6 Prominent Insurance Designations and How They Can Benefit Careers

With so many insurance designations out there, it can be hard to determine which one is the right next step for your career.
By: | April 7, 2020

If you’re interested in increasing your knowledge of the insurance industry, taking courses and earning a designation might be the way to go.

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Designations help insurance professionals expand their knowledge of the industry, improve customer service and prepare for the future. 

When I first started my insurance career, I set out to gain a deeper understanding of the industry. The coursework has made me more knowledgeable, a resource to my peers, and better equipped to serve customers,” said Timothy Cuoco, claims specialist in the Property Complex at State Farm. Cuoco has pursued several designations, including the CPCU, AIC, AINS, ALMI, ALB, ACS, AIS and the AA. 

Professional designations don’t just increase your knowledge of the industry, however. Pursuing a designation can also help you take the next steps in your career. 

When trying to get promoted, education is what sets you apart from other candidates,” said Tracie Warder CPCU, AU, AINS. Warder is a commercial farm/ranch strategy consultant at American Family Mutual Insurance Company. 

“The designations, in many of the cases, are what differentiated who was more desirable for the positions I applied for and why I ultimately landed the job. It helps set you apart from the other candidates,” she added. 

Jeff Couden, CPCU, AIC-M, ARe, AIS, AIDA, assistant vice president, property claims at Quincy Mutual, agreed that pursuing insurance designations has helped him get ahead. 

“Early in my career, having two to three CPCU courses under my belt helped me transition from an assistant underwriter to a junior underwriter. I feel I was an easy hire when an employer looked at my resume and saw my drive to continue my own education,” he said.

“Since getting my CPCU, I have never lost out on a job opportunity that I wanted.”

With so many designations out there, it can be hard to determine which one would best serve your career and increase your knowledge of the industry. Here’s a breakdown of six prominent designations and how they’ve helped the careers of insurance professionals. 

1) Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter

For anyone looking to pursue an insurance designation, the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) seems like an obvious place to start. It’s one of the best known designations in the industry, and many recommend that it be one of the first designations insurance professionals pursue. 

The CPCU designation is far and away the most well-recognized of insurance designations. It’s versatile yet exclusive,” said Amelia Fitch, CPCU, enterprise strategy research consultant at American Family Insurance. 

“It’s more than just any designation; it’s a designation that is known and respected throughout the industry.”

In addition to being one of the best known designations in the industry, the CPCU is one of the heftiest. Made up of nine courses and eight exams, it typically takes two to three years to complete. 

Despite the time it takes, the CPCU is worth it, insurance professionals say, because it can go a long way in expanding your knowledge of the industry and advancing your career.    

During my first insurance position out of college, I was working at a large regional office for a national carrier. I noticed certain folks were highly skilled and respected in the office, and I quickly learned all of them decided to pursue the CPCU designation,” Couden said. “Within that office of about 200 people, there were maybe three CPCUs.

“So many people said it was too time consuming, or too difficult, so they were not going to even try it. That’s not my style. I wanted to lead and show others that the designation is obtainable with dedication, motivation and a positive attitude,” he added. 

Who Should Pursue a CPCU Designation? Agents and brokers, agency principals, claims representatives, lines of business managers and executives, insurance litigators, risk managers and underwriters. 

2) Associate in Risk Management

An Associate in Risk Management (ARM) designation can help risk and insurance professionals improve their understanding of risk assessment and risk solutions. 

The designation is made up of four courses and typically takes 9 to 15 months to complete. Insurance professionals say that this designation helped them gain knowledge of the industry that they wouldn’t have gotten inside the office. 

There is so much more to learn about insurance than what I get exposed to on a daily basis. The insurance designations help me to continue education and learn outside the bounds of my current broker position,” said Kelly Thresher  MBA, ARM, AINS, AIS. Thresher is an assistant vice president and account executive at Lockton. 

“Both the ARM and AINS are valuable designations,” Thresher added. “They show the time and effort taken by the individual to obtain the designation and shows others they are dedicated to learning outside their day-to-day experience.”

Who Should Pursue an ARM Designation? Anyone who makes decisions based on risk, including public and private entity risk managers; analysts and consultants; chief risk officers; CFOs; and business continuity, supply chain, and safety and loss control professionals. 

3) Certified Insurance Counselors

The Certified Insurance Counselors (CIC) designation improves insurance professionals knowledge in one of seven different topic areas: personal lines, commercial casualty, commercial property, life and health, agency management, commercial multiline or company operations.

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The designation is made up of five courses, four of which must be CIC courses and the last of which can be a Certified Risk Manager (CRM) or Certified Personal Risk Manager (CPRM) course. 

After receiving the CPCU designation, I wanted to pursue the CIC designation to better understand agency operations and to enhance my skills working directly with agency leaders,” said Blair Eichenberger, CPCU, CIC, personal lines marketing specialist at United Fire Group. 

“I would encourage others to pursue the CPCU and CIC designations. It’s hard work, but I believe the status and opportunities that come with the designations are worth the time,” Eichenberger said.   

Who Should Pursue a CIC Designation? Agents, brokers, adjusters, solicitors, other insurance professionals, and risk managers.

4) Associate in Claims

If you’re looking to improve your knowledge of all things claims, an Associate in Claims (AIC) designation may be the right one for you. Made up of five courses, the AIC designation typically takes 18 to 24 months to complete. 

I decided … on an AIC designation to gather claims acumen,” Cuoco said. The coursework has made me more knowledgeable, a resource to my peers, and better equipped to serve customers.” 

The AIC designation can be valuable as a starting point for those new to claims or to seasoned claims professionals. 

It can also help those already working in another area of the insurance industry pivot to becoming a claims professional. Couden, for example, decided to pursue his AIC designation in order to help transition from a career in underwriting to one in claims.    

When I transitioned from underwriting to claims, my first thought was, ‘How can I get up to speed quickly to effectively lead this new team?’ ” Couden said.

“After studying for the required licenses, I looked for a designation to give me a lift. The Associate in Claims Management fit the bill for improving my claims technical and managerial skill sets.”

Who Should Pursue an AIC Designation? Claims professionals at brokerages, insurance companies, third party administrators and independent adjusters. 

5) Associate in General Insurance

An Associate in General Insurance (AINS) designation can help insurance professionals build a strong foundation of knowledge around the industry’s principles. 

At four courses and only 9 to 15 months of time, the AINS is one of the quicker designations to pursue. It can be a path to a great career in insurance and can set up the foundations for future learning and designations.   

AINS is a broad overview of property and liability insurance principles and a great place to start your learning,” Cuoco said.

“I started AINS to get a broad overview. I decided then on an AIC designation to gather claims acumen, and completed CPCU coursework to obtain the next major designation.”

In addition to giving insurance professionals a strong foundation of industry knowledge, an AINS designation offers practical skills insurance professionals can use to assist their clients. 

“These designations directly relate to assisting my clients and broadening my insurance knowledge,” Thresher said. 

Who Should Pursue an AINS designation? Property/casualty insurance professionals, managers or supervisors, customer service representatives, call center staff, and administrative and support staff. 

6) Associate in Insurance Data Analytics

As data and analytics take on an ever-more important role in the industry and the world, it’s important for insurance professionals to understand and feel comfortable using data and predictive models. 

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If you’re looking to improve your data and analytics skills, an Associate in Insurance Data Analytics (AIDA) designation might be the right one for you.  

With such an intense focus on data and analytics in insurance now, I wanted to keep my skills sharp and relevant while continuing my own professional development,” Couden said. 

“Honestly, I was never a ‘numbers guy’ in school, but realizing my weakness, I made it a point to focus on numbers, data and statistics, seeing how valuable they are in assessing losses, staff performance and evaluating opportunities.”

AIDA is another of the “quick” designations to pursue at only four courses in 9 to 15 months of time. 

Who Should Pursue an AIDA Designation? Underwriters, claim managers, insurance data managers,  regulatory compliance specialists and business managers and executives. &

Courtney DuChene is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]