How to Become an Insurance Agent

Written by: Ethan Peyton

Last updated:

Becoming a licensed insurance agent is a great way to forward your career.

Selling insurance policies requires an insurance agent license issued by your state. The type of insurance you will market will determine which license or licenses you need.

Whether you want to open your own agency, sell and service policies for a nationwide provider, or work as a salesperson in a small business, becoming an agent is the first step required to make your dream a reality.

Follow the steps outlined below to get your licenses and learn how to become an insurance agent and get started today!

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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How to Get Your Insurance License

The first step to becoming an insurance agent is to get your insurance license. As mentioned above, the license or licenses you need are dependent on which types of policies you want to sell.

Since each state has different licensing steps and guidelines, you may find more value in reading your state’s insurance license guide.

Which Types of Insurance Licenses Do You Need?

There are two licenses that insurance agents attain:

Most general insurance agents choose to get both of these licenses. Some agents (like life insurance agents) don’t have any plans on selling car or homeowner’s insurance, and therefore only need the Life and Health Insurance License.

We recommend finding which license you need first, working on that one alone, then coming back to get the other license at a later date.

Insurance Pre-License Education

Depending on the state, you may be required to take an insurance pre-license education course. This is a course that can be taken online or in-person to prepare you to pass your insurance license exam. The length of this course is dependent on your state and the different lines of licensing you are looking to earn. In states that don’t have a pre-licensing requirement, people still generally choose to take a course to study for the exam. This is wise, as these tests can be tough, especially if you don’t come prepared.


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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Insurance License Exams

After your pre-license course, you are now ready to take the insurance license exam. These exams are generally between 80-160 questions, obviously depending on the state.

You will need to take an exam for each line of insurance you wish to attain, which means that in some states you may be required to take as many as four exams total (though most only require two).

The fees for the exams have a large range with some states costing around $40 per attempt, while others can cost upwards of $150+ per attempt. This is the number one reason to come prepared for your exam.

Insurance exams in all states follow these guidelines:

  • Proctored – You will take this test in a professional testing center with a proctor monitoring you
  • Timed – Generally, you have about two hours per exam
  • Multiple-choice – These exams give you a question and four possible responses to select from
  • Closed-book – You will not be able to bring any study materials into the building with you when testing

As mentioned previously, these exams can be difficult, and can also vary depending on the state in question. Have a look at our Insurance License Exam guide for more information on how to pass on your first attempt.

License Application and Background Check

Each state has its own license application process. These applications can generally be filled out online and have a fee ranging from $30 to $200. Some states require this before your exam, and some after, so be sure to check your individual state’s steps.

All states will run some form of a background check while reviewing your application. Some will also require fingerprint data to be taken prior to licensing. This is normally run through a third party and carries a fee of around $30, give or take.

If you have questions about the background checks or any other detailed license questions, you can find your state’s Department of Insurance contact information on your state’s license page.

FINRA Securities Licenses

If you are working to become a life insurance agent or financial advisor, you will need securities licensing over and above your state’s insurance license. A securities license is required to sell securities, a common job role for both financial advisors and insurance agents. The process to get your securities license starts with knowing the right securities license for your position and professional goals.

Selling life insurance or other retirement products that are tied to the stock market will require federal level licensing from Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). In most cases, Series 6 & Series 63 licenses are what you need to obtain to sell these products.

The SIE exam, which demonstrates your basic knowledge of the securities industry, will be a qualification you must complete before attempting to get your Series 6 or Series 63.

Some agents choose to get their Series 7 license instead of Series 6, as this allows them to market and sell a much broader line of securities products. The Series 7 exam, however, is one of the most difficult exams offered by FINRA, so be sure you understand which license would fit your needs best.

The SIE exam is the first step to becoming a financial advisor or insurance agent. Check out our guide on How to Pass the SIE Exam on the first attempt.

Insurance Agent Requirements

The qualifications and prerequisites to become an insurance agent are actually very little compared to other jobs. Aside from licensing, you will need to have a relatively clean background, great people skills, and the willingness and ability to learn.

Do I Need a Degree to be an Insurance Agent?

A degree is not required to get an insurance license or to sell insurance.

Depending on the job you are taking, however, the insurance company or agency that is offering the position may have a different set of requirements.

If you are looking to open your own insurance agency, you are essentially going to be running your own business. Having knowledge of how to operate an organization will be a great advantage to you and your team, but it doesn’t necessarily require a degree in business.

Working for an agency as an insurance producer (which most people also call an insurance agent) usually doesn’t require any college experience. The agent you will be working under may have specific requirements and qualities they are looking for in a sales employee, but a degree is generally not on that list.

How Long Does it Take to Become an Insurance Agent?

Since there are multiple steps to becoming an insurance agent, let’s break this down by sections:

  • Getting your insurance licenses – Three to six weeks
  • Finding an insurance agent job – Two or more weeks
  • Getting your FINRA licenses (optional) – Four to eight weeks

These numbers are estimates, and not guaranteed by any means. Finding the right job could potentially take much more time than two weeks. Use your best judgment to give yourself enough time to do things right.

How Much Does it Cost to Get an Insurance License?

This number will vary greatly from state to state. To find the correct answer for your case, you should check your state’s license page.

Here is an example from a state with mid-range fees:

  • Pre-license Education (Life & Health License) – $200
  • Pre-license Education (Property & Casualty License) – $200
  • Insurance Exam Fee (Life & Health License) – $62 per attempt
  • Insurance Exam Fee (Property & Casualty License) – $62 per attempt
  • Fingerprinting Fee – $31
  • License Application Fee (All lines) – $100

    Grand Total – $655

There is a strong possibility that the company that hires you will assist or reimburse you for these fees, so be sure to ask about this when you are interviewing for a position.

Is Being an Insurance Agent a Good Career Choice?

Being a licensed insurance agent is an excellent career choice for all different types of people. Younger people see insurance sales to be a great way to add flexibility and grow the size of their network. More experienced folks can leverage the network that they already have and use the career to leverage their savings into large growth.

Benefits Of Being an Insurance Agent

Choosing a career in insurance comes with many benefits. Here are a few reasons you might consider becoming an insurance agent.

  • Potentially unlimited salary – Depending on your level within an agency or position in an insurance company, your compensation may include commissions on your sales. This means that the more you sell, the more you make. No ceiling!
  • Low barrier of entry – A license and a hunger to learn and work hard are the only things you need to enter in as an insurance agent.
  • Flexibility – Insurance agents often work at whichever time of day makes the most sense for them. This means that you have the ability to work outside the standard 9 to 5.
  • Leverage – If you plan to be an owner of your own insurance agency, you are able to leverage other people’s work as well as your own. If you can find a sales method that suits your team well, you can scale it up as large as you would like!
  • Networking – Building and growing your network is one of the largest factors of success of an insurance agent. The possibility of meeting important people in your area is a sure thing. In fact, it’s probable that you will become an important figure in your community.
  • Helping people – There is no doubt that the longer you spend in insurance sales, the more people you will make an impact on. When you deliver a claim check to someone, you are delivering peace of mind. It’s more than just dollars, it’s an assurance that they will be able to make it through life after a loss.

These are just a few examples of the benefits of the job. The longer you stay with this career, the more advantages you will garner.

Insurance Jobs

If you’re looking for new job or to start your career in insurance, find an open position on StateRequirement’s Insurance Job Board.

How Much Do Insurance Agents Make?

The overall take-home pay of an insurance agent varies widely on a number of variables. Things like location, sales, company, experience, and many other factors go into what this job can pay. According to Glassdoor, the average base is around $40,000 per year. Many of these positions offer commissions based upon your sales on top of your base pay. Your pay will be completely dependent upon your arrangement with the insurance company or agency you write business for.

Is Being an Insurance Agent Stressful?

Whether insurance is stressful or not is completely dependent on your temperament and external factors of your agency. Some agents who have a handle on the day-to-day may find almost no stress in their job, while others may not have as strong a grip and find the work to be much more demanding.

Sales goals can, at times, be a source of stress for insurance agents, but this is dependent on the culture and atmosphere of your specific agency. While you are interviewing with an agency, try to get a feel for the general mood of the employees so you can take temperature before accepting the position.

Another situation that could be considered stressful for insurance agents is dealing with claims events. This may be an apprehensive time as customers can be unsure or fearful of what will happen in their financial situation. Just know that you have control of the situation and act with respect and tact, and you will make it through just fine.

How to Become an Insurance Agent FAQ

How can I find a job in insurance?

The best place to find a job or begin your career in insurance is to use our insurance job board. If you need to update your resume before applying, check out our guide on how to write an insurance resume.

Do insurance agents get paid hourly?

This is dependent on your arrangement with your agency. Some agents are paid hourly, some by salary. These can also be combined with commission splits or bonus structures. There are many ways to compensate an insurance agent, and there doesn’t seem to be a prevailing method. If you are an agency owner, it is almost certain that you will be paid a commission split with your insurance company. This may be supplemented based on your agency’s age or performance.

Can you sell insurance without a license?

No. All states require a license to sell insurance. You must also hold the correct license for the type of policies you are advertising. Example: if you have only a life insurance license, you cannot sell car insurance, but you can sell a term life insurance policy.

Is the insurance license exam hard?

The national pass rate average for first-time test-takers is right at about 50%. Success rates vary by state, license types, and test prep company. We see that folks who study with a pre-license education course tend to fare better on the exam than those who use lesser study materials.

Can insurance agents work from home?

Working from home is a dream for many employees nowadays! Luckily, there are some agencies that accept remote staff members. These positions are not as widely available as in-office spots, but they can be found. Check out our job board for open positions in your area.

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