Insurance Underwriter Careers


Bachelor's degree in Business


Certification in Underwriting








$59,290 /yr

$28.51 /hr

All Stats from

Insurance underwriters decide who an insurance company covers, the amount of coverage provided, and the cost of premiums. The underwriter’s job often involves a careful balance of assessment between the risks presented by the applicant, the company’s internal requirements, outside regulations governing various types of insurance, and appropriate pricing to outweigh the risk.

The insurance underwriter is usually the connection between the corporate company and its agents, using software to determine risks and recommendations in crafting a policy. For more complex applications, they may have to perform additional research—such as into an applicant’s health or financial history.

Insurance Underwriter Job Descriptions

There are four common specializations within the underwriting field. The job description is more or less the same for all, but the types of policies and research the underwriter must perform can vary. Specializations include:

Life insurance underwriters. Life insurance underwriters evaluate applicants for life insurance policies. Criteria that come into play include the person’s age, health record, family history of medical problems, and financial history.

Property and casualty insurance underwriters. These underwriters can specialize further in this field, into areas including commercial and business insurance or personal lines insurance. They may also specialize in a specific type of policy, such as auto, marine, or homeowners’ insurance.

Health insurance underwriters. These underwriters evaluate people for health insurance policies. They may need to perform additional research into an applicant’s health records if needed for more complicated policies.

Mortgage insurance underwriters. These underwriters specialize in mortgage insurance, and they will typically evaluate a home’s worth, market factors, and the applicant’s financial history to determine coverage.

Insurance Underwriter Education

A Bachelor’s degree. While it’s possible to get an entry-level job in insurance without a Bachelor’s degree, most employers prefer candidates who have one. There is no specific requirement for the type of degree, although it’s helpful to take courses in math, economics, business, and finance.

Certification. Certification is not always mandatory as required by law—although this can vary by state. However, most employers expect underwriters to get certified and to maintain their certification through ongoing continuing education—this is necessary to keep up to date with changing technologies, legislations, and trends in the insurance industry.

There are many agencies offering certifications appropriate for underwriters at various stages of their careers. Some of the most prominent organizations include:

The Insurance Institute of America. This organization offers training for entry-level insurance underwriters, as well as several certification programs and even more in-depth Associate-level programs that take about two years to complete. These are not degree-granting programs as you would find in a university, but they do require in-depth coursework and exams.

The American College offers introductory training in insurance, as well as several certifications—such as The Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), and the Registered Health Underwriter (RHU).

The American Institute for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters offers the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation, which is very highly regarded in the field. The courses required are graduate and postgraduate-level, and students must pass nine national-level exams—each one three hours long. There is an experience requirement to qualify for the credential, so this is generally for more experienced underwriters.

Acceptance of Online Degrees

Typically, the insurance industry is accustomed to accredited online degree programs. Most insurance certification programs offer online education, and there are numerous online providers for continuing education to maintain certification. Online degrees are fairly widely accepted in the industry.

Demand for Insurance Underwriters

Employment in this area is expected to grow only 6% between 2010 and 2020, as predicted by the Occupational Outlook Handbook—this is much slower than the overall growth expected for jobs nationwide. The reason for slow growth is generally attributed to advances in underwriting software that make it easier and faster for employees to process applications without needing a separate expert to handle it.

However, companies will still need experts to evaluate the automated recommendations made by software, so the job is not going away entirely—nor is it falling. In addition, health insurance underwriters are expected to be more in demand in coming years as the new federal healthcare legislation requires more people to buy private health insurance.

Typical Insurance Underwriter Salary

Insurance underwriters earned an average of $59,290 in 2010 as reported by the Occupational Outlook Handbook. At entry level, this is not a high-wage job; the lowest 10% in this earnings bracket made less than $36,700. However, if you make it into the top 10% of earners, you could bring home more than $102,540.

Pros and Cons of Becoming an Underwriter

One of the major benefits of this career is that the requirements for entry are fairly low—not more than a Bachelor’s degree, and sometimes it’s possible to enter with a professional background in the finance or insurance industry and no degree. In addition, once you’re in, it’s a stable, relatively low-stress job with no physical requirement.

However, the pay is not high except for those at the upper end of the spectrum. In addition, advances in automation software may make employment in this area harder to come by in later years, with the possibility of being made redundant as technologies improve.

Where to Look for Insurance Underwriter Jobs