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Gain a Competitive Advantage with an Insurance Education: Here are your Options

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Insurance and risk management are complex fields that require great knowledge and skills. While agency and insurer training programs plus experience go a long way toward educating employees, they might not give practitioners everything they need. Employees looking to increase their abilities should consider studying for one or more industry designations.

The Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation has educational, experience and ethics requirements. To earn the designation, a student must pass eight exams. Four of them are foundation courses that all CPCU students must take on topics such as risk management, insurance operations and finance. Three must be from the student's area of concentration, either personal or commercial lines. The other is an elective that the student chooses, such as a course on claims practices or agency management.

Prospective CPCU's must also satisfy a minimum experience requirement. They must have worked at least 17 ½ hours per week in acceptable insurance activities for at least 24 months during the five-years immediately before conferment. They also must take and pass an ethics examination.

According to The Institutes, which offers the exams, large percentages of CPCU's feel that obtaining the designation helped them meet long-term career goals and accelerated their career progress. The program emphasizes technical knowledge of insurance coverages, as evidenced by the fact that its recipients include industry luminaries such as the late Don Malecki, Big “I” Virtual University's Bill Wilson, and Wilson's successor Christopher Boggs.

The Accredited Adviser in Insurance (AAI) program, also offered by The Institutes, is targeted toward agency personnel. Students must pass the exams for three of four foundational courses on topics such as insurance production, sales management, agency operations and leadership. They must also complete an ethics course. The Institutes reports that more than 85 percent of AAI's believe that the designation demonstrates their competency, has helped them meet career goals, and adds value to their roles. 

The Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) is for experienced or licensed insurer and agency staff. The program, offered by the National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research (National Alliance), is divided up into concentrations called “institutes.” The institutes include commercial property, casualty and multiline, personal lines, life and health, and agency management. An institute on insurer operations is due in 2017. Each institute involves 20 hours of instruction, followed by an optional two-hour exam.

Students must pass five exams to earn the designation. Once they have earned the designation, they must take yearly update programs to keep it.

The CIC designation is very popular among insurance producers. The leadership of organizations such as agency network SIAA holds the CIC designation.

The National Alliance also offers the Certified Insurance Service Representative (CISR) program for everyone in the industry. Students choose from nine one-day courses on commercial and personal lines, life and health, agency operations and risk management. To earn the designation, students must pass the exams for five of the courses within three years. CISR's gain coverage and risk exposure knowledge in addition to cross-selling skills.

While the program's name may lead some to conclude that it is for agency customer service representatives, the National Alliance says that “the courses are very beneficial for new agents, as well as newer agency and company personnel. 

The Certified Risk Managers (CRM) program teaches students how to identify, analyze, control, finance and administer the full range of modern risks. In addition to operational exposures, the program looks at political, catastrophic, third-party, fiduciary, employee injury, legal, and juridical loss exposures. 

The program consists of five courses. Each course is two and a half days of instruction and an optional exam. To earn the designation, students must take and pass all five exams within a five-year period. 

Other programs offered by the National Alliance include the Certified Personal Risk Manager (CPRM) and Certified School Risk Manager (CSRM) programs. The CPRM program trains insurance and risk management personnel to meet the needs of affluent clients. The CSRM program is for risk managers, agency and insurer personnel who work with schools, colleges and universities.

On the life insurance side, The American College of Financial Services offers the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) and Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designations. CLU students must take courses on insurance planning, individual life insurance, law, estate planning, and planning for business owners and professionals. They must also choose from electives on health insurance, group benefits, retirement planning, income tax, and other areas. CFP's must pass seven exams within five years. The courses cover financial, insurance, retirement and estate planning, investing, and income tax.

Many of the courses offered in these programs carry the duel benefit of helping students meet state continuing education requirements. Even those that do not enhance the knowledge, skill level, and professionalism of those who take them. Anyone who wants to further her insurance career should consider pursuing an insurance designation.

Looking to start an Agency? Get detailed information by reading our Guide to Starting an Insurance Agency

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