Insurance underwriters work in a specialized area of the industry. Their job is to evaluate insurance applications and determine the risk involved in issuing a policy to a potential client. Underwriters make the decision to accept or reject an insurance application, establish appropriate premium amounts for each policy issued and write policies that sufficiently cover the risks of individual policyholders. Larger insurance companies usually prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree, preferably in business administration or finance, or who have insurance-related experience. It is not necessary to get an insurance underwriter’s license, but special certifications known as designations, can be obtained through continuing education programs.

Obtain your college degree if you do not already have one. A bachelor’s degree in most fields, along with courses in business law or accounting, may suffice to get an entry-level job. It is also beneficial to have computer course work, as an underwriter’s job typically involves working with computer programs that assist with risk analysis.

Decide on the area of insurance underwriting in which you want to specialize. Generally, the majority of underwriters specialize in one of four insurance categories: health, life, property and casualty, or mortgage insurance. Life and health insurance underwriters can further specialize in either group or individual policies.

Apply for an entry-level job as an underwriter’s assistance or an underwriter trainee with an insurance company specializing in your area of interest. Frequently, underwriters start off in these positions, and through on-the-job training and continuing education courses, they can acquire a certification also known as a designation.

Continue your education in the insurance field. Many insurance companies will offer incentives or pay for your ongoing education. The Insurance Institute of America offers training for beginning underwriters. The Institute also has courses for underwriters to earn a designation of Associate in Commercial Underwriting, or ACU, for underwriting business insurance policies, or you can earn the designation of Associate in Personal Insurance, or API, for underwriting personal insurance policies.

Earn a professional designation of Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter--CPCU--or Chartered Life Underwriter, known as CLU. A CPCU designation can be earned through the Insurance Institute of America. You can earn your CLU through the American College, which also offers the Registered Health Underwriter, or RHU, designation. Both establishments have online courses available.

Check with your state’s department of insurance if you wish to obtain an insurance agent license. Being an underwriter does not generally require a license, but many underwriters go on to become licensed insurance agents to profit from selling insurance products. Licensing requirements differ by state and may entail anywhere from 12 to 40 hours of prelicensing instruction hours and possibly additional hours studying the particular state’s ethics and insurance codes. In some states, if you earn a CPCU, CLU, ACU or API designation in underwriting, you can waive the instruction hours and will only be required to take the second of a two-part qualifying exam.

Contact your state insurance commission to apply to take the licensing examination. Your insurance commission can also point you in the right direction to get started on your prelicensing instructional hours, if necessary.

2016 Salary Information for Insurance Underwriters

Insurance underwriters earned a median annual salary of $67,680 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, insurance underwriters earned a 25th percentile salary of $51,290, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $91,780, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 104,100 people were employed in the U.S. as insurance underwriters.