More than two million people work in the insurance industry in the United States, the majority of them as agents and brokers. To become an agent, you need to pass a state licensing exam, although the exact tests are slightly different in each of the 50 United States. There are generally separate exams for auto insurance, life insurance, health insurance and homeowners' insurance. You don't have to take each exam, but you won't be licensed to sell those products until you successfully complete the specific exams. The purpose of the licensing exams is to prevent consumer fraud and to make sure that the men and women selling insurance products have adequate product knowledge.

Things to know about your insurance test

1. Tests are usually administered by a third party testing company hired by the state insurance commissioner's office. Tests are held several times a year in centrally located and densely populated areas. If you live in a small town, you'll probably have to travel to the nearest big city or the state capital city to take your test.

2. You'll need to show a state-issued ID or driver's license when you check in for the test. If you forget your ID, you won't be able to take the test. Lockers are provided at testing sites, as you are only permitted to bring your ID and your locker key into the testing area.

3. You can't be late for the exam. Late arrivals will be denied entrance to the testing area and forfeit their testing fee.

4. State insurance exams are given electronically. Exams are made up of true/false and multiple choice questions. However, don't let the format lead you think that the exams aren't challenging. A good percentage of those who sit for the exam don't pass it the first time they attempt it.

5. Virtually all states recommend that prospective agents and brokers prepare for the exam. A variety of pre-testing preparation materials are available. Many prospective agents take pre-license insurance classes. There are also preparation manuals and sample test questions available in bookstores and from your state insurance commissioner's office. Practice exams can also be found online from a variety of resources. Companies like Exam Advantage offer materials you may find useful.

While there are no guarantees that you'll pass your insurance licensing exams the first time you take them, knowing a little about what to expect during the tests can help increase your odds of success. In addition, spending several months preparing for the exams, either with a class or by self-study, can vastly improve your chances of becoming a licensed agent.