Industry Outlook

Overall employment in the insurance industry reached 2.8 million in 2019, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III)—up from more than 2.3 million in 2007. Although the number of overall jobs has increased, some employment sectors have seen stronger growth than others. From 2015 to 2019, job opportunities at life and health insurance carriers increased by 10 percent, and employment at property/casualty carriers increased by 5.5 percent. Employment at insurance agencies and brokers increased by about 9.5 percent from 2015 to 2019.

The employment outlook also varies by occupation. According to Steven Weisbart, senior vice president and chief economist at the III, one job in the industry that has been negatively affected is claims adjusters. Despite the significant increase in the number of claims due to natural disasters, most property/casualty insurance companies actually employ fewer claims adjusters. Weisbart says the two primary reasons for this is that some companies decided to pay claims that were small, under a certain dollar value, without initiating the adjustment process, and also many companies have launched automated claims adjustment systems. These systems have led to a decreased need for adjusters.

Companies in the industry as well as independent insurance agents are also finding ways to do more with fewer resources. This has led to an increasing dependence on automated processes, usually via digital sources and the Internet. In fact, the Internet has also affected employment of agents and at agencies. Many people have come to view personal/property insurance as a commodity, opting for the lowest priced option found online, leaving it for agents to make clients aware of considerations other than cost.

Despite these effects, the insurance industry continues to be an interesting and thriving community and one in which workers can develop meaningful and financially rewarding careers. Like many other industries, the insurance industry will see large numbers of its experienced workers retire in the next 10 years. There will be places for those with an interest in developing a long-term career to take their places.

The insurance industry’s rapid embrace of technology has created a demand for skilled information technology professionals with expertise in data analytics, telematics, social media, information technology, artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, and cyber security. But insurance companies are having trouble filling these positions. To fill vacant positions, insurance companies must improve their recruiting efforts to identify potential new employees with tech skills and look within existing IT technology departments for bright employees that can be retrained to take on these important duties. “As insurers embrace innovation and adopt more advanced digital platforms, they will need to establish new business roles to drive these initiatives,” according to the professional services firm EY. “For instance, the stronger focus on analytics is increasing the demand for data scientists [who are] able to apply predictive analytics and other sophisticated quantitative tools to support underwriting and claims-handling processes.”

One of the jobs that has traditionally been in constant demand and that status isn’t expected to change in the near future is the position of actuary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of actuaries employed at insurance carriers and related employers is expected to increase 16.9 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average growth rate for other jobs. Job opportunities for actuaries who work for direct health and medical insurance carriers will be even better—increasing by 38.2 percent through 2028. The BLS attributes a portion of this increase to the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (which may be revised or repealed/replaced by the Trump Administration or a future administration), saying that companies will need to hire or work with actuaries on a consulting basis to help them choose health insurance plans that work best for their specific workforce. Actuaries typically earn higher than average salaries. According to the BLS, the mean annual salary for actuaries in the United States was $120,970 in 2019 (the mean for all workers was $53,490).

Another area that will see expansive job growth in the coming years is information technology. Most companies have discovered that it is essential to have an Internet presence and the ability to serve clients online. In addition, companies are using and developing software packages to automate many of the processes that employees once completed manually, including initial claims processing. More IT professionals will be needed to continue to develop and maintain these new systems for companies. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that computer-related occupations will increase in general by 12 percent (much faster than the average for all occupations) from 2018 to 2028. In the future, the professional services firm EY predicts that “digital technologies, such as social media, analytics and telematics, will continue to transform the market landscape, recalibrating customer expectations and opening new ways to reach and acquire clients.”

Another job that will see a very high growth rate in the coming years is the financial planner. Financial planners in insurance aren’t as prevalent as in other industries, but with many companies adding annuities and other investment products to their portfolios, this is an important occupation. The need for financial planners is growing, thanks to the aging population in the United States and North America in general. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of financial planners will increase by 7 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Job opportunities for insurance sales agents are projected to grow by 10 percent from 2018 to 2028, according to the BLS. It predicts that “employment growth will likely be strongest for independent sales agents as insurance companies rely more on brokerages and less on captive agents as a way to control costs.” Agents with college degrees, strong sales and customer-service skills, expertise in a range of insurance and financial services products, and the ability to speak more than one language will have the best job prospects.

The two jobs with the least potential for growth in the insurance agency are underwriters and claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators. The BLS predicts that employment for claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators will decline by 4 percent from 2018 to 2028 due to increasing automation of many tasks associated with these careers. It says that "job opportunities for claims adjusters and examiners should be best in firms providing services related to insurance, such as insurance claims adjusting companies. In addition, prospects for claims adjusters in property and casualty insurance will likely be best in areas susceptible to natural disasters. These areas include the Gulf Coast, which can have a large number of hurricanes, and the West Coast, which is vulnerable to wildfires.” Underwriters will see a 5 percent decrease through 2028. The reason for this is the increasing automation of their tasks. Despite this prediction, the BLS predicts that “there still will be a need for underwriters to review and update the criteria that run the automation. In addition, their analytical insight will still be needed in complex or specific insurance fields, such as workers’ compensation, marine insurance, or health insurance.”

Employment in the insurance industry can decline when the U.S. and world economies are sluggish or have been severely affected by events such as terrorist attacks, natural disasters, or pandemics (such as the COVID-19 pandemic). A slow economy can impact the industry in two primary ways. First, it leads to a slowdown in the number of people seeking insurance of all types, especially life insurance. And secondly, it leads to decreasing returns on investments, which mean that cash reserves are affected. As a response to both of these issues, companies stop hiring employees, do not replace employees when they left, or lay off numbers of workers. During these challenging economic times, it can be much harder to land a job in the insurance industry.

In the first half of 2020, the insurance industry faced myriad challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to adjusting to protect the safety of their workforce, such as temporarily closing offices and shifting to remote working, insurance companies found themselves on the front lines of the virus response. Health insurers, in particular, wrestled with uncertainty as to how coverage of treatment for coronavirus infections and coronavirus-related illnesses would affect business. Other branches, business interruption and travel insurance, also became directly involved as many businesses closed or were forced by government restrictions to shut down and worldwide travel ground to a crawl. Although such policies often have exemptions for pandemics, which became common following the 2003 SARS outbreak, some companies that offered premium policies without the exemption face significant possible losses. The general volatility of financial markets caused by the economic slowdown also raised challenges for life and retirement insurers who rely on investments.

On a positive note for customers, many auto insurers offered rebates and reductions to accommodate stay-at-home orders that greatly reduced people's driving time and diminished accidents and subsequent claims. Most companies also offered aid through special payment plans and premium relief for workers in difficult positions due to sudden unemployment.

The Insurance Information Institute launched a set of curated resources to help insurers fo