As opposed to a "captive agent" who works for a particular insurance carrier, an independent insurance agent or broker usually represents several companies, matching clients with insurance policies from the companies that offer the best rates and coverage.

Here's how to become an independent insurance agent:

  • Attend college Although you don't need a college degree to be an independent insurance agent, you will have an easier time getting into the business if you have gone to college and studied subjects, such as economics, finance, business, mathematics, accounting, marketing, business administration and business law. Some colleges even offer a bachelor's degree in the field of insurance.
  • Get licensed You'll have to obtain a license in the state or states in which you wish to sell insurance. You may need a separate license for each kind of insurance you want to sell. Although licensing requirements vary from state to state, you'll probably need to complete some pre-licensing coursework and pass a licensing exam [source: BLS].
  • Take continuing education courses Most states require insurance agents to take continuing education courses every two years to maintain your license.

Insurance agents should be:

  • Flexible
  • Enthusiastic
  • Confident
  • Disciplined
  • Hardworking
  • Skilled at dealing with people
  • Experienced in a range of financial services as well as in sales

In addition to sales, your responsibilities as an insurance broker will include:

  • Maintaining records
  • Preparing reports
  • Seeking out new clients
  • Helping policy holders settle their claims [source: IIABA]
  • Keeping up-to-date on changes in government benefits programs, tax laws and other regulations that affect the insurance needs of your clients