How To Become A Claims Adjuster: Step-By-Step Guide

How To Become A Claims Adjuster
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Becoming a claims adjuster is not typically a career path that people think about, but is an industry in high demand of careers. Typically, insurance claims adjusters need at least a high school diploma, although an associate’s or bachelor’s degree can be preferred. From there, they will need to study and pass a licensing exam.

Some states require a certain number of hours of training that must be done ahead of time. From there, insurance claims adjusters need to complete continuing education credits in order to keep their license.

In California, licensed independent insurance adjusters must complete a minimum of 24 hours of continuing education, per every two-year license term.

Who is a claims adjuster?

A claims adjuster investigates insurance claims to determine the extent of insuring a company’s liability. Claims adjusters may handle property claims involving damage to structures, and/or liability claims involving personal injuries or third-person property damage.

A claims adjuster reviews each case by speaking with the claimant. They interview witnesses, research records (such as police or medical records), and inspect any involved property.

Claims adjusters verify policyholder requests for funds from an insurance policy. They determine a fair amount for settlement. These can be any type of claim, from personal injury to property damage. In property damage claims, the main role of the insurance adjuster is to carry out a detailed investigation into the claim by:

  • Reviewing police reports
  • Inspecting the damage
  • Talking to property owners
  • Speaking to witnesses

What does an insurance adjuster do?

An insurance claims adjuster’s primary role is to investigate claims to determine an insurance company’s liability in particular situations. They may ensure that claims are legitimate as well as decide on a fair amount to issue in a claim settlement. Insurance claims adjusters work in a variety of insurance settings, including automobile, health, life and property insurance.

To do their job, an insurance adjuster may perform tasks that include:

  • Interviewing all parties involved in the insurance claim
  • Speaking with any witnesses who were present when the damage or accident occurred
  • Requesting police and medical reports related to the claim
  • Gathering all documentation that supports or undermines a claim, such as statements, photographs and records
  • Determining if an insurance policy covers specific claims being made and to what extent
  • Compiling all information in a report for the insurance company
  • Notifying all parties affected by the claims decision

Most insurance claims adjusters work with claims that relate directly to an individual’s life, health, property or automobile insurance. For example, a medical claims adjuster may determine if an individual’s insurance covers a particular medical procedure and then either approve or deny the claim.

Those who work in auto insurance might inspect vehicular collisions or damage.

Types of insurance claim adjusters

There are three main types of insurance adjusters, all of whom follow slightly different payment structures, which impact how much they earn.

  • Staff insurance adjusters. These are salaried employees who work for a single insurance carrier. They earn between $40,000 and $70,000 and have access to employee benefits such as health insurance and paid leave. 
  • Independent insurance adjusters. These professionals work as independent contractors for adjusting firms and can handle claims from different insurers at the same time. They can earn significantly more than staff adjusters, with potential earnings that can reach six figures, depending on how hard they work. However, they don’t have access to the same employee benefits.
  • Public insurance adjusters. These are self-employed professionals who policyholders hire if they believe that they have received an incorrect or unfair settlement from their insurers. Public adjusters are paid a portion of the settlement fee, usually ranging from 5% to 20%.
However, there are also several sub-categories under these classes, including:

Catastrophe adjusters vs. daily claims adjusters

Catastrophe adjusters, also called CAT adjusters, are tasked to handle large-scale calamities and are often deployed to disaster zones to work on the claims. Given that these professionals work extremely long hours, with each assignment lasting weeks to even months, and face brutal conditions, they are also among the highest-paid adjusters.

Daily claims adjusters, on the other hand, handle claims resulting from losses that can happen in our everyday lives, including clogged toilets, grease fires, and burglary.

Desk adjusters vs. field adjusters

Desk adjusters, also known as inside adjusters, work in offices. They handle claims using their computers by information, including images, sent to them by policyholders. Field adjusters, meanwhile, go to the center of the action. They travel to where the damage occurred, interview people there, take pictures, and assess the damage firsthand.

How to become an insurance claims adjuster

Below are steps that most insurance adjuster professionals take to pursue this career:

Complete the minimum education requirements

To become a claims adjuster, employers typically expect a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent. Most insurance claims adjuster positions are open to individuals who only hold a high school diploma, but having an associate bachelor’s degree or more may set you apart from other candidates.

Relevant majors might include:

  • Business
  • Finance
  • Management
  • Communications

Decide which type of adjuster you want to be

There are several types of insurance adjuster positions available. Deciding whether you want to become a staff, independent or public adjuster can help you determine which steps you will need to take to follow that career path. This will also give you a better idea of what you can expect when you secure a job.

It can also help you choose who you might network with to expand your career options.

Meet licensing requirements and earn your license

Many states require insurance adjusters to obtain an insurance adjusting license. To qualify to take a licensing exam for your state, you may complete a pre-licensing course. There are several courses available, and many are available both in the classroom and online. If you wish to work outside of your state, it’s important to secure reciprocal licensure in the state in which you plan to work.

You can also research the state requirements in your area to learn what steps to take.

Seek employment

Although claims adjusters work mainly for casualty and property insurance companies, you’ll also find opportunities with commercial insurance, disability insurance, medical insurance or health insurance companies. Job opportunities could also exist in the area of worker’s compensation.

In any one of these areas, you might begin your career as a trainee, working under the supervision of more experienced adjusters. As your skills and competence grow, you’ll be given more responsibilities and autonomy.

Maintain your licensure

Once you become a licensed insurance adjuster, it’s essential to maintain your licensure through continuing education credits and regular license renewal. You can earn continuing education credits by taking courses both online and in person.

Each state varies as to its requirements for maintaining your licensure, so read your local guidelines to make a plan for keeping your credentials current.

Take continuing education courses

As a claims adjuster, you’ll need to stay updated on information about government laws and new medical technology. This is because amendments or technological advances could affect a policy’s coverage or the way claims are handled. Continuing education courses are an ideal way of remaining updated. You could enroll in a school program, take courses online or attend seminars for claims adjusters.

Also, many companies provide the necessary training to help employees stay informed of changes in the industry.

Skills required to become an insurance claims adjuster

Being a successful insurance claims adjuster requires several important skills. Common skills that effective insurance adjusters have include:

Communication skills

Insurance adjusters regularly interact with multiple people, including insurance policyholders, insurance companies and witnesses involved in an insurance claim. Being able to communicate effectively is an important part of being an insurance adjuster and can ensure that all parties receive adequate and up-to-date communications regarding a claim.

It’s important that these individuals can communicate both orally and in writing.

Time management skills

As an insurance adjuster, you may be responsible for multiple claims at once. You need to manage your time to handle all of your tasks and be efficient at your job. This is especially true for independent claims professionals who work in catastrophe claims, as many policyholders’ claims might be time-sensitive.

Computer skills

Insurance claims adjusters rely heavily on computers and software programs to do their jobs. Most insurance companies use electronic means to deliver claims estimates and updates relating to claims, making it imperative that insurance adjusters know how to use computer systems.

Skills like using email, creating documents, and navigating claims adjusting software can all be helpful.

Benefits of becoming a claims adjuster

Claims adjusters have very stable careers: there is always demand for this role, and even in a recession, there will always be a need for adjusters to come and estimate the damage caused by natural disasters for individuals, businesses, and corporations. In addition, it’s pretty easy to become a claims adjuster, if you’re willing to put in the work and pass the licensing exam.

In addition, claims adjusters have a lot of freedom in their work. It’s a mobile job, but claims adjusters work on everything from estimating hurricane damage to doing paperwork, consulting, inspection, and more. It’s a job that you can build to focus on what you love and hire out for the parts you don’t. Especially if you’re an independent claims adjuster, you can choose how you charge for the job and how you’re paid.

How much do insurance claims adjusters make?

Insurance adjusters earn a mean annual salary of $73,380 or an hourly rate of $35.28, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While entry-level salaries can be significantly lower than this figure, industry veterans with an established reputation and professional network can earn a six-figure salary.  

In coming up with the national average, the BLS factored in all types of insurance adjusters, including specialists that handle property, casualty, life, health, and other forms of claims for an employment estimate of 285,270. The table below reveals the percentile wage estimates for “claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators” based on the bureau’s latest Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS).   

Percentile Wage Estimates (Insurance Adjusters)
PercentileAnnual wageHourly wage
50% (Median)$72,230$34.73


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