What is an Insurance Degree?

Insurance is a contract for reimbursement for injury or losses. The insurer is the company or person who promises to reimburse. The insured is the one who pays for the insurer’s promise to reimburse. The contract between the two is the policy. The events insured against are called risks. These are the essential elements of insurance.

Students of insurance learn the intricacies of both public and private insurance. Forms of public – or social – insurance are funded through government plans and include Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment Insurance. Private insurance plans are offered to individuals and businesses by corporations and organizations to provide protection for healthcare, their property, and for legal claims made against them by others.

Degree programs in the field explore the structure of various types of insurance – from life, health, and disability to homeowner’s, automobile, liability, worker’s compensation, malpractice, and business interruption.

Risk touches every aspect of daily life, from driving our cars to operating our businesses. Graduates of insurance programs are the professionals who manage the risks associated with these activities and allow our lives and the economy to operate smoothly – in spite of the reality that ‘bad things’ occasionally happen.

Program Options

Associate Degree in Insurance – One to Two Year Duration
This degree may be offered as an Associate Degree in Life and Health Insurance.

Associate programs in insurance usually focus on life and health insurance and prepare students for entry-level customer service jobs in those areas. The following are examples of the foundational courses that make up the typical curriculum at this level:

Medical Aspects of Claims

  • Medical Terminology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Disorders of the Circulatory System
  • Disorders of the Respiratory System
  • Disorders of the Digestive System
  • Disorders of the Urinary System
  • Disorders of the Reproductive System
  • Disorders of the Endocrine System
  • Disorders of the Nervous System
  • Disorders of the Musculoskeletal Systems
  • Eyes, Ears, Skins, and Psychiatric Disorders
  • Oncology / Radiology and Nuclear Medicine

Life and Health Insurance Law

  • Insurance Law and Government Regulation
  • Principles of Contracts and Agency Law
  • Insurance Products and Policy Structure
  • Creating and Insurance Contract
  • Life and Health Policy Limitations and Exclusions
  • Disability and Accident Insurance
  • Group Insurance
  • Beneficiaries
  • Wills, Trusts, Guardianships, and Community Property
  • Premiums
  • Policy Contests and Incontestability
  • Remedies and Damages
  • Managed Care and Privacy
  • Fraud and Investigating Insurance Fraud

Claim Administration

  • The Claim Decision Process
  • Determining when Coverage Begins and Ends
  • Analyzing and Paying Life Insurance Claims and Supplemental Benefits
  • Handling Life Insurance Claims
  • Settlement Options and Taxes
  • Analyzing and Paying Claims under Disability, Long-Term Care, and Endowment Insurance
  • Analyzing and Paying Annuity Claims
  • Handling Fraud in Life, Health, and Annuity Claims

Management of Claim Operations

  • Managing the Claim Area
  • Introduction to Claim Management
  • Theories of Management
  • Planning and Controlling
  • Organizing the Claim Area
  • Organizational Design and Conflict
  • Organizational Change
  • Organization Development
  • Managing Claim Staff
  • Staff Orientation, Training, and Development
  • Motivating
  • Evaluating
  • Leading
  • Managing Claim Operations
  • Decision Making
  • Information Management
  • Operations Management, Productivity, and Quality Control
  • Budgeting and Financial Management

Bachelor’s Degree in Insurance – Three to Four Year Duration
This degree is commonly offered as a Bachelor’s Degree in Insurance and Risk Management.

At the bachelor’s level, insurance programs go beyond the foundational subject matter of the associate curriculum. They teach students how to adequately assess risk, an area of the finance and insurance disciplines that concerns the identification, evaluation, mitigation, and financing of risks faced by both businesses and individuals.

The course content spans the principles of insurance, risk analysis and management, life insurance, property and liability insurance, social insurance (examples: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance), and employee benefits. Many bachelor’s programs in insurance incorporate an internship and prepare students to take appropriate licensure exams.

Here are some sample courses from an insurance bachelor’s program:

  • Business in Finance – financial statements, discounted cash-flow analysis, risk and return, stock and bond valuation, capital structure, cost of capital and capital budgeting; development of problem solving skills and financial applications
  • Cases in Finance – case studies which provide the basis for discussions on the approach to financial problem solving
  • Intermediate Finance – project valuation and risk analysis, capital structure theory and dividend policy, corporate financing and restructuring decisions
  • Investment Analysis – the analysis and valuation of stocks and bonds and the measurement of investment performance; trading mechanisms and the structure and associated risks of financial markets around the world
  • Portfolio Management – alternative techniques for designing investment portfolios and the criteria for performance evaluation; portfolio insurance and the use of options and future markets; related ethics and social issues
  • Real Estate Finance – real estate analysis and appraisal techniques and investment evaluation, real estate development, financial leverage, corporate investment; the social and environmental impact of development; informational technology related to development and evaluation
  • International Finance – analysis of foreign exchange markets and their interrelationships with international financial management; short-term and long-term borrowing and investing decisions; analysis of currency futures; forecasting foreign exchange rates; measuring and managing foreign exchange risks
  • Financing a Small Business – examination of the financial issues and problems faced by small businesses; financial statement analysis, forecasting, working capital management, coping with financial distress, sources of capital, business valuation, and ethical issues
  • Principles of Insurance – the financial tool of insurance and the involvement of government, employers, and individuals in the decision making process; dealing with risk from both the business and consumer viewpoints; risks presented by globalization and technology
  • Social Insurance – survey of financial insecurity caused by occupational injuries, unemployment, old age, premature death, and general illness; government approaches in handling these economic and social problems; the political and economic issues of healthcare, social security, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and the effect of social policy on individual and corporate decision making
  • Fundamentals of Life Insurance – the needs and uses of life insurance and annuities; various types of life policies, life insurance company operations, and marketing programs, ethical issues, strategic planning
  • Property and Casualty Insurance – the structure of insurance markets and the financial management of property-liability insurance companies; underwriting, marketing, pricing, reinsurance, accounting contracts, and investments; implementation of new technology in distribution systems
  • Fundamentals of Employee Benefits – the design and financing of individual benefits, ranging from healthcare to dependent care to pensions
  • Risk Analysis and Management – dealing with risks that companies face; developing risk management plans; risk management tools including loss control, insurance, and options

Master’s Degree in Insurance – Two Year Duration
This degree is commonly offered as a Master’s Degree in Insurance and Risk Management or as a Master of Business Administration with a specialization in Insurance and Risk Management.

The master’s curriculum in insurance and risk management focuses on advanced exploration of the subjects described in the bachelor’s section above. Students are required to complete a master’s thesis on a topic of their choice. Graduates of these programs often take up roles as management analysts, information assurance analysts, information security officers, and market research analysts.

Doctoral Degree in Insurance – Four to Five Year Duration
This degree is commonly offered as a Doctoral Degree in Insurance and Risk Management or as a Doctor of Business Administration with a specialization in Insurance and Risk Management.

Doctoral programs in insurance and risk management are designed to educate students in both the theory and analytical techniques required to conduct cutting-edge research related to the sources of risk, the effects of risk on the decisions of individuals and firms, and the impact of these decisions on society. Programs involve in-depth study of economics, finance, applied mathematics, and statistics. In addition to completing two to three years of coursework in these areas, doctoral candidates must take a comprehensive exam, followed by two years of research and teaching, culminating with a dissertation.

Areas from which dissertation topics are chosen may include:

  • Insurer operations
  • Insurance market performance and regulation
  • Enterprise risk management
  • Longevity risk management
  • Catastrophe risk management
  • Economics of risk and uncertainty
  • Actuarial modeling
  • Insurance utilization in emerging markets (microinsurance, insurance with low premiums designed to protect low-income people)

Degrees Similar to Insurance

Degree programs in accounting prepare students for the work of gathering, recording, analyzing, interpreting, evaluating, and communicating financial information. This includes examining accounting records, reconciling accounts, preparing financial reports, and completing tax returns. The typical curriculum includes classes in mathematics, business management, business communication, business research, finance, and economics.

Actuarial Science
This degree program provides students with in-depth training in mathematics, statistics, and probability. It teaches the use of models in analyzing and solving financial problems and includes coursework in economics, finance, accounting, and computer science.

Applied Mathematics
Mathematics helps companies perform better in our data-driven marketplace. That is the foundation of applied mathematics. Students of the field learn to use theories and techniques, such as mathematical modeling and computational methods, to formulate and solve practical problems in business, government, engineering, and the physical, life, and social sciences.

Auditors review accounting records and verify that they are accurate and legitimate. Auditing degree programs give students the skills needed to professionally carry out this responsibility. They are therefore focused on examination, analysis, and verification.

Business Administration
Business administration is about overseeing a business’s finances, staffing, and contract negotiations. Degree programs in the field, therefore, teach students how to plan, organize, and direct all the activities of an organization.

Public policy asks questions about policy at a specific level of government in a specific region. Economics asks wider questions about world economies, how governments should respond to financial crises, how stock prices and exchange rates are set, and how to help people living in poverty.

In very simple terms, the finance field is about helping businesses, organizations, and individuals make money. Degree programs in finance, therefore, teach students about investing, financial and estate planning, risk management, interest rates, insurance, and taxes. Their objective is to produce graduates who are ready to help both commercial and retail clients reach their short- and long- term financial goals.

This degree field is focused on activities undertaken by businesses to promote the buying or selling of products and services. Students study advertising and promotion, marketing communications, international marketing, marketing management, sales and sales management, consumer behavior, marketing research, and marketing strategy.

The degree field of statistics is focused on the study of probability theory and sampling theory. Students use techniques like sample survey theory and variance analysis (the quantitative investigation of the difference between actual and planned behavior) to examine the relationships between groups and measurements. In simple terms, statistics is about collecting data, organizing it, analyzing it, and interpreting it in practical ways that guide decision making in both business sectors and politics.

Skills You’ll Learn

Insurance students gain several transferrable skills:

  • Ability to simplify complex ideas for untrained audiences
  • Ability to view issues from diverse perspectives
  • Attention to detail
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Computer skills
  • Curiosity and ability to learn quickly
  • Customer service skills
  • Math and numeracy skills
  • Organization
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Research and statistical Analysis
  • Results orientation
  • Teamwork
  • Using models, charts, and graphs to present findings

What Can You Do with an Insurance Degree?

Graduates with insurance degrees fill various roles, depending on the level of their education in the field. Some insurance professionals may choose to focus on particular types of insurance such as small business, property insurance, auto insurance, or disaster preparation. Others may specialize in specific industries such as marine/shipping, mining, forestry, or oil.

These are the most common positions in the insurance sector:

  • Insurance Agent / Customer Sales and Service Representative – matches insurance products to the needs of their customers
  • Claims Adjuster / Investigator – evaluates insurance claims by investigating the circumstances of incidents; they determine insurance coverage and settle claims
  • Loss Control / Prevention Specialist – evaluates workplaces for safety hazards and potential health risks; they ensure that their insured companies are following all the safety standards set in the policy
  • Insurance Underwriter – evaluates insurance applications by analyzing the risks that their insurance company is being asked to assume; they decide whether to provide insurance, and under what terms
  • Risk Analyst / Risk Manager – provides guidance to businesses and individuals making investment and insurance decisions

Other possible careers include:


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