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The Importance of Taking an Insurance Ethics CE Class

Posted on Aug 15th, 2018 | Topic: Insurance

Most insurance professionals need to take some insurance ethics classes as part of their continuing education requirements. Few would argue with the notion that insurance agents should act ethically, as should any professional. There is some confusion, however, about what an ethics course is and why it's important.

In this post, we'll break down the details of insurance ethics education, so you can see just why it matters so much.

What Are Insurance Ethics CE Classes?

Definitions of what constitutes an insurance ethics CE course might differ slightly from state to state. The concept of ethics might even vary from person to person. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ethics as:

  1. The discipline of dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation
  2. A set of moral principles, a theory or system of moral values, the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group, a guiding philosophy, a consciousness of moral importance
  3. A set of moral issues or aspects, such as rightness

According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, an ethics course must address the code of conduct that would lead an insurance professional not to participate in unethical behavior. Although different states have different specific requirements, most states would use a similar definition.

Another way to look at it is to define what an insurance ethics course is not. The goal of ethics education is not to turn "bad" people into "good" people, as some who are skeptical about the value of these courses believe. Doing so would be close to impossible and also isn't necessary, because whether people are good or bad is not the issue.

In fact, most unethical behavior comes from honest professionals who made a bad choice. Often, they do so under extreme pressure and rationalize their behavior to themselves. Other people may convince them the action isn't wrong, or even present them with inaccurate information to get them to make a wrong decision. Training in ethics can help you identify these situations, avoid rationalization, and give you the tools to avoid being persuaded by others. Establishing your moral principles, like insurance continuing education courses can help you do, will help you stick to your ethics, even in stressful situations.

An ethics course is also not the same thing as a course on insurance laws or standards, unfair trade practices, or the content of insurance contracts. You can't merely list the applicable rules. You need to discuss what makes something ethical or unethical.

This concept is more nuanced than determining whether something is legal or illegal. Different people have different ideas about what's ethical, and they may change their beliefs based on the situation. Ethics are personal, while the law is not. Your ethics are the result of:

  • Your opinions, beliefs, values, and emotions
  • Your philosophical and spiritual views
  • Your friends, family, and associates
  • Your background and experiences
  • The information you have when you make decisions

The fact that ethics are personal and influenced by so many different factors is what makes it an interesting topic to discuss. It's also what can cause tricky situations in which two people might disagree on whether something is ethical. In some cases, a person's ethics can even contradict with laws, standards, or company policies. Although in an ideal world, this wouldn't happen, it sometimes does. In these situations, you still can't break the law. Your ethics, though, might inspire you to challenge the law and try to improve the system.

What Do Insurance Ethics CE Classes Cover?

Insurance ethics CE courses can cover a range of topics depending on the requirements of the state where you live and work, and the instructors or authors of the course you take. They will likely discuss both professional and personal ethics. Example of topics to expect include:

  • The fundamental ideas, philosophy, and history of ethics
  • Codes of ethics
  • Business ethics
  • Making ethical decisions and practicing professional judgment
  • Ethics in specific situations, such as those involving sales or working with senior citizens or minors
  • Duty and respect
  • Honesty
  • Integrity 
  • Fairness in trade practices and other areas
  • Due diligence
  • Professional competence
  • Consequences of unethical behavior
  • Ethics as it relates to the law
  • Cheating and corruption
  • Core values

Insurance ethics courses will give you the opportunity to learn about ethics and how it relates to your career as an insurance professional. It will also enable you to discuss ethical issues, hear various viewpoints, and learn more about your own values and beliefs, while arming you with the tools to deal with ethical concerns in the workplace.

What Are the Benefits of Insurance Ethics CE Classes?

Completing ethics continuing education courses provides numerous benefits to the agents that take them, as well as their clients, colleagues, and other people they work with professionally. Even if you aren't required to take an ethics course, you can benefit from doing so. Here are a few of the advantages of insurance ethics CE that make it so important.

They Enable You to Maintain Your License

In most states and for most license types, ethics education is a requirement for maintaining your insurance license. These ethics courses are part of broader continuing education requirements that include a range of topics. Each state has its own rules, but the most common requirement is three hours of ethics CE every two years. We'll go further into detail on state-by-state requirements in the next section.

They Make You a Better Insurance Agent

Ethics CE courses for insurance professionals do more, however, than just enabling you to main your license. They can also make you a better insurance agent by helping you make better decisions in your day-to-day work. Ethics CE courses go beyond just showing you how to follow the law. They make you more aware of ethical considerations in your daily tasks, help you figure out how to approach tricky situations, and help you understand what makes something ethical or unethical. Ultimately, they help you provide better service to your clients and improve the quality of your insurance business.

They Provide a Forum for Discussion

Ethics courses can also be beneficial because they provide an opportunity to talk about ethical issues you might not otherwise have a chance to discuss. Finding a place to discuss these issues outside the classroom can be difficult because you might not have anyone to talk about them with, or you might be hesitant to ask people about them. You will also likely encounter topics in ethics classes you might not have otherwise thought about. You also get the benefit of hearing the perspectives of multiple professionals in your industry and a knowledgeable instructor or course author.

They Improve Your Reasoning Skills

Ethics courses will also teach you skills you can apply to your personal life and other areas of your business outside of ethics. They can, for example, help you improve your reasoning skills. In these classes, you will learn skills that will help you make moral decisions. These reasoning and decision-making skills can help you make decisions in a wide range of areas in your professional and personal life, not just in those dealing specifically with moral dilemmas. You will also learn about the philosophical side of ethics, which can help you understand how you formed your personal code of conduct.

They Can Help You Avoid Trouble Down the Road

The things you learn in ethics CE courses can help you avoid potential pitfalls in your career. As mentioned earlier, most professionals who make unethical decisions are good people who made a bad choice. Ethics courses are designed to give you the skills to deal with ethical hazards if they do arise. Making the moral decision in these situations will help provide better service to your clients, protect your professional reputation, and avoid possible legal trouble.

Insurance Ethics CE Requirements

Insurance ethics CE requirements differ from state to state, but the most common requirement is three hours of ethics training every two years.

The states that have this requirement are:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • The District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Some of these states have exceptions for particular types of licenses. Insurance adjusters in Nevada must complete two hours of ethics training every two years. Combination multi-peril and life and health or property and casualty licensees in Tennessee must complete four hours of ethics training every two years. In Virginia, you may satisfy ethics requirements with courses on Virginia laws and regulations. There may be other exceptions for specific license types in some states.

The following states have ethics requirements other than three hours of ethics CE every two years.

  • In Arizona, residents must complete at least six hours of ethics CE during every four-year license period.
  • In California, fire and casualty broker-agents, life-only agents, and accident and health agents must take four hours of ethics courses every two years. There are exceptions for long-term care insurance agents. Limited lines automobile insurance agents must finish two hours of ethics training every two years. Requirements vary for dual-license holders.
  • Florida licensees must complete five hours of law and ethics update training that is specific to their license every two years. If you hold multiple licenses, the course must be specific to at least one of your licenses.
  • Georgia licensees must take three hours of ethics CE classes annually.
  • Single-license holders in Kansas must complete one hour of ethics training every two years. Dual-license holders must complete two hours every two years.
  • For Massachusetts licenses, you must take three hours of ethics training every three years.
  • In Texas, insurance professionals must complete two hours of training involving ethics and consumer protection every two years, and insurance adjusters must complete two hours of ethics training every two years.

New York, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota have continuing education requirements, but do not have any specifically related to ethics training.

Most states, but not all, exempt non-residents practicing in their state from their CE requirements, providing they fulfill the requirements of their home state. There may be other exemptions depending on the state you live or work in, your license type or other circumstances.

Options for Insurance Ethics CE Classes

Some states have stricter CE requirements than others, but chances are you have a few options regarding how you obtain your CE credits.

Typically, you can choose between various providers your state has approved. You can also choose which courses you want to take, as long as they meet your state's requirements. Many states require you to take classes on specific topics. The most commonly required course is ethics, but there are sometimes others as well, such as classes that deal with relevant laws or are explicitly related to the type of insurance you work with. Some states also have rules against repeating courses. Even among ethics courses, the subjects covered may vary based on the course author, instructor, or course type.

In most states, you can also choose to take online, in-person courses or classes that allow you to allow you to study independently using printed or mail-ordered course materials. Some states require at least some in-person training or limit the number of self-study courses you can take. The majority of states, however, allow you to take fully online CE classes. Doing so often makes it easier to obtain the necessary credits because you can complete them on your schedule from anywhere you have Internet access.

Before you sign up for insurance CE classes, make sure they come from a reputable source and that the appropriate state licensing bodies have approved them. Also, make sure they meet the requirements that apply to you based on where you live and work, the type of license or licenses you have, the number of years you've been in practice, and other factors.

Insurance Ethics CE Courses at StateCE

StateCE offers ethics CE courses, as well as other CE courses, for insurance professionals. All our programs are state-specific, written by industry experts, and approved by all necessary state licensing bodies.

Many of our courses are available online. You can also request printed materials mailed to your home or office. These formats enable you to study when and where you want, learn at your own pace, and review the materials as many times as you want. You won't be completely on your own, though. You can contact us anytime for technical help or with questions about our course materials, the CE process, or other issues.

Once you complete the course, we will submit your credits to your state within 24 hours so you can continue helping your clients worry-free.

If you're looking for high-quality CE programs that will enable you to maintain your insurance licensing and help you become a better insurance professional, look no further than StateCE. Explore our course catalog to find the courses you need, contact us with any questions you may have and easily register online today.

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