What Does It Take to Be an Insurance Agent Today in America’s Southeast

by Steve Jones - May 21, 2024
African American insurance agent shakes hands with male customer.

Becoming an insurance producer can be an exciting and rewarding career path. In this job, you can help people protect what matters most to them, whether it’s their home, car, health, or even their life. But what does it take to be an insurance agent in the Southeast U.S.? Let’s explore everything you need to know. 

What It Takes to Be an Independent Insurance Agent 

To become an independent insurance agent, you need to blend education, licensing, and a set of key skills. Starting with your educational background, you should at least have a high school diploma, though a bachelor’s degree in business or finance could significantly boost your prospects. 

Other qualifications to become an agent include developing a deep understanding of the industry’s products, organizational prowess, a commitment to ethical practices, and continuous learning to stay ahead in this rapidly evolving industry. 

Independent Insurance Agent Requirements in the Southeast U.S.: State-by-State Breakdown 

Each state has its own insurance agent requirements for licensing purposes. Here’s the scoop on each. 

1. Alabama 

The Alabama Department of Insurance (ALDOI) manages the licensure process for new agents in the state. Different licensing requirements apply for different types of professions, including adjusters, managing general agents, individual producers, business entities, and reinsurance intermediaries, among others. 

For individual producers, a profession that Alabama defines as “A natural person required to be licensed under the laws of this state to sell, solicit, or negotiate,” you’ll need to meet the following requirements: 

  • You must be 18 years old 
  • You must not have committed any acts that would lead to the revocation of your license 
  • You need to submit fingerprints 
  • Submit proof of citizenship 
  • Pass the licensing exam as administered by the ALDOI and the University of Alabama College of Continuing Studies 
  • Complete continuing education (CE) credits as needed for licensure renewal 

2. Arkansas 

The Arkansas Insurance Department’s Licensing Division controls the resident and nonresident producer requirements for selling policies in the state. This division also oversees examinations and requires thorough investigation of state police records, as well as continuing education requirements for existing agents. 

Anyone who sells policies in this state must acquire a “producer’s license.” According to the state government, “sell” means “to exchange a contract of insurance by any means, for money or its equivalent, on behalf of a company.” 

The government considers some activities as “clerical” in nature, which means they do not require a license. 

In addition, you’ll need to provide the following: 

  • License number if previously licensed 
  • SSN 
  • Date of birth (for individuals) 
  • Applicant type 
  • An electronic payment of $5.60 as of April 2024, payable by credit card or e-check 

3. Florida 

Like most other states on this list, Florida requires applicants to submit a licensure application, pay a one-time fee, and complete fingerprinting and a background check. You’ll also need to sit for the appropriate exam for the service line you want to carry, such as life, accident, and health. These exams involve proctoring, which means you’ll take the exam under observation by a test center professional. 

After you complete these steps, the Florida Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services will review your completed application and make a licensure decision. On occasion, the agency may contact you for more clarification on your background. 

4. Georgia 

If you want to sell products in Georgia, you need the appropriate license from the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance and Safety Fire. The process involves picking the type of products you want to sell, including credit, life, and more. 

Once you’ve selected your line, you then need to review the specific requirements for that product category. For example, life, accident, and sickness products require a 40-hour prelicensure course, an examination, and other requirements, including a criminal background check. 

Regardless of the product category you select, you’ll also need to complete a citizenship affidavit and submit fingerprints to the state government. 

Woman insurance agent shakes hands with woman in biracial couple customers.

5. Kentucky 

To become an agent in Kentucky, you must first complete 20 hours of pre-licensing training for each major line of authority. This comprehensive training is essential for acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills to operate as an agent within the state. Upon completing these courses, you must fax or email your Certificate of Completion, using Form CPL-01, to the Kentucky Department of Insurance’s Agent Licensing division. This step is crucial for verifying the successful completion of pre-licensing requirements and moving forward in the licensing process. 

Next, you’ll need to pass the state examination and complete continuing education requirements to maintain your licensure, as with other states. 

6. Louisiana 

To become an agent in Louisiana, you should start by submitting your license application electronically through the National Insurance Producer Registry (NIPR). This process is necessary for those aiming to become resident or nonresident producers, claims adjusters, public adjusters, and consultants. The application fees will be collected at this initial submission stage.  

Following the application, if an examination is required for your specific license type and authority, you need to schedule and pass this examination through PSI, the official examination vendor for Louisiana. PSI offers options for taking the exam at a testing center or remotely, although remote proctoring requires meeting specific technology standards. Additionally, Louisiana State Police have transitioned to a new fingerprint vendor, IdentoGo/Idemia, for processing criminal background checks. You’ll need to be fingerprinted at an IdentoGo location, with appointments available throughout the state. 

7. Mississippi 

To become an agent in Mississippi, you’ll need to complete pre-licensing education. The requirement varies depending on the line of authority: 20 hours per line for Insurance Producer and Adjuster, and 40 hours for Bail Agent, available through classroom or self-study formats. 

After completing your education, you will have to pass the relevant state licensing exam for your chosen line of authority. Mississippi offers a range of exams for different lines, such as Combined Life, Accident & Health, Property, Casualty, and various Adjuster exams, among others. Exams are administered by Pearson Vue at several locations throughout the state and neighboring states. 

8. North Carolina 

To become an agent or adjuster in North Carolina, you must first understand the specific pre-licensing and examination requirements set forth by the North Carolina Department of Insurance. 

All prospective licensees are required to complete a predetermined number of pre-licensing education hours for each type of product they wish to be licensed in. For example, life, accident, health or sickness, property, casualty, and personal lines each require a 20-hour course, while a 10-hour course is needed for the Medicare Supplement/Long-Term Care examination. 

9. South Carolina 

To become a licensed agent in South Carolina, you’ll need to follow a series of steps, beginning with passing the necessary licensing exam for your specific line of authority. South Carolina has transitioned its exam vendor to Pearson Vue, where you can schedule your exam and access a list of study materials online.  

After successfully passing your exam, you’ll need to apply for your license. While paper applications are accepted under certain conditions, the primary method is applying online via the National Insurance Producer Registry (NIPR). The license application includes a fee of $25, which is non-refundable and non-transferable. 

10. Tennessee 

To become an agent in Tennessee, you must follow specific steps outlined by the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. First, determine the type of license you need, as the state regulates various professionals, including producers, adjusters, title agents, and more. Approximately 300,000 producers are licensed in Tennessee, covering a wide range of fields. 

Next, take the state exam through PearsonVue, the company licensed in Tennessee to administer this test. You’ll also need to submit fingerprints and your application. Every two years you need to complete 24 hours of continuing education. 

How to Be a Successful Insurance Agent 

Good agents know that the client means everything. Without clients, you have no book of business, and without a book of business, you have no income. Start by understanding what makes for good customer service, including how to respond quickly and precisely to inbound requests and maintaining your composure during stressful sales situations. 

You also need comprehensive knowledge of your chosen product line. If someone else down the street knows more about your products than you do, then your clients will pick up on that — and potentially walk down the street to your competitors. 

Other great traits that all agents need include knowing how to ask information-gathering questions, understanding intuitively what your clients need, and maintaining strong rapport for the long haul to get repeat business. 

These skills for an agent— especially product knowledge — make all the difference when it comes to closing deals. 

Resources for Aspiring Independent Insurance Agents 

These resources may prove helpful for agents in the southeast like you just getting started in your career: 

  • Professional associations like IIABA and PIA 
  • Networking groups, including LinkedIn and local Chambers of Commerce 
  • CEAuthority and WebCE for continuing education 
  • Publications like the Insurance Journal and National Underwriter 
  • Gain knowledge by achieving certifications all insurance agents need 

Is Becoming an Independent Insurance Agent Right for You? 

Ultimately, only you can answer this question. If you want strong earnings potential capped only by your ability to generate commissions, and you genuinely want to help your clients achieve their financial goals, then becoming an agent may be the most rewarding career decision you’ll ever make. 

The Best Place for Independent Insurance Agents 

Ready to get started with your own career? Bluefire Insurance is here to help! Contact us online for more information about becoming an independent agent for Bluefire. 

Customer Service866-424-9511