Risk Management Degrees: Certificate, Associate & Online Courses

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What kind of job can you get with an associate's degree in risk management? Find out degree requirements, online options and info on courses and risk management programs.
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Studying Risk Management: Degrees at a Glance

With risk management training, you could help businesses to avoid or reduce financial loss due to commodity pricing, credit risks or claim liabilities. Financial risk management professionals are often employed by insurers, commercial or investment banks, credit unions, accounting businesses and consulting firms. Certificate and associate's programs in risk management can prepare you for entry-level work as an insurance agent, underwriter, policy clerk, claims adjuster and a number of other job titles.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that claims adjusters would see a 3% growth from 2010-2020, which was slower than the average of all occupations. However, jobs for insurance agents were expected to increase by 22% between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. One of the benefits to starting with a certificate program or an associate's program is that you can continue on to a bachelor's degree program relatively easily. Most management positions in risk management require a bachelor's degree, so you'll probably need to continue on to a bachelor's program if you wish to advance.

Certificate Associate's
Who is this program for? Individuals who want introductory risk management instruction or specific training in a risk management discipline Individuals interested in entry-level risk management positions who may want to eventually pursue a 4-year degree
Common Career Paths (with approximate median salary) - Life insurance underwriter I ($43,000)*
- Insurance agent ($45,000)*
- Claims adjuster I ($41,000)*
- Credit card fraud investigator I ($34,000)*
- Policy processing clerk ($26,000)*
Time to Completion Up to 1 year Usually 2 years, full-time
Common Requirements - Anywhere from 3-12 courses - Approximately 10-15 core courses
- General education courses
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED
- May require completion of some postsecondary education; it depends on the certificate
- High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Yes Not at this time

Source: *Salary.com (May 2012 figures).

Certificate in Risk Management

Certificate programs may be available at community colleges and 4-year universities. Some programs may be developed in conjunction with insurance industry partners. You can find programs to supplement your degree if it's in a field other than risk management, but you can also enroll in a program designed for students who don't have a degree yet. These programs can provide students with foundational knowledge for entry-level risk management jobs in claims and policy processing. Certificate programs are usually much shorter than degree programs and only focus on risk management, meaning you won't have general education requirements to go along with your specialty courses.

Pros and Cons


  • Courses completed may be able to count towards your associate's degree if you decide to continue your education
  • Entry-level salary may be similar to what you'd make with an associate's degree
  • Cheaper than a full degree program


  • Additional education may be required for advancement opportunities
  • You won't get a broad education (as you would in a degree program)
  • You'd be competing with associate's and bachelor's degree holders for many of the jobs you're qualified for

Courses and Requirements

In an introductory-level certificate program, you might complete basic courses in financial accounting, liability insurance, pensions or corporate risk management. Longer certificate programs may give you an opportunity to participate in an internship, while shorter programs usually just require you to take a few courses to give you a broad background in risk management. Some of the courses you might take in a program designed for students who already have a degree include property insurance, risk transfers and structure of the insurance industry. Most certificate programs don't have general education course requirements.

Online Course Options

Risk management certificate programs are often offered partially or completely online. Coursework is typically identical to on-campus programs. Keep in mind that although programs are available completely online, not every course option may be available in an online format (for programs that allow you to choose electives). Online certificate programs are available to a variety of students; you can find post-bachelor's certificate programs as well as ones designed for students who do not have a degree.

Standing Out with This Program

Besides the standard internship opportunities that may be available at your school, you can gain an edge by joining a professional organization or association that is related to the type of career you're interested in. These organizations may have student membership programs that could help you make contacts or find industry training opportunities. Some associations, such as the Society of Actuaries, may offer online professional courses that could supplement what you learn from a certificate program.

Associate's in Risk Management

An associate's degree program can prepare you for a risk management career in the insurance industry or for eventual completion of a bachelor's degree. Many of the courses focused on risk management might be similar to what you'd take in a certificate program, but you'll often have more flexibility to choose electives. A risk management associate's program can teach you about customer service, insurance fraud and the types of insurance that are offered. Some programs may include an internship towards the end of your education, but this is not a universal feature in all associate's programs.

Pros and Cons


  • Can give you an advantage over applicants who only have a high school diploma or a little postsecondary training
  • Broad education means you can apply what you learn to other industries and careers outside of the insurance industry (accounting, finance and marketing are commonly part of a risk management associate's program)
  • Opens up career options you probably couldn't pursue with only a certificate, such as a fraud investigation or underwriting


  • You may be competing with bachelor's degree holders for some entry-level positions
  • Does not prepare you for most management-level positions (you'll probably need a bachelor's degree)
  • Fewer specializations options than what you could choose from in a bachelor's program

Courses and Requirements

You'll complete general education requirements, followed by business courses similar to those in business management programs, such as finance, accounting and marketing. For the risk management portion of the program, you might take courses in insurance principles, business law, property insurance, referral marketing and insurance ethics. If your program includes an internship, you can get first-hand experience working in the insurance industry, which may even lead to a position after your graduate.

Online Degree Options

Completely online risk management associate degree programs are not available at the associate's level. You can check with your school to see if some courses are available in an online format, but you'll still have to take most of your classes at the school. If you do happen to find an online associate's program in risk management, make sure to find out if it is accredited by an agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation before enrolling.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

For some positions, you may need to become licensed. Finding out what the requirements are for your particular state while you're in school can help you be a step ahead when you graduate. If you wish to improve your math skills and possibly open up additional career options in risk management, you might consider adding calculus and other advanced math courses to your program plan.

Membership in risk management professional associations could lead to networking opportunities at meetings and conventions. Certifications, such as the Associate Risk Management Professional and the Certified Risk Management Professional ones offered by the Governance Risk Compliance Security International, can give you an edge over other applicants. A risk management certification shows employers that you have what it takes to make sound risk decisions while keeping costs down.

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