Life Insurance Agents and Brokers


Employment Prospects


Life insurance agents and brokers can be found throughout the country, but most work in or near large cities. The majority work out of local offices or in independent agencies or brokerages; others are employed at insurance company headquarters. There are approximately 475,900 insurance agents and brokers working in the United States. Approximately 12 percent of insurance sales agents are self-employed. 

Starting Out

Aspiring agents may apply directly to personnel directors of insurance companies or managers of branches or agencies. In most cases, the new agent will be affiliated with a local sales office almost immediately. To increase the agency's potential sales volume, the typical insurance office manager is prepared to hire all candidates who can be readily recruited and properly trained. Prospective life insurance agents should discuss their career interests with representatives of several companies to select the employer that offers them the best opportunities to fulfill their goals.

Prospective agents should carefully evaluate potential employers to select an organization that offers sound training, personal supervision, resources to assist sales, adequate financial compensation, and a recognizable name that will be well received by customers. Students graduating from college should be able to arrange campus interviews with recruiters from several insurance companies. People with work experience in other fields usually find life insurance managers eager to discuss sales opportunities.

In addition to discussing personal interests and requirements for success in the field, company representatives usually give prospective agents aptitude tests, which are developed either by their company or by LIMRA (formerly the Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association).

Formal job training usually involves three phases. In precontract orientation, candidates are provided with a clearer picture of the field through classroom work, training manuals, or other materials. On-the-job training is designed to present insurance fundamentals, techniques of developing sales prospects, principles of selling, and the importance of a work schedule. Finally, intermediate instruction usually provides company training of an advanced nature.

Advancement Prospects

Unlike some occupations, many of the ablest people in the life insurance field are not interested in advancing into management. There can be many reasons for this. In some cases, a successful sales agent may be able to earn more than the president of the company. Experienced agents often would rather increase their volume of business and quality of service rather than their responsibility for the work of others. Others develop by specializing in various phases of insurance.

Still, many successful agents aspire to positions in sales management. At first, they may begin by helping train newcomers to the field. Later, they may become assistant managers of their office. Top agents are often asked by their companies (or even by rival insurance companies) to take over as managers of an existing branch or to develop a new one. In some cases, persons entering management must take a temporary salary cut, particularly at the beginning, and may earn less than successful agents. 

There are several types of life insurance sales office arrangements. Branch office managers are salaried employees who work for their company in a geographic region. General agency managers are given franchises by a company and develop and finance their own sales office. General agents are not directly affiliated with their company, but they must operate in a responsible manner to maintain their right to represent the company. General insurance brokers are self-employed persons who place insurance coverage for their clients with more than one life insurance company.

The highest management positions in the life insurance field are in company headquarters. Persons with expertise in sales and field management experience may be offered a position with the home office.

Tips for Entry

Access life insurance-related webinars at

Work part time in an insurance office or other type of office setting during high school or college.

Read Independent Agent ( to learn more about the field.