Do I need a degree, and if so, in what subject area?
Graduates from any subject background find fulfilling careers in risk and insurance, although degrees in business, economics and law are particularly welcomed. Generally speaking, employers focus more on the soft skills than the subject studied, with the exception of actuarial roles, where a strong mathematical and/or statistical background is required.
It is also possible to work, particularly in administrative roles, after completing A levels or a vocational course at a similar level. At this level, apprenticeships are becoming more popular as a foundation of professionalism.
What type of person are employers looking for?
There is a huge range of roles in the industry, meaning that there is something for everyone, whether you want a client-facing, developmental role or a more back-office, technical or research-driven position. What links all of these roles is a strong set of soft skills, including:
Language skills can be an important part of the skills mix, particularly if you are interested in working in the London Market, the world’s leading international insurance and reinsurance marketplace.
Different roles require different balances of knowledge and skills but typically employers will be looking for a high standard of numeracy and written English, self-motivation, drive, ambition and confidence and a good presentation style if the role is to involve dealing with clients. A willingness to socialise and network is often needed and a commitment to undertaking relevant qualifications in addition to the demands of a busy job is essential.
A detailed knowledge of insurance is not expected initially, but an awareness of relevant social and financial issues will demonstrate a keen interest in the area and a willingness to learn.
How long does it take to qualify?
There are three levels of professional qualification offered by the CII, which is the world’s largest professional body for insurance and financial services – Certificate, Diploma and Advanced Diploma.
Most will take the CII’s Advanced Diploma in Insurance, which is also known by its designatory letters ACII. This globally-recognised qualification takes around three years to complete.
If you are taking an Apprenticeship that contains a lower-level professional qualification, such as the CII’s Certificate in Insurance, it will take around 15 months to complete this programme.
Those holding the Advanced Diploma, and who have at least five years’ relevant work experience, are eligible to apply for Chartered status.
Will I need to continue training once I have qualified?
Yes, the industry is constantly changing and being up to date is important. You are expected to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) both through attendance at meetings, seminars, technical updates and events and through reading the trade press and networking.
The CII has 60 local institutes around the UK, meaning no-one is far from valuable local events. There is also a global network of affiliated institutes.
Where can I find jobs in the profession?
The largest proportion of insurance professionals work for insurance companies, benefits and actuarial consulting firms that provide services and advice to companies. Other large employment areas are in specific departments of large private and public sector employers, in firms providing specialist services such as administration and investment management. Other specialist areas include communication and IT and regulatory bodies.
The CII’s Discover Risk website www.discoverrisk.co.uk not only has school-leaver jobs and graduate schemes; it also has many case studies of those working at different levels in the profession. Its interactive career-builder tool gives you valuable pointers on the career that could be right for you, given the skills and ambitions you input.
If you are a school- or college-leaver, it is also worth looking at the local press for information on back-office and administrative roles. If you live in a larger city, it may be worth reading the trade press (for example, Insurance Times and Post are among the best-known publications) because they have jobs pages at the back of them, as well as useful sector news.
If you are a graduate, or will be a graduate, there are many places to look for graduate schemes. Websites such as this one have jobs boards with vacancies specifically for graduate roles.
Could I move from one type of job in the profession to another?
Yes, it is not uncommon for people to move between the different sectors of the industry, for example, from an underwriting role to working as a loss adjuster. Moving roles is made easier if you have relevant qualifications, which will assure potential employers that a body of technical knowledge has been demonstrated, as well as a commitment to professional development.
The variety of roles available means that many people join the profession and never leave it, particularly those with Chartered status or high-level professional qualifications such as the ACII.
Are there opportunities for more mature entrants?
Yes, people from a wide range of backgrounds have successful second careers in the industry. For example, those who have worked in law and accountancy, or as an actuary, are often found in insurance. Likewise, those with an engineering, geological or healthcare background can find roles that fit with their specialist knowledge.
What can I expect to earn?
Salaries in the insurance industry compare well with other financial, administrative and management careers.
Just as there is a huge range of roles available in insurance and risk, so there are large differences in the salaries you can expect to earn, depending on your location and your entry level. A school-leaver on an apprenticeship could expect to earn anything from £12,000-£16,000.
A graduate role stating salary ranges from £16,000-£30,000. Progression can be fast: once you have completed your professional qualifications, you can expect to command a higher salary. There are many sector professionals earning in excess of £100,000 in the City of London, and even some successful brokers earning seven figure salaries.
Are there opportunities overseas?
Insurance is a global profession with global opportunities. There are many major companies that operate in this sector and which have a network of offices on all continents around the world. In fact, some graduate schemes will include a spell in one of these international offices.
Holding a high-level professional qualification such as the ACII, is like holding a second passport. Employers around the world understand the value of these qualifications and the technical knowledge that its holders have.