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Doctor, lawyer ... claims adjustor? When our parents tell us we can be anything when we grow up, they're not exactly grooming us to become insurance agents. Indeed, most of our personal experiences with insurance companies don't exactly have us champing at the bit to choose it as a career path. But when you look beyond the falsehoods, you find an industry that's more diverse and rewarding than you might expect.
Myth #1: It's a sales job
Not true at all. "Until you have a claim, a salesperson is probably your only experience with someone from the insurance company," says Carl Marsico, a claims adjustor for Allstate's Disaster Response Team. Claims adjustors are the employees who analyze a customer's policy and decide if and how much coverage to grant a customer. The industry also consists of appraisers who offer unbiased assessments of motor vehicle damage, investigators who handle claims in which companies suspect fraud, loss control representatives who inspect business operations for insurance applicants, underwriters who evaluate the risk involved in issuing a policy and actuaries who determine premium amounts.
Myth #2: It's a desk job
Many in the industry do in fact sit behind a desk, but this isn't always the case. Sales people, for example, may travel to local businesses and households to discuss and promote products and services and some work from home. Also, many large companies employ catastrophe teams to cover natural disasters. "There's people who travel from state to state and inspect a couple houses in a day," says Marsico. "When another storm hits they'll be in another part of the country. They pretty much work out of hotels and cars."
Myth #3: There's little earning potential
The industry may not have the income allure of law or medicine, and entry level positions averaged only $12-$15 hourly in 2008 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But underwriters, claims adjustors and upper management positions earn much more. Underwriters, for example, average an annual salary of $66,637 according CBSalary.com. "Depending on where your starting point is, there are both well-paying jobs and plenty of room for growth," says Eliseo Valdivia, an account executive for Efinancial Insurance. "Well-seasoned agents, those that specialize in life insurance planning make over six figures."
Myth #4: It's not a friendly industry
We've all suffered endless wait times on the phone only to be told by a claims agent that we've been denied coverage. That kind of experience can lead to negative impressions of the industry, but Marsico, a former attorney, says it's actually very pleasant. He points to employee outings, casual dress and a great benefits package as industry perks. "I only wear a suit once a year now," he says. "You get flexible time off, it's a lot less stressful and it's a lot more family-friendly than most people would think."
Myth #5: There are no jobs in this economy
According to the BLS, the industry was hit hard by the recent recession, and competition from online sites, corporate downsizing and industry consolidation has similarly slowed growth. However, the BLS also predicts significant long-term growth and expects thousands of jobs to be available in the near future. "While nothing is immune to a bad economy," says Valdivia, "insurance in my opinion is among the most resilient of many fields. Car, life, it doesn't really matter, people always have a need for it."
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