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Survey: Colleges Need to Better Prepare Future Insurers for Real World

Recruiters and hiring managers who participated in the 2022 Best’s Review college survey discussed the importance of on-the-job training and developing experience in an insurance education.
  • Tom Davis
  • February 2022

Recruiters and hiring managers who participated in the 2022 Best's Review college survey say an insurance education must focus on what's necessary for a job that requires a personal touch.

They're happy to give new hires on-the-job training. But insurers want would-be professionals to know what they're doing before they even walk through the door.

“Students also need to be exposed to more types of insurance jobs in the industry rather than focusing on underwriting for the carrier side during their time in school: claims adjusting, surety, sales, service, actuary, risk managers, etc.,” said Ashley Hacker, a client service manager at Gallagher Global Brokerage. That's the message working professionals delivered when they participated in Best's Review's 2022 survey of best college insurance programs, saying schools need to do a better job of getting their students ready for the real world and exposing them to the tricks of the trade.

Related: College Standouts: Survey Provides View of Top College Risk Management and Insurance Programs

Morgan Wyman, an account executive with CBI Insurance, said she got solid training from Eastern Kentucky University, which was the top vote-getter in the Best's Review poll. But she believes that too many of her colleagues' training is focused on areas that don't involve the practical learning that's necessary for a job that requires a personal touch.

“I believe that the educational materials and lessons are excellent and provide students a solid foundation for their future in insurance,” she said. “However, I believe it would be beneficial for the students to learn how the concepts and theories they learn relate to real-world, on-the-job scenarios.” Wyman said too many of the materials provided to college students focus on theory but “theories don't always apply if you want to go into claims or sales or something different, so I think they could be doing a better job at that.”

“The theories I refer to are those in the CPCU [Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter] courses, which is great,” Wyman said. “The CPCU courses pave a clear path for those who want to be more in an underwriting or product development role/career. I think every student should be exposed to these courses, but I think there needs to be more classes that highlight other areas in the industry, such as claims, sales, risk management and loss prevention, etc.”

While on the job, Wyman said new insurance professionals should connect to underwriters or somebody in sales or claims “so they're not spending the majority of the first five to six years in their careers figuring out what exactly they want to do. I think that our graduates, especially at EKU, graduate with a ton of knowledge and a ton of background that could be beneficial at any job, whether it's the agency or company side,” she said.

Trey Boggs, an account representative for State Farm in Kentucky and an EKU graduate, said sales is a big part of the industry, and “educating on specific products gives the knowledge to be able to sell those products better, and help people get what they truly need.”

EKU graduate Josh Boone, an agent with the Kentucky Farm Bureau, said more real-life situational content can help better prepare students for the challenges they face on any given day. “Learning what a typical day looks like to work in a particular field or position really helps students understand what direction to go once starting a career,” Boone said.

Exposing students to the real world also means providing professional services in the classroom, the survey's respondents said. A number of schools provide training and opportunities for taking professional licensing exams, but Wyman believes more colleges should allow students to take the licensing exam prior to graduating without having to take a 20-hour course. “I just wish I could have been licensed without taking the course while I was still in school. I believe interns would be more attractive to employers if they are licensed. Employers often struggle with legal issues having an unlicensed staff member,” she said.

Hacker, another EKU grad, recommended that schools improve networking by creating an “accessible Rolodex” of student and alumni contacts in each school to share with other schools. “EKU does already have a Rolodex,” she said. “Several school insurance programs are also involved with the Gamma Iota Sigma professional association that may be able to assist in coordinating. I recommend all students join their local chapter since it does provide a wide-scale networking opportunity for students and alumni, but I do think it would be helpful for schools to communicate and have access to all insurance industry contacts outside of GIS as well.”

Related: Industry Professionals Share Thoughts on Top RMI Programs

Wyman said an insurance major isn't always very attractive for students. But would-be professionals could develop a passion for the job if they're mentored properly. “Universities that offer a degree in RMI need to figure out how to get students excited about the insurance industry,” she said. “From the outside looking in, insurance doesn't seem like it would be a fun and exciting career. But once you're involved, you realize this industry is the exact opposite. It's fun, exciting, competitive and full of amazing people. It is one of the only industries where you get to be hands-on with so many different types of businesses and people.”

At Eastern Kentucky University, Wyman said people from the RMI department went to her classes and “explained the program and how great it was.” But she said it initially sounded boring. “But then I took one class and the only reason why I really loved it was because of the professors,” she said. “The professors from that program were the best out of all the departments in the business school. Very hands-on there, 24/7.”


Tom Davis is managing editor. He can be reached at tom.davis@ambest.com.



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