Craig Tatro didn’t grow up wanting to be in the risk management field, like most people he had no knowledge of the industry.

But as an undergraduate at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Business in Richmond, he discovered there were lucrative jobs available in risk management field and decided to follow that path in school.

Lucrative, indeed. The average risk manager earns $118,000 and with bonuses has an average total compensation of $137,000, according to the Risk and Insurance Management Society in New York.

Just what does a risk manager do? Risk managers buy insurance for their company but they can also implement security and safety policies, manage workers compensation claims and help a company make proper financial investments. Literally, anything to do with a company’s risk can fall under a risk manager’s responsibility, making the positions very broad in responsibility.

The actual job, of course, can depend on the company itself.

At a risk management conference earlier this year in Orlando, Fla., topics ranged from hostage negotiations when a company’s employee is kidnapped overseas, to implementing better security at casinos to stop dishonest employees and cheating gamblers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates expansion and globalization of the economy will increase the need for financial managers, which includes risk managers, during the next 10 years by at least 13%. But it also says there will be keen competition for some of the top jobs.

The best way to land one of those jobs is for college students to show their dedication to the industry by majoring in risk management and insurance, says Amy Benson, a communications associate with RIMS.

“Students should look for universities that offer full degrees in risk management and insurance, rather than merely offering a few courses on the subject,” Benson says. “Having real-world experience via internships while in college is also key to landing permanent employment within the industry.”

Deborah Shaner Little, Director of the Risk & Insurance Studies Center at Virginia Commonwealth University, offers another piece of advice. She says instead of aiming at corporate jobs right away, recent graduates should gain experience either as an agent selling insurance coverage to corporations or as a claims representative in the underwriting department of an insurance company, which determines which risks to cover.

“Both paths will give the recent graduate important risk management experience and help them develop the experience they need to land a job as a corporate risk manager,” she says.

Tatro, 28, who graduated from VCU last year, is gaining that risk industry experience now as a sales associate for an insurance broker in Richmond. He specializes in providing insurance coverage for construction companies.

“Every construction company has different needs and needs different coverage,’’ he says. “Each situation is different which makes the job always interesting. There is never a boring day.’’

In fact, Tatro said he is enjoying himself so much that he might not switch to the corporate side and remain as insurance salesman.

He can’t be blamed. Starting salaries for his position are in the mid-$40,000 range. “With experience you can make six figures,’’ he says.

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