Do you think the CPCU is my best option? Yes, it is widley understood and agreed that the CPCU is THE designation to have. Some may argue in favor of the CIC or others, but when I see correspondence from people high up in the industry, I usually see CPCU after their names. I also only have HS diploma, and I'm 43 yrs old. I feel much safer and respected now that I have this CPCU. Safer? Well, it will look great on my resume if I ever need that again. And it also looks great for my annual reviews with my current employer. It is definitely a strong bargaining chip.
How long does it take to obtain the designation? I just finished self studying for mine. It took 3 years and about 60-80 hours for each.
Is the course material/tests very difficult? It is not easy by any means. However, if you apply yourself to the studies you can do it. You need to take it seriously and actually learn the material. Plus, the information you learn is useful everyday.
Is there classroom training or courses or is it self study? I am not sure about classes, I think there are some available on line. I recommend seeing if you can find another person interested in also getting the CPCU and studying together. Each unit is 15 chapters. My study partner and I read a chapter and corresponding workbook section each week. Then spent the last week or two quizing each other with flash cards, etc. I highly recommend using only the AICPCU materials.
Can I receive any credit toward the designation based on my experience in the industry? No, I do not believe you can. However, you may receive credits for other studies you have completed for other designations. Also, for each unit you complete you shold be able to get CE credits. It varies from state to state, but I was able to 20 credits for each unit.
You should check out www.aicpcu.org
. These are the folks have the materials, grade the tests, and give out the designation. Good luck!