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Many companies require a candidate to have completed a bachelor’s degree and a trainee program, and to have earned an industry designation if he or she wants to become a health underwriter. A degree in insurance, risk management or finance is preferred for those wanting to become a health underwriter, though other degrees are accepted. Industry designations include the Fellow, Academy of Life Underwriting (FALU); Registered Health Underwriter® (RHU®); and Chartered Life Underwriter® (CLU®). Many companies also require insurance licensure to become a health underwriter.
Health underwriters determine the risk potential of clients seeking life, health or disability products. To become a health underwriter, one must learn how to examine medical history, health indicators, and mortality and morbidity tables. Health underwriters may request that an applicant undergo a medical evaluation and fill out a detailed medical questionnaire. The results of the evaluation, the questionnaire and the applicant’s medical history are the main tools the health underwriter uses to determine whether the applicant is a good risk for the company.
After graduation from college, the first step for a person who wants to become a health underwriter is to work as a health underwriter trainee. The trainee will go through an intensive course of study to learn the basics of underwriting health products. The course will also teach the trainee about the company’s specific underwriting guidelines, products and marketing.
Some companies will require that a candidate be licensed to sell insurance before he or she is hired. Other companies will allow an underwriter trainee to become licensed while employed and may even pay for the course of study and licensing fees. Licenses needed to become a health underwriter normally require the completion of a course of study and that the candidate pass an exam administered by a governing body.
The health underwriter trainee normally spends from one to three years as a trainee, learning both the industry and company-specific standards. During this period the trainee will help process applications, interact with brokers and clients and continue to add product knowledge. The trainee will also begin to earn an industry designation and may be asked to join a professional association such as the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) and attend local chapter meetings.
To earn industry designations, the trainee must follow a course of study and successfully complete exams administered by the issuing body. Health underwriters deal with a broad range of life and health products, so trainees can often tailor the courses they take to fit a particular branch or specialty. Some specialties include life underwriting, medical health underwriting, disability underwriting and specified disease underwriting.
Once a candidate has completed training, become licensed and earned an industry designation, he or she is qualified to become a health underwriter. The company that invested in the trainee will normally retain his or her services as a full-fledged underwriter. The underwriter will then have the autonomy and authority to bind coverages and issue policies.
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