How to Get an Insurance License in California

Written by: Nik Ventouris

Last updated:

If you’re thinking about becoming an insurance agent in California, the first step you’ll need to take in order to kickstart your career is to obtain a California insurance license.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of how to become an insurance agent in California, as well as what to do once you get licensed.

Tip: 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.

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California Insurance License

In order to get your California insurance license, you’ll need to complete the following five steps:

  1. Figure Out Which Insurance License You’ll Need
  2. Complete a Pre-Licensing Education Course
  3. Pass the Relevant California Insurance License Exam(s)
  4. Complete a Fingerprint and Background Check
  5. Submit Your Insurance License Application

Below we have explored each step in more detail.

Step 1: Decide Which Insurance Licenses You Need

The first step will be deciding what type of insurance policies you’ll want to sell — at least at the start of your career.

This is because the type of insurance policies you’re hoping to sell will dictate the type of license you’ll need. For example, you’d need a Property & Casualty (P&C) license to be able to sell auto, home, or business insurance.

Here’s a list of all the different types of insurance agent licenses that are available in the state of California:

  • Life, Accident & Health (L&H)
  • Property & Casualty (P&C)
  • Personal Lines Property & Casualty
  • Limited Lines
  • Surplus Lines
  • Funeral Insurance

While there are a large number of different licenses to choose from, the vast majority of insurance agents will either obtain a Property and Casualty (P&C) or Health and Life license.

In fact, many agents actually opt to go for both of these licenses as it allows them to offer clients a much wider range of the most common insurance products.

However, if you already know you want to specialize in one particular type of policy, you’ll of course only have to focus on the specific license that’s relevant to this insurance type.

It’s worth noting at this point that if you’re looking to work as an insurance adjuster, you’ll need to obtain a separate license — which you can find more information about in our California Adjuster License overview.

Step 2: Complete a California Pre-Licensing Education Course

The next step you’ll want to take toward becoming a licensed insurance agent in California is completing a pre-licensing education course.

In order to meet the state’s requirements, you will need to complete a total of 32 hours of pre-licensing education. This will need to include 20 hours that are focused on general insurance and 12 hours dedicated to ethics training.

To start, you will need to find the right pre-licensing education course for your unique needs; there are courses in both online and classroom settings, providing flexibility to accommodate different learning styles and schedules.

Due to the sheer number of pre-licensing education courses available, it’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed when deciding which one is right for you. To avoid this, we typically recommend making a decision based on the following factors:

  • The course’s flexibility (e.g., does it allow flexible learning, does it require completing within a short time-window, etc.)
  • The course’s price: This one is obvious; our only tip here is to not go too low, as from our experience you tend to get what you pay for when it comes to these
  • The course’s reputation: How reliable is each provider? The last thing you want is insufficient and/or incomplete resources before your exam

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:

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If you want more information before getting started, you can also have a look at our in-depth overview of the five best pre-license education courses in 2024.

Step 3: Pass the Relevant California Insurance License Exam(s)

After completing your pre-licensing education course, you will need to take (and pass) the relevant California insurance license exam.

We say “relevant” because this will depend on the line you wish to specialize in; for example, if you’re planning to become a property and casualty insurance agent, you will need to pass the Property and Casualty exam — which has 150 scored questions.

This exam, like all insurance agent licensing examinations in California, is administered by PSI and allows candidates 3 hours and 25 minutes of exam-time.

It should be noted that all licensing exams in California require a 60 percent score to pass, with the only exceptions being Adjuster and Bail Examinations, which require a passing score of 70 percent.

Keep in mind that you can sit for more than one exam at a time (e.g., if you want to apply for both a P&C and a life and health insurance license).

Even so, we recommend avoiding this route; this is because passing your exam is hard enough as is, and there is arguably little to gain and a lot to lose with the added risk of confusing separate line material.

We found that the best approach is to study for one at a time, averaging between two to six weeks of study time per exam — depending on whether you are studying full time or part-time, as well as on how comfortable you are at taking proctored exams.

You should also note that, in accordance with the California Insurance Code Section 1682, if an examinee fails an insurance license examination 10 times they will be prohibited from taking that specific license examination again for a 12-month period (starting from the date of their last failed attempt).

For more information, you can have a look at our California Insurance License Exam guide.

Step 4: Complete a Fingerprinting And Background Check

At the time you sit for your exam, you will be required to submit your fingerprints to verify your identity and fulfill all background check requirements.

You can complete this step either at the California Department of Insurance’s (CDI) Los Angeles examination site or at any of PSI’s 20 test centers — which are spread across California.

Upon arrival, you will be provided with the Request for Live Scan Service form, which will ask for your legal name, any former names, date of birth, and other personal details.

 Keep in mind that this process comes with an application fee, which will vary depending on the location in question:

  • CDI’s Los Angeles site: The total fee is $59, which includes the FBI and California DOJ processing fees along with a rolling fee charged by Accurate Biometrics (CDI’s contracted vendor)
  • PSI’s test centers: The total fee is $68.95, handled by MorphoTrust USA, covering similar processing and rolling fees

Note: Any misdemeanors or felonies may affect the outcome of your licensing efforts. If you’re worried about this, you can contact the California Department of Insurance by phone or email for more guidance on this topic.

Step 5: Submit Your Insurance License Application

With your exams and fingerprinting out of the way, you’ll be ready to actually apply for your license.

To begin this process, you will need to visit Sircon and submit your application online. If additional documents are required, you will be able to attach them directly to your electronic application.

Alternatively, you can submit these documents to the National Insurance Producer Registry’s Attachments Warehouse.

If you prefer to use traditional mail, you can also send documents directly to the California Department of Insurance, although this is not recommended.

Step 6: Application Review

And that’s it! After satisfying all the other requirements and submitting a license application to the California Department of Insurance all that’s left to do is wait.

If everything on your application has been filled out correctly, your license should be issued within three to five weeks — which is the amount of time it typically takes for a license application and background check to be reviewed.

It’s important to be aware that the issuance of your insurance license can take a bit longer than this if there are any items from your background check that need to be looked over. However, the state will likely get in touch with you to give some context if they run into any issues.

In any case, the state will send you an email regarding the status of your license once this review has been completed, so keep an eye out for that!

Pro tip: 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.

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After Getting Your California Insurance License

Once you’ve passed all your exams and your licensing application has been approved, you’ll be a qualified insurance agent in California.

At this point, there are four main steps that we recommend new insurance agents to take:

  1. Obtain Any Relevant Securities Licenses: If you’re planning on selling advanced life insurance products, you’ll need to pass the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam and obtain the relevant securities licenses (e.g., Series 6, 7, and 63).
  2. 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.
  3. Develop Your Marketing Approach: To succeed as an insurance agent, you’ll need to adopt a marketing approach that’s effective for you. Finding and sticking to a niche, as well organizing all client appointments for the start of your week, are two great ways to do this.
  4. Keep Your License Valid: In California, you will be required to complete continuing education (CE) every two years in order to keep your insurance license active. The required hours vary by license type, but will be either 20 or 24 hours.

Note: It’s advisable to complete your CE hours at least 60 days before your license expires to ensure timely processing.

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:

300 South Spring Street, 14th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Physical Address:

300 South Spring Street, 14th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Phone: (800) 967-9331

Email: https://interactive.web.insurance.ca.gov/pli/servlet/InformationRequest

Website: http://www.insurance.ca.gov/

License Search: California Insurance License Search and Lookup

California Insurance License FAQ

Will I need to renew my insurance license in California?

Yes, your California insurance license will need to be renewed every two years. The renewal process includes completing a specified number of continuing education (CE) hours, which will be either 20 or 24 depending on your license type. To submit your license renewal application, you will need to use an online application service provided by the California Department of Insurance.

How long does it take to get an insurance license in California?

After you’ve completed all required steps, it typically takes three to five weeks for your insurance license application to be processed and issued by the California Department of Insurance. Interested in finding out more? You can have a look at our state-specific Insurance Licensing guide.

How much does the California insurance license cost?

The cost of obtaining a California insurance license varies by type. For example, an Accident and Health agent will need to pay a $188 filing fee and a $55 exam fee (in addition to a pre-licensing education course and other course material). Renewal fees are $188, and late renewals incur a 50% additional fee, totaling $282. Business entities can have additional fees for modifications — such as adding or deleting personnel (i.e., $32 per modification). 

Is the California insurance license exam hard?

The difficulty of the California state licensing exam will depend on the specific type of license you are pursuing and your grasp of the related insurance principles and state regulations. Ultimately, whether you’re taking a general insurance exam or a specialized insurance exam, giving yourself enough time to make sure you have sufficiently understood the material will be key to passing. For more information, see our California Insurance License article.

How do I get my insurance license in California?

To obtain an insurance license in California, you must first complete a state-approved pre-licensing education course and pass the relevant examination, which is administered by PSI and comes with a mandatory exam fee. For more information, you can reach out directly to the California Department of Insurance Producer Licensing Bureau at 320 Capitol Mall, Sacramento, CA 95814, or call (916) 322-3555 or (800) 967-9331.

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