A Guide on Becoming an Insurance Agent in Canada

Posted on July 27, 2021

Are you considering a career change? Are you looking for a career in a strong industry? Would you like to help people prepare for a financially secure future?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then a career as an insurance agent could be just right for you. Insurance agents form part of an industry already employing over 131,000 people across Canada.

Read on to learn more about how to get into this exciting industry and become an insurance agent.

How to Become an Insurance Agent in Ontario, Quebec or Anywhere in Canada?

Working as an insurance agent in Canada gives you some unique opportunities. The insurance industry is in a state of growth, meaning that job opportunities abound and will likely continue to grow.

It gives you the chance to make a difference in people's lives. Depending on the type of product you are selling, you can help them prepare for their future. You can help them plan for unforeseen setbacks, such as serious illness. You can even help them prepare to keep their family on a secure financial path in the event of their death.

A career in insurance is especially suited to those who enjoy meeting and helping people. It can also allow for flexible working and fit in with family life.

Insurance is a necessary but confusing part of life for many people. As a qualified insurance agent, you get to simplify this for them. You can help them cut through the jargon so they get the right policy for their needs. 

In Canada, all general insurance agents must obtain a general insurance licence. This is regulated by the provincial Insurance Act. You will need to obtain a licence in the province in which you will practice. You'll need a licensed insurer to sponsor you, and will need to meet other criteria, including an educational requirement.

To maintain your licence, you'll need to complete a number of Continuing Education (CE) hours per year. This may include attending seminars, taking courses, and online training.

What Kind of Career Can You Expect as an Insurance Agent?

Working as an insurance agent or broker can be very varied. Areas of insurance include automobile, health, life, critical illness, aircraft and marine insurance. You can sell insurance to individuals or businesses.

Most insurance agents work for an independent insurance agency or brokerage. These are known as managing general agencies (MGAs). They sell insurance from a number of different providers. They work with clients and insurance companies to tailor policies to their needs. It's also possible to work in partnerships or work alone. 

Some agents work as career agents. Career agents represent a single company and only advice on and sell the policies of one company. 

The insurance agent is personally responsible for the advice that they give, so it's essential to be detail-oriented. You need to fully understand the client's needs before working with the insurer to compile the policy.

An insurance agent can also work directly for insurance companies in sales. This could lead to other opportunities, including training as underwriters or claims adjusters.

Career progression could include moving into supervisory positions. In an insurance brokerage, this would mean overseeing less experienced colleagues. This can lead to branch manager positions. 

To work in insurance management, the Insurance Institute of Canada and other provincial providers can help. Insurance agents can qualify as Chartered Insurance Professionals (CIP). This can qualify you to apply for more senior positions within brokerages and insurance companies.

Looking for a career in leadership within the Canadian insurance industry? The Insurance Institute of Canada also offers the Fellow Chartered Insurance Professional program. This program requires a university degree.

Alternatively, you can complete the Advanced Chartered Insurance Professional program. This will qualify you to enter the Fellow Chartered Insurance Professional program.

How Much Do Insurance Agents Make?

Across Canada, the average base insurance broker salary stands at $48,413 per year on average.

Research suggests that insurance agents earn the highest salaries in Ontario and British Columbia. The average wages were lowest on Prince Edward Island. The average salary there comes in at $43,264.

This is just an average, and with experience, it should be possible to increase your earnings. By taking on more supervisory responsibility, you will be able to progress to management salaries.

For career progression increase your professional skills and knowledge through training programs. This could put you in line for promotion to more lucrative roles.

Getting Your General Insurance License

Every province has their own financial services authority. This is responsible for overseeing and issuing general insurance licences. Specific requirements vary from province to province. All require you to successfully complete a licensing exam. 

Each province has insurance associations that provide training for the insurance industry. The first step to enter into the world of insurance is to take a general insurance agent course.

Three levels of licensing courses exist:

Level 1 - for newcomers learning the basics of the insurance industry

Level 2 - for those progressing in their careers and looking to take on supervisory roles

Level 3 - for those looking to enter management positions in a brokerage

There are a variety of study options available. There are self-study, online instructor-led courses, and in-person classes available. 

Steps to Obtaining a General Insurance Licence

The following steps provide an outline for obtaining a general insurance licence in most provinces:

  1. Applying to the provincial government
  2. Good knowledge of local laws relating to the licensing of general insurance agents
  3. Sponsorship by a licensed insurer
  4. Not be involved in any business that would jeopardize your integrity
  5. Successful completing of the qualifying examination for general insurance
  6. Be a person of good character and reputation

The sponsoring insurer will apply for the licence on behalf of the prospective insurance agent. The sponsoring insurer must confirm that the applicant is:

  1. Of good character and reputation
  2. Has an appropriate educational background
  3. Meets all the licensing requirements
  4. They have a system to ensure each agent continues to comply with provincial legal requirements

A Chartered Insurance Professional (CIP) designation will also fulfil the educational requirement. In some provinces, other options may apply.

Licences are issued by the province, and this does not entitle you to act as an insurance agent in another province. There is now a streamlined process in place in most provinces to allow insurance agents to obtain a licence to practice there.

Insurance Regulations in Québec

While the guidelines above apply to most provinces, Québec has a different system and regulations.

For anyone to sell insurance in Québec, you much hold the right to practice from the AMF - Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF). All prospective insurance agents need to take two self-directed online courses to prepare for the AMF exam.

The preparatory courses are administered by the Regroupement des cabinets de courtage d’assurance du Québec (RCCAQ). Other entries include having a bachelor's degree from a Canadian university. There are exams for each sector in which the agent wants to practice.

After passing the exams, there is also a probationary period to complete. A licensed representative will supervise them for 28 hours per week for 12 weeks per sector. After this, the agent can apply to the AMF to request the representative's certificate.

Other Licence Transactions

There are other licence transactions the provincial licensing authority will be able to perform on your behalf. These include:

  • Licence renewals
  • Updating addresses
  • Terminating licence
  • Transferring licence due to change of sponsoring insurer
  • Certificates of Authority
  • Name changes, such as on marriage
  • Issuing duplicate licences

It is the responsibility of insurance agents to ensure that they renew their licences on time. Licences last for two years in most provinces. You must apply to renew your licence within 60 days of its expiration date. 

If your licence lapses, it is possible to apply for a new licence. However, if it has lapsed for more than two years, you will normally have to complete the qualification process again.

Transfers are used when an agent needs to transfer their sponsorship from one insurance company to another. A small fee is usually charged for this service. An insurance company may also withdraw their sponsorship from an agent. This is known as termination, and would automatically suspend the licence of the agent.

Ready to Work as an Insurance Agent?

If you're looking to challenge yourself and take on a new career, being an insurance agent could be a great choice. Far from being dry and stuffy, it's a great chance to interact with people. A job well-done means a satisfied client, leaving with greater peace of mind. 

At Insurdinary, we know all about insurance and how to get you the best deal. We can help you to compare insurance providers. This will help you to find the right company for the coverage you're looking for.

Check out Canada's lowest insurance rates using our comparison tool today.

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