Designations or Degrees?
The Education Needed to Excel in Underwriting
By: Mike McDonough
Underwriting jobs have never seen higher demand in the insurance industry. And the path to advancement in this increasingly opportunistic field doesn’t always mean a higher degree. More than ever, education in insurance industry designations and further certification can lead to a promising career.
Higher Skills Trump a Higher Degree.
Most companies, especially the bigger firms, are looking for someone with a bachelor’s degree in business administration or finance for their entry-level underwriting positions. But right now we’re seeing more of those employees advance higher in their field and meet requirements for executive positions with supplemental courses and designations instead of an MBA or JD.
Even if a new employee has a master’s degree or a doctorate, they will still typically begin their careers as an underwriter trainee or an assistant underwriter. This gives them hands-on, real-world training and lets them experience the ins and outs of the industry while under the supervision of a seasoned risk analyst. So regardless of classroom experience, new underwriters will typically all receive the same amount of initial training. This makes entering the workforce more attractive for young talent. They can start their career right after graduation, instead of staying in school for an advanced degree. It also makes education in insurance industry designations and advanced certifications more important look for as a hiring manager and to obtain as a professional in the field.
Which Skills Mean Success?
Higher-level positions typically have candidates with both designations and higher degrees applying for the same jobs. So which will excel? Typically a person’s skills and personality mean more to potential success than an MBA or JD. According to a recent study of underwriters, employers should look for fast learners with strong math and computer skills. This will ensure candidates have the right base knowledge and attitude to adapt and learn in an organization. Any underwriting talent search should also focus on candidates who are both detail-oriented and well organized.
Beyond the basic qualifications, it’s important that higher-level and executive employees demonstrate discretion. They’ll be charged with handling and processing sensitive and private information about clients, so it’s vital to find someone trustworthy. Strong verbal skills also help new employees effectively communicate with insurance agents and support staff to make the day-to-day processes easier and the learning curve lower at each level.
Finding the Right Fit
It’s become increasingly important to find the right person to fill an underwriting opening, not just the right degree. As the demand for underwriters grows across every level, cross-training of dedicated and talented employees is more vital than ever before. Companies are also seeing the importance of mentor programs to help them fill a high-need area from within, instead of looking for the right person through generic job postings.
When looking outside for advanced underwriter positions, hiring mangers need to look at designations and certifications, as well as a candidate’s experience. During an executive talent search, the level of a person’s degree may not be the most important factor for their ability to advance in the industry. The right designations and certifications show a commitment to continued education and versatility in a field that demands both.
With such a high demand for underwriters, recruiting firms are increasingly brought in to spend time finding the qualified candidates that an HR department or online application process might overlook. With more competition for top talent, it’s important that companies keep their eyes and options open when looking for the right people to fill larger roles within their organization.