The Risk Management & Insurance major will set students on the fast track
Monday, May 15, 2023

Insurance is a major economic force in the state, salaries are up, and the Tippie College of Business has launched a Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) major that graduates its first students as soon as December 2023.

The new major within the finance department will set students on the fast track in the industry, says Thomas Berry-Stoelzle, associate professor and faculty director of the Vaughan Institute of Risk Management and Insurance.

The industry—especially in the state of Iowa—is waiting with open arms.

“The last six or seven years, things have really been happening,” said Michael Gould, business development manager for the Iowa Economic Development Authority. “The move by the University of Iowa to create this program feeds into that energy. It’s perfect timing.”


Iowa is #1 by GDP

In 2021, Iowa’s insurance industry output as a percentage of the state’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 11 percent, ranking it highest in the United States.

“Our industry has become extremely important to the economy of Iowa,” said Vaughan Institute Professional Director Terri Vaughan.

And not just for those working in insurance. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that for every 100 people directly employed in insurance, there are 91 additional people employed who provide goods and services to support the industry. As a result, in Iowa an estimated 88,000 people are either directly or indirectly employed by state’s insurance industry.

Insurance companies love headquartering in Iowa

Vaughan explained that during the 1980s farm crisis, the state began efforts (like reducing premium taxes) to attract insurance  companies to the state. It worked, and Iowa is still growing as an insurance hub today, attracting more companies by the year.

According to Gould, Iowa has experienced 10% growth in the insurance industry sector over the past 15 years, with 4,231 net new jobs and companies like Fidelity and Guaranty Life Insurance relocating their headquarters from the East Coast to Iowa in the last five years.

Gould, who recruits these companies, alluded to another coming soon to Eastern Iowa.

“I have no doubt that has moved forward because we have been very proactive at working to grow Iowa’s reputation as an insurance state.”

There aren’t enough people to fill all the job vacancies

“About 15 years ago, McKinsey did a study that found that all graduates from RMI programs cannot fill even 10 percent of the job openings in the industry—and that hasn’t changed,” said Berry-Stoelzle.

“There’s definitely a huge demand.”

Enter the Tippie College of Business

The college has long had an insurance certificate, with many alumni making their way in the industry. With the major, students will be experts sooner, ready to hit the ground running and jump into leadership positions earlier in their career.


Tippie’s Risk Management and Insurance major was developed in coordination with industry so that graduates will be in-step and job-ready for positions like claims manager, underwriter, broker, employee benefits manager, and risk modeler at any of the 215 companies in the state or countless other nationally.

“The industry is clamoring for these candidates,” says Gould.

"We’re proud to support the state economy and local industry by providing the talent it desperately needs,” added Berry-Stoelzle.

Salaries are rising

The Tippie College of Business is no diploma mill. Students can expect a successful career with a RMI degree in hand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, the average salary of an insurance industry employee in Iowa was $90,018. That is $35,000 more per year than their non-insurance industry counterparts.

It’s an evolving industry

“Unfortunately, insurance hasn’t always had a sexy reputation,” said Vaughan. “But it’s a fascinating area. With the way the world is changing and the speed of change, the topic of risk management has taken a much higher profile. Risk management is something all companies are paying attention to now.”

“I tell my students, it’s always a good time to get into insurance,” said Berry-Stoelzle. “It’s a surprisingly dynamic industry that is constantly evolving because the risk landscape is changing—whether that’s cyber insurance, climate change, or the next big risk."

“There are also a lot of different job opportunities that fit various student personalities and expectations. Whether they are relationship-focused or quantitatively minded, the industry has a place for them.”

People love their jobs in insurance

“Everybody always tells me, ‘I never thought I’d be in insurance’.” says Gould. “But once they’re in, they love it.”

In fact, Gould is one of these people. When he took over the job as a business recruiter for the state of Iowa a dozen years ago, he was assigned insurance development, which he was warned was “boring and not exciting.”

“It couldn’t have been further from the truth,” he said. “The insurance industry saves lives. It protects people’s livelihoods. It helps people build wealth for the future. What the insurance industry does is foundational. It is so helpful to the functioning of… virtually everything. I think people get into the industry and see the value of that—of helping people.”



In addition to launching the RMI major, the Tippie College of Business has partnered with the Iowa Economic Development Authority on the new Insure Your Future paid internship program to introduce students to the different aspects of the insurance industry as early as the summer after their first year of college.

Twenty-one companies and 65 students (approximately 50% male 50% female) from universities across Iowa are participating the summer of 2023, and more are expected to follow suit.

Students will be introduced to individual companies, participate in leadership development training, and spend time with fellow interns. To get to know the multifaceted industry, several of the companies are offering a rotational internship, wherein students will work in various departments of the business to discover areas of interest, an idea of Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs Charles Keene.

“Having this experience at a young age will give students time to explore and pivot to an area they are interested in before getting into their careers,” Gould said. “It will also facilitate future internships in specialized areas.”

While the students won’t be ready to contribute as much as a traditional intern, they will help the companies spread the word about all the job possibilities in the industry, something Gould called the “ah-ha” moment for the companies who signed up for the pilot program.

Students will give presentations both to the companies and to other students back on campus about what they learned, what they liked, and what surprised them—essentially becoming brand ambassadors for the industry while helping them figure out a career path.

We call that a win-win.

To  find out more about the program, visit


This article appeared in the 2023 issue of Exchange magazine.