Insurance and risk management programs teach students to accurately assess risk factors for insurance and finance purposes. They often qualify graduates for positions as insurance underwriters, loan officers, or corporate and financial risk analysts and managers.

Insurance underwriters use sophisticated computer programs and strong quantitative reasoning skills to analyze major risk factors of individuals and organizations applying for insurance of all kinds; for example, a life insurance underwriter considers health risks like obesity and smoking and determines if a policy should be offered, and at what cost. Other insurance underwriters like health and property underwriters evaluate other risk variables.

Loan officers work in commercial banks and credit organizations, and review loan requests from both private and corporate borrowers. They determine the risk level and the loans to be offered, and determine specifics like principal amount and interest rates.

Like insurance underwriters, corporate and financial risk managers analyze data for potential risks, and complete cost-benefit analysis. These risk managers analyze and minimize risks to corporate solvency in the company's finances, investments, and operations.

Insurance and Risk Management Career Opportunities

Leads to Insurance and Risk Specialists and Managers, Budget Analysts, Financial Managers, Loan Officers

Insurance and risk management is a large and multifaceted field. Job opportunities are strong across the board, but there is tough competition for available positions. Many require a good deal of practical experience as well as advanced post-secondary degrees.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 102,900 insurance underwriters in 2008. The BLS predicts that the field will lose 4,300 jobs over 10 years, for a 2018 total of 98,700. That's a 4% decline.

Insurance underwriters will experience a small decrease in jobs from 2008 to 2018.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

There were 327,800 loan officers in 2008, according to the BLS. The occupation is expected to add 33,000 jobs over 10 years, for a 2018 total of 360,900 positions. That's a 10% growth rate, about as high as the average growth for all occupations and slightly higher than the 8.2% expected expansion of the entire civilian economy.

Corporate insurance and risk managers are a large part of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Financial Managers group. There were 539,300 financial managers, including insurance and risk managers, in 2008. The BLS estimates there will be 41,200 new jobs created over 10 years, for a 2018 total of 580,500 positions. That's an 8% increase, about the same as the average for all occupations.

Loan officer and financial managers job growth.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Insurance and Risk Management Earnings

According to the BLS, insurance underwriters made median annual wages of $56,790 in 2008. The middle 50% of the field made between $43,490 and $76,700, while the bottom 10% made less than $35,010 and the top 10% made more than $99,940.

Earnings were similar for loan officers, according to the BLS; they made annual median wages of $54,700 in 2008. The middle 50% of the field made between $39,710 and $76,860, while the bottom 10% made less than $30,850 and the top 10% made more than $106,360.

According to the BLS, financial managers, including corporate insurance and risk managers, made a median of $99,330 yearly in 2008. The middle 50% of the field made between $72,030 and $135,070, while the bottom 10% made less than $53,860 and the top 10% made more than $135,070.

Earnings in insurance and risk management vary widely by position.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Insurance and Risk Management Educational Benefits

An advanced degree in important for those who wish to obtain a position or advance in the insurance and risk management field. In fact, a bachelor's degree in business administration, management, or finance is typically the minimum requirement for entry-level positions. Because of the over-saturation of bachelor's degrees, many employers are now looking for employees with a master's and doctoral degrees.

Experience is also a key factor in obtaining a position within the insurance and risk management field. Many organizations offer (and most require) additional on-the-job training. In addition, employees have the option to pursue a variety of different certification programs. The BLS lists a number of these:

  • The Chartered Financial Analyst Institute or the CFA offers professional certification to professionals who have earned a bachelor's degree, at minimum, relevant work experience, and passing scores on three separate exams.
  • The Association for Financial Professionals offers a Certified Treasury Professional credential to those applicants who have at least two years of relevant work experience and pass a computer-generated exam.
  • Those employees especially interested in business accounting procedures have the possibility of earning the Certified Management Accountant certification offered by the Institute of Management Accountants to those applicants with a bachelor's degree, relevant (at least two years) work experience, pass a four-part examination, and meet continuing education requirements.

None of these certifications are necessarily required in order to secure employment, but they effectively demonstrate experience and specialized knowledge.

According to the Occupational Information Network, 53% of insurance underwriters aged 25 to 44 have completed a bachelor's degree or higher. Only 16% have no education beyond high school, and the remaining 32% have some college, including diplomas and associate's degrees in insurance and risk management.

More than half of insurance underwriters have a bachelor's degree or higher.Source: Occupational Information Network

According to the Occupational Information Network, only 13% of working financial managers, including corporate insurance and risk managers have no formal education beyond a high school diploma. 27% have some college education (a post-secondary diploma or associate's degree) while 60% hold a college degree (a bachelor's degree) or higher.

60% of financial managers have a bachelor's degree or higher.Source: Occupational Information Network

Insurance and risk management professionals are generally highly educated. Pursuing a bachelor's degree can make the difference when seeking employment, a master's degree will further qualify you for advanced positions in the insurance and risk management field.

Insurance and Risk Management Programs Online

Degrees Possible Certificate, Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral Degrees

There are a variety of different courses in the insurance and risk management realm offered online. Because this is such a highly-educated field, most of the online programs offer bachelor's or master's level degree programs.

The best of these programs will provide a rigorous education comparable to the insurance and risk (or general) management programs offered at a local school or college, but in a more flexible format better suited to working students. Online insurance and risk management degree programs are especially suited for those students who have secured a position in the field but would like to present the advanced credentials needed in order to progress while working and obtaining the experience necessary to qualify for enhanced positions.

As with any serious educational decision, do your research when picking an online insurance or risk management program: is the school accredited? Do credits transfer? What is the school's job placement rate? What are people saying about this school in general and this program specifically?

Skills and Abilities:

Insurance and risk managers must have excellent management and finance skills. They must be able to effectively and efficiently analyze data in order to predict specific risks to a business. Managers must have outstanding problem-solving, interpersonal and communication skills.

Advanced knowledge of insurance policies, tax laws, and compliance procedures is vital for success in the insurance and risk management field.

Furthermore, insurance and risk managers must possess impeccable organizational and analytical skills in order to effectively systemize, analyze and explain financial data.