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How to become an insurance agent in New York1

Are you able to adapt to every environment you find yourself in? Do you have a talent for building relationships? Are you looking for ways to help your fellow New Yorkers? If you answered yes, you have some of the key qualities that can help make you a good insurance agent in the Empire State.

Becoming an insurance agent in New York might seem intimidating at first. And you’ll have to study to get your license, which you’ll need to start working. But people who have been in the industry for years often say that it’s people’s tenacity and discipline, not their knowledge of the insurance industry, that determines success. Read on to learn more about how to become an insurance agent.

Qualities of a good insurance agent

  • A desire to learn. Plenty of carriers will give you the training you need to start off. If you work with Aflac, you’ll have access to training that will give you the tools and knowledge to help you kick off your insurance sales career. “This can be overwhelming at first,” says Brianna Rowe, a trainer and growth strategist whose 15-year Aflac sales career began with being an agent. “It’s a new language. So we support new recruits with tools and resources. But just like learning a new sport, it’s about commitment.”
  • An aptitude for connecting with others. If you’re selling, say, a car, you might be able to rely on your charisma to make a one-time sale. But insurance sales is built on ongoing relationships. Insurance agents are there to listen to, focus on and prioritize the needs of their client. “When I walk into the room, it’s not about me,” says Meaghan Mutrie, a market recruiter for Aflac working in New England. “It’s about my audience.”
  • Determination. Grit, fortitude, hustle, perseverance – use whatever word you like, but if you have it, you’re on the path to success. When we asked five insurance industry recruiters what agents need to succeed, this was the first thing they all said. Agents are bound to receive an earful of “no,” and it takes grit to develop a relationship that transforms that “no” into a “yes.”
  • A desire to help. It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or extrovert. What matters is that you want to help your community. Yes, talking to people is part of the job, but if you’re more focused on helping people than you are worried about getting up in front of them, this barrier can be easier to overcome than some think.
  • Adaptability. To have the ability to switch gears quickly is a gift in this insurance industry, particularly as insurance agents are commonly entering vastly disparate environments. “I might be in the boardroom talking to the business owner, and then in my next appointment I’m sitting on a milk crate in a break room talking with warehouse employees,” says Jason Naville, a recruiting growth consultant for Aflac. “Then I go get the tie out of my glove compartment and put it on before my next appointment. I’ve got to be a chameleon.”
  • An ability to use what you’ve got. Becoming an insurance agent doesn’t require a college degree. Nor does it require prior experience in insurance or in sales. Regardless of your background, the life experience you bring into the role can be valuable. The qualities that make for a successful insurance agent can be found in a variety of experiences, including:
    • Business. Vast interests and knowledge about how businesses succeed are extremely useful in this field, both for individual insurance agents and their clients alike. “Having small-business skills – marketing, basic accounting – helps,” says Jennifer Ramos Nubie, a market recruiter for Aflac. “You’re wearing every single hat.”
    • Theater. Experience in overcoming nerves to give your best performance can be extremely helpful. With the continual need to present in front of strangers, the ability to pull off a presentation with zest goes a long way.
    • Military. Discipline will always be a top asset. And if you’ve been in the military, you’ve had world-class training already. Many veterans who work with Aflac report seeing their Aflac sales career as an extension of what they did in the military – helping people.
    • Education. “Education majors can be great at this,” Rowe says. “They’re used to relating to all types of people; they’re used to educating and teaching.”
    • Sports. The discipline, work ethic and perseverance you cultivate as an athlete can make for a smooth transition into this industry. Not to mention your experience working within a team dynamic. “The skills you develop as a part of an athletic team are an asset in this field,” Mutrie says. “You know that if one person drops the ball, everybody is impacted by it.”

How to get an insurance license in New York

  • Hours of study: Depending on what type of coverage you work with, you may need a license for life insurance, health insurance or both. Either way, the required study hours aren’t egregious. In New York, while the Property and Casualty course is a substantial 90 hours, the prelicense Life Only and Health Only courses are just 20 hours each.2
  • Take the exam: You’ll need to take an exam for each line of insurance in which you wish to acquire an insurance license. To explore exam registration, visit PSI New York. Depending on the license you test for, your test will be between 100 and 150 questions. Get a score of 70% or better and you’ll pass.2
  • Apply for the license: Once you’ve passed your exam, you’ll need to apply for your license. You don’t need to do this right away, but if you don’t apply within two years of passing the exam, you’ll need to go through all of the above steps again.3 To apply for your insurance license, fill out the application on the New York DFS License Application page.

One last question prospective agents often ask: How long does it take to become an insurance agent in New York? If you’re with a carrier that provides training and licensing assistance, you can begin working the moment you have your license and have been appointed with the carrier.

Whatever your background, if working as an insurance agent piques your interest, remember that it’s less about having prior industry or sales experience and more about your desire to help others. “I’m interested in your soft skills,” Mutrie says. “I’m looking for hungry individuals.”

That motivation pays off. And it can pay off sooner than you’d think. Take it from Rowe: “If you’re ready to go to work, this is going to be a dream.”

Ready to take the first step toward becoming an insurance agent in New York? Fill out our form and we’ll get in touch to chat.