Universities and colleges, insurance institutes and organizations, offer a slew of courses designed to teach you the nuts and bolts of risk management, actuarial science and almost any insurance subject. So it is possible to earn the designations and certificates that can actually help you perform your job better, in addition to adding the certifying letters after your name.
Before online learning became so common, anyone who wanted to earn a professional designation--the ARM, CPCU, AIC and others--had to determine when the classes would be held (in some cases only once a semester) and where, and for how long. They needed to know all of those details because they'd have to take off work to travel to the destination to sit in a classroom for days or weeks listening to lectures and taking exams.
The Austin, Texas-based National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research still holds classes for two of its most rigorous designations, its CIC (Certified Insurance Counselor) and the CRM (Certified Risk Manager). Both are comprised of five courses taught over two days. It also offers a CISR (Certified Insurance Service Representative) and other insurance information courses, such as flood insurance and ethics. The courses can be used for continuing education.
Even though the Alliance's CIC, at nearly 40 years old, is probably its best-known designation, the 10-year-old CRM designation also is extremely popular for its practicality. That's especially when the organization compares it with the American Institute for CPCU and Insurance Institute of America's (AICPCU-IIA)'s ARM (Associate in Risk Management), which most risk managers believe is their first designation hurdle.
But the Alliance's is a bit different because it focuses on the practical risk management concepts and fundamentals that risk managers can use on their jobs.
"You can walk from the program into your job on Monday morning and start using it," said Rod Rezac, senior vice president for academic development. The CRM requires five courses plus some kind of annual update course, while the ARM requires three courses.
While insurance agents, brokers and other members of insurance companies take the courses to earn their CRMs, "we're actively seeking pure risk managers in corporations to earn the CRM," said Rezac. "That's primarily what the course is for--the risk manager of an organization and the integration of insurance into the organizations."
Some designations are primarily continuing education programs, such as the Construction Risk and Insurance Specialist (CRIS) certification, a five-course, online program designed for agents and brokers who sell to contractors, underwriters who focus on construction accounts and insurance buyers for construction companies. It's conferred by IRMI, the Dallas-based International Risk Management Institute.
Of course, colleges and universities are also key locations for students seeking undergraduate and graduate degrees in risk management and insurance. Interest in these careers has flourished as students have realized that's where the jobs are. Depending on the size of the firm and its location, starting salaries for risk managers can run north of $50,000. So universities have responded to the demand by creating distinctive insurance centers within their business schools or pumping up their insurance curricula. At many schools, insurance courses are no longer limited to just a few courses offered by the business schools.
Numerous schools across the country, including Temple University, Florida State University, the University of George, Georgia State University, Gannon University, St. Johns University, and many others offer some type of specialized risk management and insurance program.
Schools report that risk management recruiters are coming out of the walls. "We get between 100 to 150 recruiters from each coast, and some students get multiple offers and signing bonuses," said Debbie Babcock, associate director at the Katie School of Insurance and Financial Services at Illinois State University in Normal, Ill.
She points out that now that the bulk of the baby boomers are looking ahead to retirement, "it's a talent issue (for the recruiters), so if they see good people, they really want to grab them." She said recruiters are mostly looking for brokers, underwriters, claims people, reinsurance students and risk managers.
And no wonder. The students seem to have a good handle on what lies ahead for them. At Illinois State University, while requires student to take core courses from the business school, the students are eager to focus on the classes that will work toward a designation, such as an ARM or CPCU.
"Some students graduate with four parts of their CPCUs," said Babcock. "Companies still like seeing the commitment to the industry when students graduate with a professional designation along with the workforce skills," she said.
The Department of Risk, Insurance and Healthcare Management at Temple University in Philadelphia reports that its enrollment is at an all-time high at 400, up from 300 just a few years back, with the majority of the students majoring in risk management and actuarial science because they believe that's where the best jobs lie.
"We have 32 students who have already taken their ARM-56 exam because they want it on their resume at graduation," said Norm Baglini, professor of risk management and business ethics in the department, and former president and CEO of the AICPCU-IIA.
"The recruiters really like the idea of students taking the exams," he said. "Most promote taking the exams because it shows them (students) have initiative and the ability to pass professional exams." Students can take professional designation classes and exams in college, but must take the final exam for the designation from the conferring organization.
Because colleges have stepped up their risk management and insurance curricula, many recruiters are dropping their in-house training programs, using that money instead for educational reimbursement when the students take their designation final exams. Besides, Baglini said, when times are tough, training is one of the first programs companies cut, "at least that's typically what we've seen."
There are lots of online options if you just want to study in your cubicle or at your home office. The massive, Malvern, Pa.-based American Institute for CPCU and Insurance Institute of America (AICPCU-IIA) offers the most designation and certificate programs and as a result confers the largest number of designations.
It also approves classes offered by other institutes around the country (some of which confer their own designations). That long list includes the Insurance Library Association of Boston's Saval Insurance Education Center, the Insurance Educational Association, the International Risk Management Institute, the International Center for Captive Insurance Education, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, the National Association of Insurance Women, the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters and many other continuing education programs around the country.
The newest AICPCU-IIA twist essentially involves banking courses and getting credit for them toward your designation until you can complete the program. Pete Miller, president and CEO of the institute, said he's simply responding to the needs of customers who wanted flexibility for the fundamental courses.
Essentially, it's like creating customized designations. For example, if you're right out of college and want your ARM but for right now you really just need to know about risk financing, you can take that course now, and bank it toward your designation until you come back to take the rest of the courses.
Right now the Institute only offers the INS (General Insurance) designation in this piecemeal format, but eventually Miller expects to offer the majority of the entire list of 20 designations.
"The industry will tell us over time," he said.
lives in Philadelphia.
June 1, 2008
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