It’s extremely in-depth, and will hopefully help you pass the first time.
Looking for a guide to passing the insurance exam in California? Check out our California Insurance License Exam article.
Insurance license tests are intentionally difficult, but not impossible by any means. You should study to the point of comfortability with the information before you attempt the test. Failing the exam isn’t the end of the world, but keep in mind that you will need to pay the fee each time you attempt the test.
StateRequirement recommends that you study for one exam at a time, then after passing, starting on your next line. The exams are difficult enough on their own without confusing information from one line to another. Check out our review of the Kaplan Insurance Course.
For more information on the California Insurance exams, visit the California Department of Insurance Candidate Information Bulletin. You may register to take your exams and find more information on the PSI Exams website.
Step 5. California Insurance License Application
Once you have completed your exams and fingerprinting, you are now ready to apply for your license. If you have more than one line of authority that you have passed the exam for, be sure to apply for all of those lines.
The fee for an online application is $188 per combined line. If you wish to get your Property & Casualty AND your Life, Accident, & Health licenses, you will need to apply for each license separately, and pay the $170 fee each time.
Fill out your online application on the NIPR California web page.
Step 6. Application Review
Once you have submitted your application and have filled all the other requirements, your license application will be reviewed by the state. Your background check will also be reviewed.
If everything is to acceptable standards your license should be issued within two to three (2-3) weeks. If there are any items from your background check that need to be reviewed, it may slow down the process of issuance. If this is the case, the state may contact you to provide context to the issues that they have run into.
You should receive an email informing you of your license acceptance, but the folks in the license office recommend that you don’t rely on this email. They would rather you use the license lookup tool. To check and see if your license has been issued, you may look yourself up in the California Department of Insurance License Lookup Tool.
You’ve done the work, put in the time and effort, and now hold the key to your own success! We’re proud of you. Take five (5) minutes and celebrate.
After Getting Your California Insurance License
Once you’ve passed your exams and completed the licensing application, you are now a licensed insurance agent in California. A common question we hear is, “I have my insurance license, now what?” Here are a few things you can do or need to know:
- Get a job in the insurance field. Check out StateRequirement’s Insurance Jobs board
- If you’re going to sell advanced life insurance products, you’ll need to have the proper securities licenses. Series 6, Series 7, and Series 63 are the most common among insurance agents, but you’ll need to begin with the SIE (Securities Industry Essentials) exam. Find out which licenses you need with our Securities Licensing Guide
- Every two years, you’ll need to renew your insurance license. Check out our guides on California Insurance License Renewal and California Insurance Continuing Education for more details
- Learn how to market yourself as an insurance agent: Have a look at our Insurance Agent Marketing article
- Interested in learning how successful life insurance agents operate? Check out our How Do Life Insurance Companies Make Money article
California Department of Insurance Contact Information
Producer Licensing Bureau
320 Capitol Mall
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (800) 967-9331
Email: Contact Form
License Search: California Insurance License Search and Lookup
California Insurance License FAQ
How long is the insurance license period in California?
Learn how to get an insurance license renewal here: California Insurance License Renewal.
How long does it take to get an insurance license in California?
2-8 weeks. The bulk of the time is spent on studying for your California insurance exam. Some people study for as little as one week and feel comfortable taking the exam. We recommend you take whatever amount of time you need to feel comfortable with the material. Check out our guide: How to Pass the Insurance Exam.
How much does the California insurance license cost?
The total cost for your insurance course, application, and exam will be about $375. If you don’t pass the exam the first time, add $121 for each subsequent attempt.
How do I get a life insurance license in California?
Follow the steps above. The licensing process is the same for all insurance agent and producer licenses.
How do I get a property and casualty license in California?
Follow the steps above. The licensing process is the same for all insurance agent and producer licenses.
Do I need business insurance in California?
If you are operating a business based in California, you probably need California business insurance to protect your assets and operate safely.