The Importance of Continuing Education for Insurance Professionals

Doug Witcher | September 1, 2021

Doug Witcher, CEO of Smart Choice, a network for independent insurance agents.Most insurance agents view the task of completing continuing education requirements as something to be checked off a list – an annoyance and a time suck amid a slew of daily tasks they must complete.

While researching the topic of CE, I came across an article1  in Insurance Business Magazine from several years ago, which raised the question of how many annual CE hours are appropriate for insurance professionals. Although each state is different, most states have adopted an average of 24 hours of CE for license renewal.

The author also noted that the insurance industry faces a certain amount of criticism — with perception from some being that there is an overall lack of professionalism. The reasoning for this perception was in part due to the relatively slim pre-requisites required to obtain an insurance license — in most states no college degree is required, and a simple 40-hour course and state licensure exam sets one up to begin selling insurance.

Most professional degrees require a significant number of years in college and rigorous exams before being permitted to begin practice. Physicians, attorneys, accountants, architects, etc. all spend many years in higher education before graduating to learn under more practiced veterans. They also spend a significant amount of time in mentorship and shadowed practice before they’re able to operate independently.

In contrast, from an outside perspective, the education, training, and time requirements of our own industry to obtain licensure can seem incommensurate. However, most people are ignorant of how much time agents invest in learning their trade, earning designations, keeping up with industry changes, and the intensive and exhaustive work of learning and knowing the suite of products for each carrier.

Those of us who’ve spent our careers building agencies know that the truth is many newly licensed agents are not equipped to begin advising clients — and generally should be spending a decent amount of time in mentorship with an experienced agent.

While many agency owners begin their careers as producers in larger agencies, it’s not a requirement that they do so — and many incorrectly assume licensure will be an easy road to owning their own business. Any successful agency owner reading this know it’s anything but easy to operate a business, and that it takes a certain amount of fortitude, discipline, and willingness to learn to survive the first few years. We must also face the reality that the products we sell are vastly important to consumers and play a vital role in the delicate balance of the financial world.

While hands-on learning and experience is invaluable, we must remember that we are handling people’s financial livelihoods and exposing ourselves to significant legal issues if we aren’t doing our jobs properly. 

The natural evolutionary order of the world makes it imperative that we keep up with changes — and ours is an industry that evolves rapidly. With all the new vehicle technology, changes in energy consumption, adaptions in daily lifestyles due to the pandemic, and changes in carrier policies, there’s a lot of “new” for agents and carriers to consider when assessing risk. Electric vehicles, changing energy resources, less drivers, more cyber exposure due to increases in working from home, changes in how policies are being sold, a hardening market — these are all factors that are vastly changing the insurance landscape. Understanding these changes and their effects is complex and carriers and agents should be working together to both mitigate risk and educate consumers.

Insurance advisors should take their ability to safeguard the public and the financial industry seriously, by investing in themselves and their personal knowledge. We should be mentoring and teaching new producers in our agencies to take over what we, ourselves, have mastered, so that we can be free to spend time learning new things as well.

Challenge yourself to sign up for something new, instead of simply meeting your mandated CE requirements each year.

It could pay off big financially to expand your expertise into a new segment of the industry. It also demonstrates your willingness to learn and adapt, and your ability to continue sharpening your mind. The world values complex problem solvers and critical thinkers — and broadening your knowledge through classes, reading, and acquiring new skillsets, makes you an incredibly valuable resource in this world. You’ll go further and be more successful in everything you do!

1 https://www.insurancebusinessmag.com/us/news/breaking-news/just-how-many-ce-hours-should-insurance-agents-be-required-to-complete-24369.aspx

 

Cover of Smart Choice Magazine 2021 Issue 5, The Agent Education IssueAgent Education: Invest in Your Success

Insurance advisors should take their ability to safeguard the public and the financial industry seriously by investing in themselves and their personal knowledge. We should be mentoring and teaching new producers in our agencies, spending time on continuing education, and putting what we learn into practice. Check out the 2021 Issue 5 of Smart Choice Magazine for more.

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