Two of the most common questions I see at the ILSA Help Desk are, “How do I know what CE credits I need?” and “How can I find a course provider?” Continuing education (or CE) is an essential compliance task for individual insurance licensees. State insurance laws, regulations and insurance products change on a regular basis. Agents need to stay up to date with these changes to serve their clients well and remain in compliance. CE also reinforces the high standard of ethical behavior required from licensed individuals, since most state’s requirements include several hours of ethics education.
What’s My CE Requirement?
The number of hours of CE and the types of courses required vary from state to state. Courses may be taken online or in a classroom setting. Often, a portion of the CE requirement may be satisfied through reading and other self-study programs. Some states also offer CE credit for passing a part of a professional designations program or for being an active member of a state or national insurance association. Check with your state insurance department to see if your designation is eligible.
To learn what the CE requirements are for any particular license, go to the insurance department website for the licensee’s resident state. If a link to CE requirements doesn’t appear on the site’s home page, check their FAQ. You can also do a Google search for the state name, “DOI” and “continuing education.” Remember, CE requirements can vary by license class; and the specific courses needed depend on the lines of authority held.
How Can I Find a CE Course Provider?
There are lots of providers offering CE courses, but you want to make sure they’re an approved provider for your state before signing up for a class. Only courses that are approved by the DOI can be used to meet CE requirements. Most states offer a list or a search tool to find a CE provider approved by their insurance department. Often, you can narrow your search by subject, study method or where the course is offered (if it’s a classroom-based course or seminar).
How Do I Report My CE to the State Insurance Department?
An agent must complete all his/her CE requirements and report the CE credits to the state insurance department before the end of the licensing period. (Credits the DOI doesn’t know about won’t help you!) CE course providers usually handle reporting your credits to the DOI for you, but be sure you understand whether they’ll report your credits to the DOI and how long they usually take to do it. If you need to report CE credits, your resident state’s DOI usually has instructions for how to do this on their website.
You’ll also want to verify that CE credits have been recorded correctly at the DOI. That means checking your CE Transcript. Most states provide a transcript you can view – usually online – to track your continuing education and see what more you are required to do. Some compliance services providers (like ILSA – shameless plug) also offer services to help you keep track of your CE obligations and send you friendly reminders.
A Few Helpful Hints
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you check your transcript and plan your CE studies:
- Depending on your state, you may be able to apply some credits, such as ethics credits, to multiple lines of authority. (Save time, save money!)
- You can’t repeat a course within the same reporting period. Before signing up for a course, check your transcript to be sure you haven’t taken it before. Look at the course number and the course title.
- Some states allow you to rollover extra credits from one reporting period to another, but make sure your state is one of them. You don’t take more credits in a particular area than you can use.
And want to know the biggest secret to CE success? BE PROACTIVE! So many of the issues we see involving continuing education can be avoided if you don’t wait until the last minute – and I’ve literally seen agents try to do that! You’ll more options for courses if you start early. And if you do hit a snag with CE reporting, you’ll be a lot calmer as you work to resolve the issue if that renewal clock isn’t ticking loudly in your ear.
What Happens If I Don’t Complete My CE in Time?
The simple answer is the state won’t renew your resident license. That means you can’t – or at least, you SHOULDN’T – transact any business in your resident state while your license is inactive or cancelled. You may also face higher late renewal fees or having to reinstate your license. And if your resident license becomes inactive, the insurance departments in other states may cancel your non-resident licenses as well! A lapsed license can also jeopardize your appointments with insurance carriers. Altogether, that’s a BIG MESS … one you can easily avoid.
Change Your Point of View
Many agents see continuing education as a chore – something to get through as quickly and as cheaply as possible. That’s certainly one approach. But if you do, you’re missing a real opportunity to improve the service you provide for your clients … and to set yourself apart from the competition.
To learn more about Continuing Education and how it benefits you, check out these podcasts from Spot On Insurance:
- Episode 13 – Continuing Education = Competitive Edge, featuring Michael Gay
- Episode 39 – Continuing Education Compliance, with Lesli Leakey