Becoming a Public Adjuster: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a public adjuster's career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming a public adjuster is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Public Adjuster

Public adjusters help determine how much an insurance claimant will get reimbursed for losses from an insurance company. Continue reading to learn about some of the negative and positive aspects of a career as a public adjuster.

Pros to Becoming a Public Adjuster
High salary (about $64,000 on average for all claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators as of 2014)*
Flexible education requirements (can enter the career with a high school diploma or bachelor's degree)*
Be your own boss (public adjusters are self-employed)*
Opportunity to help people who've suffered losses get fair compensation from their insurance companies*
Best job prospects are in health insurance adjusting and in areas with high rates of natural disasters*

Cons to Becoming a Public Adjuster
Licensure is required in some states*
Stunted job growth due to employment decline in direct insurance carriers and the federal government*
Dangers involved with inspecting damaged or weakened buildings*
Irregular work schedules since you have to work around clients' schedules*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Description

A public adjuster is a self-employed claims adjuster who determines how much insurance companies should pay for losses incurred by policy holders. Public adjusters are usually hired by claimants who don't want to use an adjuster associated with their insurance company. In such cases, it's your job to make sure that your clients get as much money as possible from their claims. You might also be hired by insurance companies that aren't looking for regular employees. When hired by an insurance company, your goal is to save your employer as much money as possible when a policy holder makes a claim.

In the adjusting process, you'll first take on an insurance case and investigate the claim that is being made. For example, if someone is in a car wreck, you'll examine the damage done to the car and the individual. You'll also talk to witnesses and get an accurate story of what happened so you can figure out who is at fault. If the claim is legitimate, then you'll figure out how much the insurance policy is expected to cover and ensure that the person receives that payment.

Specializations

Many adjusters focus on specific types of insurance. You could, for example, specialize in property and casualty insurance, which may entail evaluating property damage to determine how much a claimant should receive. Other common specialties for adjusters include life and health insurance. You can also sub-specialize in a specific industry or type of liability. For instance, you might deal only with natural disasters or adjust claims only for automobile accidents.

Salary Information and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that claims adjusters earned about $31 an hour on average, which resulted in an average annual salary of around $64,000, as of May 2014 (www.bls.gov). The top ten percent of adjusters earned about $93,000 or more per year, while the bottom ten percent earned around $38,000 or less. The architectural, engineering and related services industry was the top-paying for adjusters, offering more than $90,000 on average per year. While your salary potential may be high in this profession, keep in mind that jobs in this profession were projected to increase at a slow rate of three percent from 2012-2022, according to the BLS. This slow job growth is a result of decreased employment in direct insurance carriers and the federal government, which usually hire the largest number of adjusters.

Vocational Requirements

Education

A high school diploma or a GED is generally the minimal level of education for a public adjuster; however, many clients and employers want public adjusters with a bachelor's degree or some experience in the insurance industry. Your college major will generally depend on the type of insurance in which you specialize. For example, an auto insurance adjuster might hold a degree in automotive repair, while a degree in architecture or engineering might be beneficial for a career in property damage claims adjusting.

Licensing

Claims adjusters have to be licensed in some states. This is true for public adjusters as well. In fact, some states have separate licensing requirements that public adjusters have to meet. Generally, you have to meet your state's educational requirements and pass an examination testing your knowledge. You might also have to complete continuing education to keep your license renewed.

Skills

Customer-service and communication skills are important qualities when it comes to finding employment as a public adjuster. You have to be able to get all the details and information out of medical experts, witnesses and claimants, which requires you to be friendly when necessary while always making sure to ask the right questions to get the answers you need. Since you'll be calculating damage costs, you'll also need strong mathematical skills.

Job Postings from Real Employers

A career in adjusting often requires experience or education specific to the insurance industry, preferably in the type of insurance that you'll be adjusting. Although public adjusters are typically self-employed, you can find out what some employers were looking for in claims adjusters by reading these job postings from May 2012:

  • An insurance company in Louisiana wants an adjuster who specializes in auto damage and has one year of experience as a claims adjuster, property damage adjuster or auto repair professional. The ideal applicant holds a bachelor's degree.
  • In Texas, an insurance adjusting firm wants to contract an adjuster who can work with a range of insurance types. Applicants need an adjuster's license, reliable transportation, a digital camera and experience as an adjuster or appraiser, auto mechanic or body shop technician.
  • A North Carolina insurance company needs a casualty adjuster with a college education or an equivalent amount of experience. The employer prefers applicants with medical/legal terminology knowledge and auto body shop repair experience.
  • An insurance company based in Illinois is seeking a property claim field adjuster with previous property claim experience. Candidates need a valid driver's license and must be willing to travel extensively and possibly relocate.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Earning a professional certification is one way to stand out from other public adjusters. The National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters offers various certifications, like the Certified Professional Public Adjuster (CPPA) and the Senior Professional Public Adjuster (SPPA) designations. CPPA certification requires you to have five years of adjusting experience, while SPPA certification is only for those with ten years of experience. A college degree (or an equivalent amount of combined education, experience and knowledge) along with passage of an examination are also necessary. The test covers commercial and personal insurance coverage, the adjustment process and the legal environment.

Other Career Choices

If you want a career determining costs, but don't want to work in the insurance industry, consider becoming a cost estimator. In this career, you'll approximate the costs of construction or manufacturing projects according to the required time, labor and resources. Entering this career usually requires a bachelor's degree related to construction or manufacturing, like construction management, engineering or building science. As of May 2011, cost estimators had an average annual salary of roughly $63,000. While salary is similar to that of a public adjuster, a cost estimator's job outlook is significantly brighter - the BLS expected jobs in this field to grow by 36% from 2010-2020, which is twelve times the rate of public adjuster growth.

Another option similar to public adjusting is real estate appraising. As a real estate appraiser, you'll examine property and determine the value of it for tax, sales or insurance purposes. Normally, you'll specialize in commercial or residential properties. To work in commercial property, you'll need a bachelor's degree, though you can work in residential property appraisal with as little as an associate's degree. You'll also need to be certified in your real estate specialty. The BLS reports that real estate appraisers earned more than $54,000 on average per year as of May 2011, and jobs in this field were expected to grow by seven percent from 2010-2020.

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