Becoming a Claims Adjuster: Salary Information & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a claims adjuster career? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a claims adjuster is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Claims Adjuster Career

Claims adjusters inspect damage to property, such as a car or home, to determine the amount an insurance company will pay on an insurance claim. Find out the pros and cons of a career as a claims adjuster to determine if this is a career you want to pursue.

Pros of a Claims Adjuster Career
A high school education may be sufficient to enter the field*
Favorable earnings (more than $62,000 median annual salary as of 2014 for all claims adjusters, examiners and investigators)*
High job prospects for adjusters working with natural disaster claims*
Opportunity for self employment*

Cons of a Claims Adjuster Career
May work in hazardous conditions*
Irregular work schedules*
Sluggish job growth (employment expected to grow by four percent between 2012 and 2022 for all claims adjusters, examiners and investigators)*
Travel to property site may be required*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Claims adjusters inspect the damage to a policyholder's property after a claim has been filed with the insurance company. Adjusters evaluate the extent of the damage to determine the amount the insurance company should pay to the policyholder. Claims adjusters interview witnesses to the accident or property damage and consult with experts, such as architects and construction workers. When a determination to pay a claim has been reached, adjusters negotiate with the claimant on the settlement amount. Adjusters can specialize in automobile, property, business or worker's compensation cases.

Claims adjusters working for an insurance company defend the position of the company, while public adjusters provide an independent evaluation to property owners. Public insurance adjusters may be self-employed and work independently of an insurance company or business. Adjusters often work full-time, though they may have to work evenings and weekends to meet clients' schedules. These professionals may have to visit accident or damage sites to estimate costs, which puts them in potentially hazardous situations.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment growth for claims adjusters between 2012 and 2022 was expected to be four percent (www.bls.gov). However, the increasing trend of natural disasters, like fires and tornadoes, may spur job growth for adjusters who specialize in this type of claim. The median annual salary for claims adjusters as of 2014 was about $62,000. The highest-paying jobs were in the architectural and engineering industry, which offered adjusters a mean salary of about $90,000, and natural gas distribution, which offered a mean salary of about $82,000.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Licensure

Claims adjusters may obtain a position with a minimum of a high school education. Some businesses prefer candidates with bachelor's degrees or experience in the field. The college courses students pursue for claims adjuster positions depend on the type of claims they evaluate. Claims adjusters assessing and evaluating automobile damage might pursue some coursework in auto body repair, while those working on worker's compensation cases may complete medical courses. Claims adjusters working on business and financial claims can pursue courses in business, accounting or finance. Employers may provide on-the-job training for new claims adjusters.

Licensing requirements vary greatly by location. Some states require licensure for claims adjusters working independently of an insurance company. Other states have separate requirements for public adjusters. Licensing boards may require approved education, experience in the insurance industry and passage of an examination. You will generally have to complete continuing education courses to maintain your license.

Skills for Claims Adjusters

Since claims adjusters calculate damage costs, they must have strong mathematical skills. Additionally, communication skills are important, since the career involves corresponding with a variety of people, like clients, witnesses and professionals, to collect information that's vital to claims. You'll also need to be an analytical thinker in order to evaluate the data you've collected and determine a payment amount. The ability to negotiate is another necessity for this career, since you'll have to parley settlements with clients.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers usually require experience in the insurance industry or as a claims representative. Some job postings specify that job candidates should have experience in a particular area of the insurance industry, such as worker's compensation or property liability claims. Below are job postings for claims adjuster positions available in April 2012:

  • An Oregon employer is seeking a claims adjuster to analyze and investigate commercial liability claims. The employer requires candidates to have five or more years of experience with commercial liability claims and knowledge of medical terminology.
  • An employer in Kentucky is searching for an experienced claims adjuster for a temporary senior claims adjuster position. Job candidates must have a bachelor's degree or an equivalent amount of experience in worker's compensation claims. In addition, the employer prefers that candidates have a valid worker's compensation adjuster's license for Tennessee and Kentucky.
  • A Florida insurance company is looking for a claims adjuster to assess property damage claims. The requirements for the position include a claims adjuster license and high school diploma as well as experience in Florida homeowners insurance and liability claims.
  • A claims adjusting company is seeking a field adjuster for their Florida offices to oversee homeowner and commercial liability claims. Field adjusters will evaluate and estimate damage, investigate claims and prepare reports for clients. The employer requires a minimum of three years experience as a claims adjuster and excellent communication and computer skills to qualify for the position.
  • A North Carolina insurance company is looking for a claims adjuster to process and settle property claims. The position requires some overnight travel. The employer requires two to three years experience with personal property claims, which includes at least two years as a claims representative. In addition, the candidate must obtain a claims adjusting license within three months of hire and have a college degree or the equivalent in work experience.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Get Certified

The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers certification for claims adjusters participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Claims adjusters can qualify on one or more levels of authorization categories, which include residential, manufactured homes, small commercial property, large commercial property and condominiums. Qualifying in one or more of the five areas of authorization demonstrates experience in processing insurance claims and knowledge of the NFIP criteria for claims adjusting, which may provide an edge in the job market.

Other Careers to Consider

Building Inspector

Building inspectors ensure new building construction or repairs meet local, state and national building codes. The inspector evaluates and approves building plans, inspects construction sites and performs comprehensive inspections at the completion of a building project. According to the BLS, most employers require a minimum of a high school education and extensive knowledge of construction to work as a building inspector. In addition, states may require licensure to work in the position. The BLS reports an expected 18% increase in employment for building inspectors between 2010 and 2020.

Cost Estimator

If you are interested in evaluating, assessing and estimating the costs for property damage, but the slow job growth for claims adjusters is a deterrent, a career as a cost estimator may be a better fit. Cost estimators use data to estimate the cost of a building project, product manufacturing or providing a service. Data such as labor and raw material cost provide some of the information cost estimators use to prepare detailed cost analyses for businesses. Most employers require a minimum of a bachelor's degree to qualify for a position. The BLS projected a 36% growth in employment for cost estimators between 2010 and 2020.

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Featured Schools

Saint John's University

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  • Master of Science in Accounting
  • Master of Business Administration: Taxation

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Keiser University

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  • B.A. - Business Admin: Finance
  • Associate of Arts - Accounting

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Colorado State University Global

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  • BS - Business Management
  • Graduate Specialization - Accounting

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Georgetown University

  • Master of Science in Finance

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Seton Hall University

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  • Master of Science Professional Accounting
  • Master of Business Administration - Finance

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Utica College

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The University of Scranton

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  • Master of Accountancy
  • Master of Science in Finance

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Northcentral University

  • PhD in Business Admin - Financial Management
  • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
  • MBA - Financial Management
  • Master of Business Admin - General Business

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