What is an insurance adjuster?
An insurance adjuster, or claims adjuster, investigates insurance claim liability for property damage involving homes, offices, automobiles, or for personal injuries. They typically work for insurance companies but also can work as contractors.
The primary duty of an insurance adjuster is to collect information from various sources about a liability claim and then determine the level of liability based on the extent of the property or personal damage. In the information collection process, they interview all claimants and witnesses, inspect property damage, examine police and medical reports, view surveillance video, assess the severity of physical injuries, and consult with specialists, including physicians and engineers. They evaluate the data and estimate whether the damage is covered by insurance policies. An insurance adjuster may work with cost analysts to calculate benefits and payments. They prepare and process claim reports and negotiate settlements with claimants. They may also assist attorneys in court by backing up their findings in case a claim is contested.
Some common types of claims that insurance adjusters investigate include construction defects, equipment malfunctions, fires, mechanical and electrical failures, and natural disasters.
Insurance adjusters have an important role in property damage and personal injury claims as they ensure that the insurance company of the liable party pays for any losses the claimant has suffered.
Qualifications and eligibility
To become a claims adjuster, you will need a high school diploma or GED. However, some employers are looking for applicants with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
In most states, you must pass a licensing exam and be licensed to work as an insurance adjuster. Some state licenses will allow you to adjust in multiple states. Typically, licenses are issued as All Lines, General Lines, or Property and Casualty. Some states also require passing an exam for the specific line of insurance you are adjusting for, such as automobile, workers’ compensation, crop, hail, property, casualty, accident and health, or aviation. The National Producer Insurance Registry provides information on individual state licensing requirements.
You may be required to have a certain number of education hours and experience before you can attain your license. The requirements vary by state. Check in the state where you live for specific requirements.
Insurance adjuster licensing courses can give you the knowledge and confidence you’ll need to pass the state licensing exam. They typically cover such topics as homeowners and dwelling coverage, auto, personal, commercial property, commercial general liability, crime, workers’ compensation, farm insurance, and more. You also learn general insurance and contract concepts, basic insurance terminology, policy structure, conditions, exclusions, additional coverages, etc. Some top training courses include:
- Kaplan Insurance Licensing Exam: Kaplan has live classes being taught over Zoom to help you prepare for the test. Or, if you want to be able to do it on your own time, they offer self-study courses as well.
- ExamFX: Not only will ExamFX give you practice questions and a mock exam, but they also have a portal full of self-study courses for you to truly prepare.
- A.D. Banker & Company: Whether you are studying for your exam or you’re continuing your education to stay licensed, A.D. Banker has options for you.
If you live in a state that requires a license, you will generally need a certain amount of continuing education credits to maintain your license. Each state has its own requirements.
Communication skills are essential as an insurance adjuster. They interact with multiple people such as insurance policyholders, insurance companies, witnesses, and other professionals involved in an insurance claim on a daily basis. They should be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing. Many insurance claims adjusters rely heavily on computers and computer programs in the course of their work, so proficiency with computers and computer applications is a must. Insurance adjusters typically handle multiple claims at the same time, making time management a valuable skill. Attention to detail and good analytical skills are also essential.
Insurance adjusters may work in an office, at home, or a combination of the two when researching claims, reviewing documents, and writing reports. They may spend some or a good part of their day investigating a claim, where they generally need to travel as part of conducting investigations, especially for property damage and auto damage claims. When in the field, they may be exposed to harsh or hazardous conditions, such as a fallen roof, weakened structure, or collapsed floor.
Typical work hours
Most insurance adjusters work a 40-hour week during normal business hours. However, their schedules can be irregular when in the field. They may have to work weekends or nights, depending on the claim they are adjusting.
Types of insurance adjusters
Within an insurance office, there are generally several different roles for adjusters in a claims department. They include:
- Claims processors – record insurance claim information
- Claims analysts – calculate how much money to pay the insurance policyholder
- Specialists – investigate auto, property damage, or personal injury claims
- Examiners – review insurance company files
There are also several different types of insurance adjusters, but the three most recognized types are:
This individual works for an insurance company to investigate, evaluate, and settle claims for that insurer only. Company adjusters generally handle claims related to automobile accidents and other auto-related incidents.
This adjuster works for an insurance adjuster firm and is hired by various insurance companies to represent a specific client. An independent adjuster typically works with catastrophe-related claims such as hurricanes, fires, or other natural disasters that impact a large number of people.
This professional is an independent contractor who represents a policyholder or insured individual. They are typically contracted by people or businesses that don’t think their insurance settlement is fair or meets their needs.
The earning potential for an insurance adjuster can vary greatly depending on geographic location, education, and level of experience.
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators was $65,080 in May 2021. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $41,490, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $101,290. The median annual wage for auto damage insurance appraisers was $62,680 in May 2021. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $47,240, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $91,680. The top industries for claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators were:
- Federal government – $81,890
- Direct insurance carriers – $75,700
- State government – $63,970
- Agencies, brokerages, and other insurance-related activities – $62,420
- Direct health and medical insurance carriers – $50,490
- The highest-paying cities for insurance adjusters are:
- Atkinson, NE – $67,894
- San Francisco, CA – $65,976
- Bolinas, CA – $65,515
- Frankston, TX – $62,675
- San Jose, CA – $62,283
- The highest-paying states are:
- New York – $61,258
- New Hampshire – $57,978
- Vermont – $56,656
- Maine – $55,673
- New Jersey – $54,223
- The lowest-paying states are:
- Georgia – $42,773
- Missouri – $42,751
- Texas – $42,689
- Louisiana – $41,128
- North Carolina – $39,008
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the overall employment of claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators will decline by 3% from 2020 to 2030, with about 25,200 openings projected per year. Part of the decline is due to technology that will automate some tasks currently performed by these workers.
Future increases in the number of natural disasters, such as floods and fires, could result in some employment growth for insurance adjusters.
Your career path as an insurance adjuster depends on your education, experience, and the type of adjuster you are. Some of the careers available to insurance adjusters include:
- Auto damage appraisers
- Claims analysts
- Claims representatives
- Fire claims adjusters
- Health claims examiners
- Independent insurance adjusters
- Insurance investigators
- Medical claims analysts
- Property and casualty insurance claims examiners
- Property damage claims adjusters
- Public adjusters
- Reinsurance claims analysts
- Vehicle damage appraisers
- Workers’ compensation claims adjusters
Steps to becoming an insurance adjuster
1. Get a high school diploma
To become an insurance adjuster, the minimum amount of education you’ll need is a high school diploma or a GED. Some employers prefer some college or a degree. Earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree can help set you apart from your competition.
2. Decide on which type of insurance adjuster you want to become
The three most common types of adjusters are company adjusters, independent adjusters, and public adjusters. Each typically fills a different niche in the field. Knowing which type of adjuster you want to become will help direct your path to achieving your career goals.
3. Pass the licensing exam
If you live in a state that requires you to have a license, you’ll want to prepare yourself, either by independent study or by taking a licensing exam study course, so you’ll be ready to pass the exam. Some states require that you complete a training course. You can choose between online or in-class courses to fit your needs.
4. Get specific licenses
In some states, you may have to pass an exam for a specific line of insurance that you will be representing, such as personal, auto, workers’ compensation, and property. Even if it isn’t required in your state, it might be a good idea to get the specific license that’s right for you to give you an advantage over your peers and help advance your career.
5. Get a job
Most entry-level jobs for insurance adjusters are clerical, especially for individuals without college training. Others can start as junior adjusters and gain experience before being promoted to adjusters. You can find openings for insurance adjusters on company websites, state and local insurance association sites, or online job boards.
6. Get certified
Most major insurance companies require that their adjusters are certified. They may require certification in a specific type of claims, such as auto or property. Independent insurance adjusters typically don’t need to be certified, but certification can help you advance your career. Some top certifications for insurance adjusters include:
- Senior Professional Public Adjuster (SPPA) – offered by the Institutes, the SPPA gives you the knowledge and tools to effectively value property and settle claims. Course topics include understanding the property claims environment, analyzing property coverages, examining common causes of property loss, addressing financial impacts of loss, handling cargo and construction claims, determining claim payments, and mastering claim settlement.
- Accredited Insurance Examiner (AIE) and Certified Insurance Examiner (CIE) – These two credentials are offered by the Insurance Regulatory Examiners Society and prove your knowledge and expertise in three of the primary fields of insurance (property- casualty; life – annuities; and health).
- Certified Forensic Claims Consultant (CFCC) – this credential certifies you as a testifying expert in construction dispute resolution and litigation. Certification is awarded to individuals who meet experience, education, and ethical compliance requirements.
- State Farm Property Adjuster Certification – State Farm is the largest insurance company in the country, insuring more cars and homes than any other carrier. As such, this certification is a valuable one to have if you work as an independent adjuster and handle State Farm claims. You can sign up for the exam at one of these 6 catastrophe companies that offer the State Farm Property Adjuster Certification: Crawford, Eberls, E.A. Renfroe, Pilot, Worley, and CNC Catastrophe & National Claims. Certification is good for life and allows you to handle all claims that come through.
If you work for a large insurance company like State Farm, USAA, or Liberty Mutual, you must be certified to adjust claims. Check with each carrier for specific certifications and requirements. Some states also offer state certifications.
7. Maintain your license
To maintain a valid insurance adjuster’s license, you will need to take continuing education credits and/or regular license renewal. The requirements vary by state. You can earn continuing education credits by taking courses online or in a classroom setting.
8. Join a professional organization
You can find many professional organizations for insurance adjusters online. Here are some of the top national organizations:
- National Association for Public Insurance Adjusters
- National Association of Independent Insurance Adjusters
- American Adjuster Association
- American Association of Public Insurance Adjusters
- Flood Insurance Professionals Claims Association
- The Association of Workers’ Compensation Claims Professionals
- National Association of Casualty Adjusters
Tips for becoming an insurance adjuster
If you are planning to become an insurance adjuster, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself.
- Make sure you know the requirements in your state to work as an insurance adjuster. Make a plan to meet those requirements (get licensed, take training courses, etc.)
- Practice your customer service skills. Insurance adjusters work with claimants, insurance companies, police, medical professionals, and more. Having good customer service skills is essential.
- Be computer literate. You’ll need computer skills to work as an insurance adjuster.
- See if you have the basic skills needed to be an insurance adjuster, such as being organized, having attention to detail, and having excellent verbal and written communication skills.
- Research the different types of insurance adjusters and decide on the one that interests you the most. Do you want to adjust for auto accident claims, property and casualty claims, or health insurance claims? Maybe you want to handle natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires.
- If you want to work for an insurance company, look into which ones you’d like to work for. You might want to work for a big company like State Farm, Geico, Progressive, or USAA. Maybe a regional or local insurance company is a better fit for you. Narrow your list by researching each company.
Insurance adjuster interview questions to expect
- How do you go about determining the value of the damaged or lost property?
- There is a discrepancy in how much an antique vase is worth. How would you handle this with the client?
- Why is it important for you to keep up with industry trends as an insurance adjuster for your client?
- When working with different insurance adjustment software, the same claim is giving you wildly different numbers. How would you handle this?
- The client lost something priceless to them, but in terms of monetary value, it wasn’t worth much. How would you talk to the client about awarding damages for this item?
- A client’s house was damaged in a fire. How would you go about assessing the value of the damage? List your sources.