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Continuing Education with the Associate in Personal Insurance

No matter what form of continuing education you choose, you can't make a wrong choice. Continuing education leads to a number of career benefits including higher salaries and improved promotion opportunities, personal job marketability, long-term attractiveness to your current employer, and higher job performance. A report by the National Center for Education Statistics showed that between 1995 and 2005, the number of adults pursuing career-related education increased by 7.7 percent, to 38.8 percent. This report also shows that more than half of these adults pursuing career-related education earn more than $50,000 annually.

For insurance in particular, the industry is incredibly competitive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the sales agent industry is expected to grow about 10 percent by the year 2022, which is average compared to all occupations, and the highest level of education required for an entry-level sales agent is a high school diploma. Minimal education requirements and an average growth  rate mean the insurance agent job market is becoming more competitive, and job security may become increasingly difficult. To ensure job security and career advancement, an insurance agent must be able to separate himself from other similar candidates.

According to the's  review of the sales agent job, the most popular skill in this occupation is insurance knowledge, even more important than customer service and sales knowledge. This is because the position of an insurance agent is unlike any other sales position. Not only are insurance agents required to build lasting customer relationships and provide excellent customer service, but an agent must be the primary source of insurance information with the ability to provide advanced insurance recommendations tailored specifically to a customer's needs. To provide this advanced insurance knowledge, an agent should consider pursuing career-focused education. One of the best insurance designations for agents looking to quickly increase their knowledge in all aspects of personal insurance is the associate in personal insurance designation.

The associate in personal insurance designation

The associate in personal insurance, or API, is an associate-level designation  in the property casualty industry that focuses on providing insurance professionals with the necessary knowledge to provide excellent customer service in all aspects of personal insurance. This designation covers topics such as specific types of insurance, underwriting, marketing, insurance profitability and portfolio management.  

The API designation is the perfect "starter" designation when beginning to pursue additional education because two of the three API exams count toward the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter designation, which is the most prestigious designation of the property casualty industry. It also helps lead to advanced education while at the same time providing insurance knowledge to help enhance current job performance.

How to earn the API designation

The API designation consists of up to four exams, depending on which API path you choose. These exams focus on personal insurance topics such as underwriting and financial planning.

API Path A

API 28: Personal Insurance Underwriting and Marketing Practices

API 29: Personal Insurance Portfolio Management and Issues

AINS 21: Property and Liability Insurance Principles

AINS 22: Personal Insurance

API Path B

API 28: Personal Insurance Underwriting and Marketing Practices

CPCU 555: Personal Risk Management and Property-Liability Insurance

CPCU 556: Personal Financial Planning

API path B is a good choice, especially if you are considering pursuing the CPCU designation. API path B is one less exam than path A, and two of the exams (CPCU 555 and 556) count toward the personal insurance CPCU designation. The API helps complete two of eight CPCU exams.

Improve your sales pitch and job performance

The API designation is most popular for agents, brokers, customer service and marketing representatives, and underwriters. You'll be required to memorize a number of policy specifics such as various endorsements, conditions and underwriting criteria. This knowledge is useful in describing to a customer, for example, why his premium increased, how he can adjust his policy for better coverage, and how he can adjust insured property to reduce exposure to loss.

Take for example a customer who owns a boat, home, two cars and has three kids. This is a customer with a number of risks that require several insurance products. This customer has probably already spoken to a number of agents and heard the same recommendations. With your advanced knowledge of the insurance product, you can differentiate your pitch by providing an in-depth explanation of your insurance recommendations. This could include tips such as bundling auto, homeowners and watercraft policies to reduce the premium cost. Providing this in-depth explanation of each insurance product and the reasoning behind each decision helps increase the insured's level of confidence in your ability to recommend the best insurance solution. This confidence builds a trusting relationship with the prospect and leads to a sales opportunity and potential long-term customer retention.

An agent who can effectively answer every question and is willing to go above and beyond what is required on the job will reap the rewards of a more successful career, advanced career opportunities and increased earnings.

About the Author: Jake Lang is the founder of AssociatePI. He has been through the CPCU and Associate in Personal Insurance process and now focuses on providing enhanced online courses and free content to help those preparing for their CPCU and API exams

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