What is an insurance claims adjuster? What do they do? How much money do they make? How do you become one?
This post is going to tell you EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW about insurance claims adjusters, to see if this might be a job or career you want to pursue.
What is an Insurance Claims Adjuster?
Claims Adjusters are insurance representatives that negotiate and settle claims. They can have different titles to include:
- Claims Representative
- Bodily Injury Claims Adjuster
- Material Damage Claims Representative
These titles signify what kind of claims the adjuster routinely handles.
There are multiple types of adjusters. Staff adjusters work full-time for one insurance company. They handle claims solely for that insurance company and their goal is to settle claims to be fair for all parties.
On the other hand, independent adjusters work as contractors for multiple insurance companies and travel to areas impacted by catastrophes or major weather events.
Finally, Public Adjusters work on behalf of policy holders to help claims be settled in their favor.
Claims adjusters’ jobs include:
- Investigate insurance claims
- Determine if the policy covers the loss
- Verify that claims are not fraudulent
- Negotiate settlements
- Authorize Claim Payments
“Adjusters inspect property damage or personal injury claims to determine how much the insurance company should pay for the loss. They might inspect a home, a business, or an automobile.” BLS.Gov
Claims adjusting is an investigative job. Collecting police reports, witness statements, conducting interviews with everyone involved in an incident, and visiting the site of the accident is a major part of an adjuster’s job.
“Regardless of what type of insurance claims adjuster you are, you will be doing investigative work. Once an insurance claim is filed, a claims adjuster is called in to take over the process” Kaplan Financial Education
Determining fault and coverage after the investigation requires knowledge of insurance, insurance law, and previous court decisions. Adjusters must understand all aspects of the insurance policy to make coverage determinations.
Negotiating claims settlements to be fair for both parties is the one of the hardest parts of being an adjuster. Settlements can include property damages, bodily injury, pain and suffering, and depreciation.
Being on call can be challenging. Some companies expect that phone calls and emails will be answered every day.
Catastrophe adjusters travel for weeks or months at a time. Being away from family and traveling into disaster areas that may have limited food, water, and power to settle claims can be challenging, but it is rewarding to help people affected by natural disasters.
Insurance Claims Adjuster Training
Insurance Claims Adjusters are required to have their high school diploma or GED. Many states require a class and exam prior to becoming an adjuster.
Several colleges offer Risk Management and Insurance degrees, but most companies do not require such a degree. If you are pursuing a degree with plans to become an adjuster, a degree in business, communications, or business analytics translates well to the skills you need to be a successful adjuster.
There are industry designations you can pursue to further your training and make you more employable. These designations show a dedication to the insurance industry and prove your knowledge.
All the certifications listed here require multiple classes and tests to obtain the certification. They are the best gauge of knowledge within the industry currently.
If you want to pursue becoming an adjuster, Vale offers certification classes for adjusters. Vale is ‘ivy league’ of trade schools, offering classes on property and casualty adjusting, negotiations, workers compensation, and specialty lines. They are the leading trade school for insurance adjusters.
“There are many schools that will teach you how to be an adjuster. Vale is the “Harvard” in the CAT adjusting arena. Independent adjusting firms take a closer look when you have Vale on your resume. “ Rebecca Wheeling
The Associate in Claims certification is for claims professionals by The Institutes. The AIC designation covers claims handling principles, property damage claims, bodily injury claims, and liability claims practices. It is a nationally recognized designation showing skill and knowledge. The course is a 13-week course with 4 tests.
“Obtaining an AIC designation demonstrates a commitment to the profession and continuing education, and it can be a great asset when it comes to securing a job in the field” Julia Kagan, Investopedia
The Senior Professional Public Adjuster designation is considered a college level designation by many in the adjusting field. The designation covers ethics and advanced adjusting and claims principles for property and liability claims. 83% of people who completed the designation feel like it fast tracked their career.
The American Education Institute has designations for multiple claim types – property, automobile, fraud, workers comp, and casualty. These designations are not as well known as the AIC and SPPA, but they are in-depth programs on each specialty.
The Associate in Risk Management designation covers the principles of risk and mitigating the risk. It is one of the top 5 designations according to Associate PI, Insurance Education.
This is another of the many insurance designations administered by the Insurance Institute of America. The ARM™ teaches you the science of risk management and provides you with the necessary skills and understanding to avoid, reduce and manage risk. Associate PI
While there is no college degree for insurance adjusters, having a designation shows dedication and proves your knowledge to employers.
Insurance Claims Adjuster License
Currently, 34 states require an Insurance Claims Adjuster License. In Colorado, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin no training or licensing is required.
If you live in one of these states and want to adjust claims outside of your home state, a Designated Home State License can be secured from many states. This license lets you get your out-of state adjusters license in the states you need to work in. Florida’s Designated Home State license is accepted in the most states and is the quickest to secure.
There are pre-licensing courses available online for all states, even those where it is not required. Online courses will help you pass the state licensing exam. In addition to a state specific licensing course completing the Associate in Risk Management or one of the certificates from the American Education Institute can help you pass the pre-licensing test.
Alaska does not require pre-licensing, but they do require 6-months experience in certain aspects of the insurance industry within the last two years and passing a competency test.
California requires 4,000 documented, compensated hours in the insurance adjusting field to take the licensing exam, after the licensing exam is completed proof of a $2,000 bond of Insurance Adjuster and application for license must be submitted to the state of California.
New York does not require a pre-licensing course, but does require a competency exam, five Certificates of Character, and a $1,000 fidelity bond to secure your adjuster license.
Vermont requires two year’s experience handling claims, special training sufficient to waive the two year’s experience requirement, or be employed and supervised by a licensed adjuster for three years. Once this requirement has been met you can apply for your license, and pass the competency exam to secure your license.
Washington requires one year experience working as a full time, salaried insurance company adjuster, or completion of the Associate in Claims program, Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter program, or Property Claim Law Specialist, or the state administered adjuster-trainee program that requires 960 hours of adjusting experience in a 6-9 month period while you are a salaried insurance company employee. After these requirements have been met you must pass a competency test to secure your adjuster license.
Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Minnesota, Nevada, Hawaii, and Wyoming require adjusters to pass a competency test to secure their adjuster’s license, but has no pre-licensing courses that are required.
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, and Indiana require a pre-licensing course and competency test for an adjuster’s license. The pre-licensing course varies for each state. Most are 40-hours of online or classroom time for each type of license applied for.
In addition to the pre-licensing, experience, and competency testing all the states, except Idaho, require you to be 18-years old. Idaho requires you to be 21-years of age to apply for a license. Most states also stipulate you must be of good character with no charges or convictions of breach of trust or fraud.
Insurance Claims Adjuster Jobs
Insurance Claims adjuster jobs come in three varieties. Staff Adjusters that work directly for insurance companies, Independent Adjusters that work for adjusting firms or are freelance contract employees, and Public Adjusters that work for insureds.
All three career paths require strong analytical skills, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, good investigative skills, and solid math skills. Even though the employers are different, the knowledge and basic skills are the same for staff adjusters as independent adjusters.
In 2016 there were over 300,000 claims adjuster jobs in the United States with an expected increase of 2% per year until 2026. While it is not a fast-growing field, insurance is a recession proof industry as claims happen in good times and bad times. Job stability in the insurance industry is linked to the financial stability of the company you are employed by more than the general economy.
Owl Guru says “67% of them said they were satisfied with their job and 43% said they find that their job makes the world a better place or helps to make someone else’s life better.”
Many Staff and Independent Claims adjusters are based from their home and travel to see claimants and insureds. There is flexibility in their work hours and freedom of being on the road, but caseloads and contact quotas required by some companies can make day to day life stressful as a claim’s adjuster.
Independent Claims adjusters travel to catastrophe and emergency areas for weeks or months at a time to settle claims in these areas. Since these are contract positions there is less job stability as an independent adjuster than as a Salaried Adjuster, but there is freedom to work when you want to, go where you want to, and take time off as needed.
If you enjoy making a positive difference in the world and communicating with people, being an insurance claims adjuster is a great career.
Insurance Adjuster Salary
Insurance Claims Adjuster Trainee’s salaries average $43,757 according to Payscale, with the top of the range being around $52,000. Most people stay in the trainee position for 2 to 5-years before being promoted or changing companies to an Adjuster position.
Claims Adjuster I salary averages $46,606 per year according to Salary.com. As you gain experience and move into higher roles such as Claims Adjuster II the average salary is $62,380, and a Claims Adjuster III averages $77,627.
With a few year’s experience as an insurance claims adjuster you can choose what area and specialty you want to pursue. Specialty lines adjusters, Fraud Adjusters, and Claims Managers can reach six figures with many companies.
Independent Adjuster salaries according to ZipRecruiter average $64,000 but range from $18,000 to $141,000. There is a wide range of salaries as independent adjusters; most positions are contract positions, and many are temporary for catastrophes and emergency situations. These factors affect the average salary.
If your goal is a comfortable living, working as an adjuster for an insurance company provides a great salary, good benefits, and room for advancement. As you gain experience and handle more complex claims or manage people a steady increase in salary is expected.
Commercial Lines Adjusters are in high demand and average 20% higher base salaries than personal lines adjusters. Special Investigative Unit or Fraud adjusters average starting salary is $64,000 according to ZipRecruiter.
There are many specialties within the insurance industry, finding a topic you are passionate about, becoming a subject matter expert, and specializing can mean a huge difference in pay in the long run.
There you have it folks. Hopefully, this post gave you a great overview of what an insurance claims adjuster does. On a side note, I would love to hear your thoughts. If you have spent time as an insurance claims adjuster, I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below to let me know what you think.
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