The Insurance Industry Has Opportunities for Just about Any Major

By Greene, M. V. | Diversity Employers, February 2007 | Go to article overview

The Insurance Industry Has Opportunities for Just about Any Major


Greene, M. V., Diversity Employers


You may not think of attending college specifically for a career in insurance, but you will find that the insurance industry and the broader field of financial services offer a variety of enticing opportunities.

"I think students are surprised to hear that we hire from business programs as well as liberal arts programs. We even have opportunities for engineers in our Loss Prevention group," said Nikki Soares, principal HR generalist in Corporate College Relations at Boston-based Liberty Mutual Group. "There are opportunities here for just about any major. We are looking for self-starters who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get the job done."

Insurance is a trillion-dollar business with a U.S. workforce of more than 2.5 million. The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes the industry as part of the "financial activities supersector," which also includes fields like real estate and finance. Insurance itself contributed $270 billion to the nation's gross domestic product in 2004, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a New York insurance trade organization.

The industry is segmented into major components of property/casualty, which includes insurance that covers homes, automobiles, businesses and other property in the event of accidental loss; life insurance, which provides financial security to individuals in the event of death and disability; and health coverage for preventative services, medical expenses and catastrophic care.

Insurance companies are fixtures each year on the Fortune 500 list of the largest American corporations. Among property/casualty insurance owned by stockholders, American International Group, Berkshire Hathaway, Allstate Insurance Co., Hartford Financial Services, St. Paul Travelers Cos. and Nationwide all reside in the top 100 on the Fortune list. The State Farm Insurance Cos., the largest of the property/casualty mutual insurers, which are owned by policyholders, ranked No. 22 on Fortune with revenues of $59.2 billion. In the life insurance area, Metropolitan Life and Prudential Financial were in the top 100.

State Farm Executive Vice President Willie Brown said the significance of the insurance industry cannot be understated.

"We sell piece of mind, and we sell security to the public," Brown said.

Large insurance carriers such as State Farm, which is headquartered in Bloomington, IL accounted for 62 percent of jobs in the industry with the remainder at insurance agencies, brokerages and providers of insurance-related services. About 151,000 workers were self-employed in 2004, mostly as insurance sales agents. While insurance carriers have large workplaces typically of 250 workers or more, the majority of establishments in the industry, are small entities, frequently employing fewer than 20 workers.

State Farm relies on its sales associates to be forward-thinking and entrepreneurial, Brown said.

"In our organization, nothing happens unless an agent sells a policy. We offer tremendous entrepreneurial opportunities for those that want to own their own businesses. They determine how much money they can make based on how hard they're willing to work and how much time they're willing to put in selling what we believe is a very essential product," said Brown.

Many insurance carriers' home and regional offices are located near large urban centers. Insurance workers who interact directly with the public, such as sales agents and claims adjusters, are located throughout the country. Almost all insurance sales agents work out of local company offices or independent agencies. About 44 percent of insurance employees work in office and administrative support jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook report. About 28 percent of workers are in management or business and financial operations occupations.

Insurance carriers initially hire students into core insurance functions such as claims, underwriting and sales, but recruiters said career progressions in the industry offer variety and opportunity. …

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