When I grow up, I want to go into insurance!

When I grow up, I want to go into insurance!

When I transferred high schools, one of the first kids I met introduced himself and said “I want to be a cop.” His interest never waned and sure enough, he became a police officer and has served for more than 35 years. Some kids know what they want to do but I have never heard one say “I want to go into insurance!” They don’t know what they’re missing. In fact, Maine had 13,418 jobs in the insurance business in 2012. But how much are these jobs paying, are they satisfying and are they hard to get?

The reality is that not only is insurance one of the better-paying careers in life but it is incredibly interesting and varied. Think about what it takes to predict not only severe weather but to estimate the expected cost of it. For example, folks in the insurance industry had to actually think about such horrific events as Super Storm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina to ensure there was enough money in the bank to get those people and businesses back to normal.

Those are global predictions. For individual insurance coverage, agents have to be educators and chess players – not order takers. They need to play three moves ahead and educate the customer about

  • understanding the value of possessions that may be worth insuring
  • protecting their income should they become disabled
  • having enough liability insurance coverage to pay for legal defense costs and settlement if their actions cause harm to someone else or if they are accused of causing harm
  • illustrating the stark implications of choosing a high deductible in exchange for a lower monthly premium

When a covered loss occurs, centuries of law come into play. That’s why agents must take care to fully explain and document what is and is not covered as well as the limits of that coverage. An insurance policy is a contract governed by years of practice and precedent. Insurance policies also reflect what public policy makers determine to be entitlements and mandates such as Medicare, workers’ compensation and auto liability insurance. It takes a keen mind and attention to detail to be a good insurance professional.

Then, of course, there’s also the simple satisfaction of getting a check into the hands of a customer who has lost her house to a fire or getting an injured employee back to work. Insurance careers are full of memories that will last a lifetime. Why? Insurance people protect their customers and the customers’ possessions. We do well by doing good.

The insurance industry also has current and future openings due to the retiring workforce. Because it is a relatively stable career, people choosing insurance tend to stay for a long time. Given Maine’s aging workforce, however, those positions are opening on a regular basis and will continue to do so for roughly the next 15 years as baby boomers cross over into retirement.

The Risk Management & Insurance program (RM&I) at the University of Southern Maine offers these interesting statistics about the industry in Maine:

  • Actuaries [the people who have to calculate the probability and cost of claims]: The metropolitan area of Portland-South Portland-Biddeford has the 9th highest concentration of insurance actuaries of all metropolitan areas across the U.S. with an annual mean wage of $109,670 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
  • Claims Adjusters, Examiners, and Investigators [the people who determine what has been lost, damaged or destroyed and what it’s worth]: As a state, Maine is ranked 2nd among all states for its concentration of insurance claims employment with an annual mean wage of $59,270. Of the 1,750 people employed in insurance claims in the state, 1,340 of them are employed in the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford metropolitan area (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
  • Underwriters [the people who research and evaluate insuring the risk of a person, organization or business and what it will be charged]: Maine is ranked 7th among all states for its concentration of employment in insurance underwriting with an annual mean wage of $70,920. The metropolitan area of Portland-South Portland-Biddeford is ranked 5th among all metropolitan areas in the country for its insurance underwriting job concentration. (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Though finding kids who want to grow up to be insurance people is like trying to find a baby pigeon [Have you ever seen a baby pigeon?], odds are in their favor that the insurance business is a career worth pursuing and USM has a program to get them there.

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