How to Become a California Licensed Insurance Agent or Broker

The state of California requires insurance brokers/agents to become licensed in order to buy/sell insurance on behalf of an insurance company or an insured.

Below is a listing of the types of insurance licenses offered by the California Department of Insurance:

  • Accident and Health Agent
  • Fire and Casualty Broker
  • Fire and Casualty Agent
  • Life-Only Agent
  • Limited Lines Automobile Insurance Agent
  • Personal Lines Broker
  • Personal Lines Agent
  • Surplus Lines Broker
  • Special Lines’ Surplus Lines Broker

To become a licensed agent, candidates must gain the necessary education (or experience), get fingerprinted, pass the licensing exam and submit the necessary paperwork to the Department of Insurance.

Pre-licensing Education

The California requires its insurance license candidates to take a set amount of pre-licensing courses. The number of hours varies
Insurance Brokersdepending on the type of license. All agents and brokers must take at least 12 hours on the topics of ethics and California insurance code. In addition to that, agents/brokers must take a number of general insurance courses also. For example, a fire and casualty agent or broker is required to take an additional 40 class hours while life, accident, personal lines and limited lines automobile insurance agents only have to take 20 additional general insurance class hours.

Pre-Licensing Education Exemptions

There are conditions under which applicants do not have to take the general insurance classes. The following is a list of designations recognized by the state of California Department of Insurance as being a sufficient replacement for the 40 or 20 hour of pre-licensing classes:

  • Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC)
  • Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU)
  • Accredited Advisor in Insurance (AAI)
  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)
  • Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF)

Whether or not candidates hold one of above designations, they are not exempt from the 12 hour ethics and California insurance code classes.

Insurance Application

After completing the education requirement, it’s time to take the state exam. However, before scheduling the state exams, candidates must complete the insurance licensing application.

There are two methods applicants can use to submit the application:

  1. The old-fashioned traditional method which means completing form LIC 441 – 9 and mailing it to the state. Make sure to answer yes to question number 27 when asked about scheduling the exam on line. This allows candidates to use the online method for scheduling the state exam. Not answering yes to that question means the process will be handled via the mail and phone calls.
  1. The quicker faster way to submit the application is to use the FLASH (Fast Licensing Application Service is Here) system. By using the FLASH system the application is submitted to the state within 24 hours thus expediting the process.

Upon completion and submitting the application, the state sends the necessary information to schedule the state exam online. At the end of the FLASH application, there is a checklist of paperwork required by the Department of Insurance in order to issue the license. Applicants must bring the documentation to the exam. It will be collected by the exam proctor and sent to the state. Anyone who forgets to bring the required documentation must mail the information to the state separately which may delay license issuance.

Those candidates who did not use the flash system must mail the supplementary documentation to the state.

Insurance License Fingerprinting Requirements

In order to expedite the licensing process, it’s best to get fingerprinted prior to taking the exam. The fingerprints are used to perform a criminal background check. Applicant’s fingerprints are compared to those in the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation databases. Licenses cannot be issued until the Department of Insurance receives reports from both sources. Therefore, getting the fingerprints prior to taking the test helps to expedite matters.

Fingerprinting is done through a company called Live Scan. There are several locations scattered throughout the state of California. Visit the Office of the Attorney General website to find out the nearest location and have the fingerprints taken. The fee for fingerprinting ranges anywhere from $11 to $25 depending on the location.

License Term

Once the applicant has successfully passed the state licensing exam and has submitted all of the necessary documentation, the state will issue the appropriate insurance license.

California insurance licenses are valid for a period of two years. During the time of licensure, insurance professionals must take the state required minimum number of continuing education credits in order to renew the license at the end of the two year term.

About the author: Felicia A. Williams is a former insurance broker who is now a freelance writer.

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