Insurance underwriters typically do the following:
Underwriters are the main link between an insurance company and an insurance agent. Insurance underwriters use computer software programs to determine whether to approve an applicant. They take specific information about a client and enter it into a program. The program then provides recommendations on coverage and premiums. Underwriters evaluate these recommendations and decide whether to approve or reject the application. If a decision is difficult, they may consult additional sources, such as medical documents and credit scores.
For simple and common types of insurance, such as automobile insurance, underwriters can typically rely on automated recommendations. For more specific and complex insurance types, such as workers’ compensation, underwriters need to rely more on their own analytical insight.
Underwriters analyze the risk factors appearing on an application. For instance, if an applicant reports a previous bankruptcy, the underwriter must determine whether that information is relevant to the policy being applied for. The underwriter would likely consider how far in the past the bankruptcy occurred and how the applicant’s financial situation has changed since the applicant filed for bankruptcy.
Insurance underwriters must achieve a balance between risky and cautious decisions. If underwriters allow too much risk, the insurance company will pay out too many claims. But if they don’t approve enough applications, the company will not make enough money from premiums.
Most insurance underwriters specialize in one of three broad fields: life, health, and property and casualty. Although the job duties in each field are similar, the criteria that underwriters use vary. For example, for someone seeking life insurance, underwriters consider the person’s age and financial history. For someone applying for car insurance (a form of property and casualty insurance), underwriters consider the person’s driving record.
Within the broad field of property and casualty, underwriters may specialize even further into commercial (business) insurance or personal insurance. They may also specialize by the type of policy, such as for automobiles, boats (marine insurance), or homes (homeowners’ insurance).
Most employers prefer to hire applicants who have a bachelor’s degree. Although a specific major is not required, some coursework in business, finance, economics, and mathematics is helpful.
Employers often expect underwriters to become certified through coursework. These courses are important for keeping current with new insurance policies and for adjusting to new technology and changes in state and federal regulations. Certification is often necessary for advancement to senior underwriter and underwriter management positions. Many certification options are available.
For underwriters with at least 2 years of insurance experience, The Institutes offer the Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation. For beginning underwriters, The Institutes offer a training program.
The Institutes also offer several other designations in insurance specialties, including the Associate in Commercial Underwriting (AU) and Associate in Personal Insurance (API). To earn these designations, underwriters complete a series of courses and exams that generally takes 1 to 2 years.
The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors offers the Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF) designation, which consists of a three-part curriculum in basic insurance concepts.
The American College of Financial Services offers the Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) certification. This certification consists of five core courses and three electives, and candidates must have 3 years of related work experience.