How Do I Become a Public Adjuster?

Learn about the education and training requirements for becoming a public adjuster, including licensing and certification requirements. Explore what public adjusters' typical job duties entail. Schools offering Risk Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Public Adjuster?

Public adjusters work for insurance companies to assess a company's liability in the event of an accident, injury, death or property loss, depending on what type of insurance company they work for. They start by looking over claim forms and insurance coverage. After this they may conduct an investigation of a claim; conducting interviews, inspecting damaged property and reading police reports. Depending on the their conclusions, they may also negotiate settlements and recommend litigation.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required High school diploma; postecondary training or bachelor's degree needed for some advanced positions
Education Field of Study Insurance, accounting, legal assisting
Key Skills Communications, organizational skills
Licensure Required Varies by state
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3%*
Median Salary (2015) $62,980 (for all claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators)*

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

What Training and Education Is Available for Claims Adjusters?

Uniform formal education standards haven't been established for public adjusters beyond a high school diploma or GED. A college degree, insurance industry experience or a combination of both are possible ways to gain the necessary skills and knowledge. For example, you could gain experience by working for an insurance company under the supervision of an established adjuster. In this scenario, you'd move up from working on simple to progressively more complex claims as you learn more about claims investigation.

Most employers prefer to hire applicants who have degrees, but you have wide latitude in your choice of majors. A paralegal or legal assistant degree is relevant to product liability or workers' compensation cases. An engineering degree has applications in assessing property damage due to fire or natural disaster. An accounting degree is generally helpful in financial loss assessment.

A number of community colleges and vocational schools offer courses in claims adjusting through which you could receive initial training or meet continuing education requirements. These courses cover claims assessment principles and practices in workers' compensation, general liability and commercial and residential property cases. In rare instances, schools offer claims adjuster associate's degree programs. These provide a more comprehensive examination of investigative methods, case management and insurance law.

What Certifications Are Available?

The National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters offers the Certified Professional Public Adjuster (CPPA) and Senior Professional Public Adjuster (SPPA) designations (www.napia.com). You need a college degree and five years of experience as a claims adjuster to be eligible for the CPAA certification and ten years of experience to eligible for the SPPA exam. Each exam tests your knowledge of the assessment and adjustment process and common provisions in insurance forms.

Will I Need a License?

Public adjusters face varying licensing requirements from state to state. Completion of an educational program, experience in claims adjusting, passage of a licensing exam or some combination of the three are typical. Some states may also direct you to post a surety bond. Several have reciprocity agreements that will grant you a new license if you've already earned a license in another state.

What Will My Job Duties Be?

You perform many of the same duties as a conventional claims adjuster. These include collecting evidence; assessing property damage; reviewing damage assessments made by others; conferring with or interviewing clients, witnesses and other interested parties; and writing reports. However, rather than working for an insurance company, you'll represent the claimant and their best interests during settlement negotiations with or legal proceedings against insurance companies.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A large part of an adjuster's job is to determine the value of property after it's been damaged. This part of the career is related to how assessors assess the value of property for tax purposes. Taking it a step further tax examiners and collectors use these value assessments and their knowledge of tax code to determine how much a person needs to pay for property tax. Much of the clerical duties of an adjuster's can be compared to the clerical duties of procurement clerks, who oversee the purchasing and receiving of supplies.

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