Washington isn’t alone in its fairly complicated process to get an insurance license. But that probably doesn’t give you any peace of mind if you’re a Washingtonian hoping to start a career in insurance. Don’t let that deter you, though. A career in insurance can give you steady work with a respectable salary. In fact, Indeed says insurance producers in Washington make almost $70,000 a year, 6% more than the national average.
Long story short, yes, getting an insurance license in Washington state requires some work — but it’s usually well worth it.
If you want to sell, solicit, or negotiate insurance in Washington, you need to get licensed as an insurance producer.
When it comes to producer licenses, the OIC issues full and limited lines of authority. Basically, when you add a line of authority to your license, you’re legally able to sell, solicit, or negotiate that type of insurance. If you want to sell life insurance, for example, you’ll need to add life as a line of authority to your license, for example.
While the OIC issues limited lines of authority — like surety, credit, and travel insurance — we’re going to focus on their full lines of authority here. Those are:
You can also combine lines on your license. Lots of agents get licensed so that they can offer life and disability lines of authority together, or property and casualty together.
From there, you can also add specific products to your portfolio. If you get licensed in disability insurance, for example, you can take an eight-hour course to add long-term care insurance to your portfolio. Or if you have a property and casualty license and you want to sell flood insurance, you can do so after taking a three-hour course.
There’s clearly a lot to explore here. The main takeaway, though, is that starting your journey to become an insurance producer in Washington means deciding what type(s) of insurance you want to build your career on.
When people buy insurance, they need to be able to trust the person with whom they’re working. With that in mind, the OIC won’t issue licenses to people with certain criminal backgrounds.
That’s not to say every criminal offense will disqualify you. A traffic misdemeanor, for example, won’t play a role. But specific criminal offenses can disqualify you from an insurance producer license.
If you have something serious in your background (like a breach-of-trust felony), you can use this form to ask the OIC if they think you’re eligible for licensure. That review process usually takes about 30 days.
If you’re not sure if you can skip this step or not, read more about when the state might limit you on their “If you have a criminal offense” webpage.
The OIC requires all prospective insurance producers to take some educational courses. This pre-license education (PLE) coursework ensures that you’re informed about the industry you’re about to enter and able to help your future clients with their coverage needs.
To qualify for licensure in any line of authority, you need 20 PLE hours on that topic. If you want to have two lines of authority on your license, you’ll need 20 hours on each line (40 hours total).
For your hours to count, they need to come from a PLE provider that the OIC has approved.
On a positive note, that doesn’t mean you need to go sit in a specific classroom. The OIC allows certain PLE providers to offer their insurance producer education online (such as the training you'll find here).
Specifically, here are links to the course that fits your desired line of authority:
Pay attention during your PLE hours, because the content they cover is the same content that will be on your exam (more on that in step #5).
Once you finish your hours on any line, you’ll be eligible to schedule your insurance producer license exam on that line. You’ll also get a certificate of completion. Hang onto it because you’ll need to bring it with you on the day of your insurance producer exam.
Any PLE credits stay valid for 12 months. You have one year from the date you finish a course to complete the rest of the steps here.
So the OIC can do a background check on you, you have to get fingerprinted. The state uses a company called IDEMIA for this.
If you’re going to be taking your exam in person (more on that next), you can schedule your fingerprinting for the day of your exam and get fingerprinted while you’re at the exam site. For that, you’ll need to make your fingerprinting appointment at least a day before your exam date. When you schedule that slot, you’ll get an IDEMIA Registration ID. Bring that with you to the exam.
To schedule your fingerprinting appointment, head here and choose “Schedule a New Appointment.” Then, from the agency dropdown, choose “Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner.” From there, you can pick the site closest to you or the location at which you’re taking the exam. You’ll need to fill out the application and pay the $49.25 fee.
If you’d prefer to handle all of this over the phone, you can also call IDEMIA at (888) 771-5097.
Next up, you need to work with a company called PSI. The OIC hires them out to proctor the insurance producer licensing exams in Washington.
To schedule your test, head to this page and choose “WA Insurance” from the “Select Organization” dropdown menu. Then select the test you want to take based on the line(s) of authority that you want to be attached to your license.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page. To schedule your exam, click the “Signup” link below the “Login to continue” button. You’ll need to create an account with PSI to schedule your test.
You’ll have the option to either take the exam at a test center or schedule it to be proctored online, assuming your computer is compatible.
PSI issues this candidate bulletin to help you schedule your exam and prepare for your test day. Starting on page three, there’s a step-by-step guide to seting up your PSI account and scheduling your exam. On page 11, it tells you what to bring with you on the day of your test, including two valid forms of ID and the certificate of completion from your PLE.
If you only want one line of authority, the test will be 150 minutes (except for personal lines, which is 135 minutes) and cost $35. If you want a combination life and disability or property and casualty license, the test is 195 minutes and costs $52.
You only need to score a 70% to pass. Reviewing your notes from your PLE can help, but you should also look over the test outline. PSI links to the outlines for each specific test in this PDF.
If you don’t pass on the first try, don’t worry. There’s no limit to the number of times you can retake the exam.
Once you pass, keep your exam score report (you should get it via email). You’ll need it as part of the license application you send to the OIC.
Once you’ve completed your PLE, passed the exam, and gotten fingerprinted, you can finally submit your application for a Washington insurance producer license.
That means using the OIC’s online portal. Use the New Individual License Application page to get started.
Make your way through all of the pages of the application and have a payment method handy for the $60 application fee.
Once you’re done, you’ll get a transaction ID. You can use that to track your application’s status online.
After the OIC reviews your application — assuming there are no red flags (like a felony in your background check) — they should issue your license within a few weeks.
At that point, you can log back into their online portal to print your license. Once you’re logged in, click on the menu option “Print License(s).” Then, you can click the check box next to your license in the “License Information” section and click the “Generate License Certificate” button. This will prompt you to open the PDF file of your license. You can save it digitally or print it out. Either way, make sure you save a copy of it somewhere.
Clearly, getting your insurance producer license in Washington state isn’t overly easy. But once you complete these seven steps, you’ll be ready to start your new career. If you run into any issues at any point in the process, you can use this form to contact the OIC or call them at (360) 725-7144.