How to Become a Commercial Underwriter: Education and Career Roadmap

Oct 20, 2021

Should I Become a Commercial Underwriter?

A commercial underwriter writes insurance policies for non-residential real estate properties. They analyze information on insurance documents to determine risk, decide whether an offer to insure a property should be made and write insurance policies to cover potential losses. They also determine appropriate coverage amounts and premium costs for commercial property policies. Travel to aid in the assessment of properties might be required.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Risk management and insurance
Certification Employers often expect underwriters to pursue certification
Experience On-the-job training is offered in lieu of experience
Key Skills Detail-oriented, mathematical aptitude, good judgment, decision-making interpersonal, analytical and comprehension skills, ability to use financial analysis and document management software programs
Salary $64,220 per year (2014 median salary for all insurance underwriters)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that employers prefer to hire individuals who have a bachelor's degree, there is no specific area of study to work in this field. However, prospective commercial insurance underwriters are encouraged to complete a bachelor's program that includes courses in finance, business, mathematics and economics. Bachelor's degree programs focusing on risk management and insurance are available. Classes in these programs cover topics, such as commercial risk management and insurance, risk management theory, insurance operations and business statistics.

Success Tips:

  • Complete an internship or field experience. Bachelor's degree programs may offer students the ability to complete an insurance and risk management-related internship or field experience. These experiences introduce students to the job tasks they may be required to perform in their future careers. Additionally, internships provide networking opportunities, which may make it easier for a student to find a job after graduation.

Step 2: Get On-the-Job Training

The BLS states that insurance underwriters normally do not need experience to begin working in the field, but that many times underwriters receive some form of on-the-job training. To learn the functions of the job, new commercial underwriters typically work under the supervision of a more senior-level underwriter. In this trainee role, they learn how to identify common risks and use standard underwriting applications to perform analysis.

Step 3: Earn Certification for Career Advancement

The BLS notes that certification is often required to be considered for advanced job opportunities, such as a senior underwriter or underwriting manager. The Insurance Institute of America offers the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) credential. Professionals with at least three years of experience as an underwriter are eligible to sit for this certification exam. This certification, which is considered the premier credential in the field of underwriting, requires passing several exams.

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