Becoming a Tax Assessor: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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A tax assessor's average salary is about $58,000. Is it worth the education and training requirements? See real job duties and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a tax assessor is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Tax Assessor

A tax assessor needs to know the latest market trends across a neighborhood and city to determine the taxation of homes. Take a look at the pros and cons of becoming a tax assessor.

Pros of Becoming a Tax Assessor
Most positions only require an associate's degree*
Most assessors work a standard 40-hour week**
Diverse job duties (market research, on-site inspection of properties, preparing value reports)*
Higher mean salary for assessors and appraisers of real estate than for all occupations ($58,000 in 2014)**

Cons of Becoming a Tax Assessor
Slow job growth for assessors and appraisers of real estate (projected six percent increase from 2012-2022)**
Highly competitive field**
Licensing and certification requirements are different in each state**
Taxpayers challenge assessments, so assessors may have to defend their work at a public hearing**

Sources: *O*Net, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a tax assessor analyzes property across a municipality or neighborhood and provides the property tax rates for city governments. An assessor also works to determine the value of real estate and personal property (this could include boats, machinery and inventory). The assessments are kept in a public record, and assessors need to be prepared to defend their judgments if a resident wishes to dispute it. When determining tax rates, an assessor takes into account the characteristics of the property, the sales rate of nearby properties, the zoning of the neighborhood and the construction costs in the area.

Tax assessors usually spend some time in an office to prepare reports and conduct research. When assessors are not at the office, they're normally conduction on-site inspections of property. The amount of time you'll spend at the office or at the location of the properties being assessed often depends on the needs of the local city. Assessors may use mass-appraisal techniques that are generated by a computer, which would require more time in the office than in the field.

Job Prospects and Salary

The BLS stated that the average annual salary of a tax assessor (including appraisers) was approximately $58,000 in 2014. Since these figures include appraisers, the data specific for assessors may be slightly skewed. The employer you work for can also be a factor in how much you'll earn as an assessor. For example, the BLS found that assessors in local governments earned about $36,000 less than assessors who worked for the federal executive branch in 2014. The BLS projected that nationwide employment of assessors and appraisers would grow by six percent from 2012-2022, which was slower than the average for all occupations. The increasing use of automated valuation models was one of the reasons that the BLS predicted limited job growth for assessors and appraisers.

Education and Training Requirements

Depending on the state, an associate's degree is usually sufficient for employment as an assessor. However, it is important to note that assessors often work in local governments, so a local government may set up their own academic standards for the position. The BLS recommended that candidates hold an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree that included courses in computer science, mathematics, business, economics and finance. Most employers will want you to have some training in databases and spreadsheets.

Certification Requirements

Most states require assessors to be certified or licensed. For example, the state of New York requires assessors in specific counties to seek basic certification, which includes courses ranging from a code of ethics to farm appraising (www.tax.ny.gov). According to the BLS, most assessors are certified or licensed under the same titles as appraisers. However, not all states or local governments have certification requirements, and some may merely require training sessions that are equivalent to those taken by appraisers.

What do Employers Look for?

Many candidates who are hired to become assessors are appointed by mayors or town councils. This means the assessor not only needs to meet local and state requirements, but they might have to understand the unique dynamics of the city landscape and the neighborhoods. Candidates must also display a proficiency in the computer database and management systems that are used by the government they work for. The following job posts were found in April 2012:

  • A town in Connecticut needs an assessor who holds an associate's degree in business or accounting. Certification through the state's Association of Assessing Officers is required.
  • A city in Massachusetts is hiring a principal assessor. The candidate needs one of the three certifications in real estate assessment to be considered for the position. The candidate must also demonstrate their ability to manage the town's database system on property taxes.
  • A city government in Connecticut needs a city assessor. The mayor of the city will appoint the assessor from a pool of job applicants. The candidate will direct the tax assessor's office and help enforce the assessment laws of the city. Applicants must be a resident of the city or be willing to live in the city within their first six months of employment.

How to Beat the Competition

Familiarity with the area you're planning to work in can give you a big advantage over other applicants. With some jobs requiring residency or demonstrating some knowledge of state or local policies, getting a head start can give your job search a boost. Since you'll have to explain assessments to citizens, oral and written communication skills are a plus.

Although training in computer technology is sometimes provided, showing proficiency with spreadsheets, databases and related software can impress employers. You could even take electives that focus on these programs while you're pursuing a postsecondary degree. Previous experience as an appraiser could also work in your favor, especially if you've done appraisals in the area you wish to become an assessor for.

Other Careers to Consider

Real Estate Agent

If you are interested in real estate, but you do not want to work with property taxes, you might be interested in becoming a real estate agent. A real estate agent assists customers with buying, selling and renting property. Unlike a tax assessor, you are typically working for yourself or for a small firm. You'll often meet with a variety of people, so you should have excellent communication skills. Similar to a tax assessor, you'd spend some of your time away from the office to show properties and meet with clients. Real estate agents earned an average salary of about $51,000 in 2011, according to the BLS. However, the earnings of real estate agents are extremely dependent on the economy, so you may earn significantly more or less than you did the year before. Overall job prospects should be decent for real estate agents; the BLS projected that these professionals would see 11% employment growth between 2010 and 2020.

Building Inspector

Building inspection careers share some similar traits with tax assessment careers, but they do not deal with estimating the value of a property. A building inspector looks at buildings to make sure they are up to a federal, state or local government codes. Similar to assessors, building inspectors are mostly employed by local governments. You'd spend most of your time at the site of construction, but you may also be responsible for evaluating blueprints and writing reports. The BLS reported that building inspectors earned an average yearly income of approximately $55,000 in 2011. The BLS expected building inspectors to see an 18% increase in job opportunities from 2010-2020. Inspectors who were qualified to do a variety of inspections usually had the best job prospects.

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • MS in Accounting- Tax Specialization
  • Bachelor: Tax Accountancy
  • Associate: Accounting
  • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate

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Full Sail University

  • M.S. - Internet Marketing
  • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • B.S. - Music Business

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George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

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Georgetown University

  • Master of Science in Finance

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Saint John's University

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

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Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Advanced Accounting
  • PhD in Business Admin - Advanced Accounting
  • MBA - Financial Management
  • MS - Accounting

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Regent University

  • Master of Business Administration - Accounting
  • Master of Arts in Law - Business
  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting
  • Bachelor of Science in Business - Accounting

What is your highest level of education completed?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Science in Government Analytics

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