Insurance Adjuster Basics

Learn the basics of insurance adjusting, the different types if insurance adjusters, and the requirements it takes to become an adjuster.

What is an Insurance Adjuster?

An Insurance adjuster or claims adjuster is responsible for helping policyholders or claimants move onto the next stage of their claim and, in many cases, return to some level of normalcy after an incident or catastrophe. 

Insurance adjusters can work on a range of claims from weather-related catastrophes to property damage to workers' compensation claims.

Keep reading for a more in-depth look at what an insurance adjuster does, the types of insurance adjusters, and how you can become one yourself. 

What Does an Insurance Adjuster Do? 

For every insurance claim, an insurance adjuster determines what is owed by the insurance company. For example, if an insurance policyholder is in a car accident, the adjuster investigates the claim to determine damages and/or injuries the insurance company will be responsible for covering. 

An adjuster investigation includes: 

  • Receive an initial report or First Notice of Loss (FNL)
  • Interviewing witnesses 
  • Speaking with the claimant
  • An inspection of all property involved including photos and measurements
  • A review of any relevant medical or police records
  • Pay out of the claim directly (this is uncommon)

The types of claims an adjuster is responsible for will depend on the type of insurance adjuster they are licensed as.

Become an Adjuster

To work as an insurance adjuster, you’ll need a state adjuster’s license.

Read our full guide to How to Get Your Adjuster License to get started.

Types of Insurance Adjusters

There are several different types of insurance adjusters; staff adjuster, desk adjuster, daily claims adjuster, independent adjuster, catastrophe adjuster, and public adjuster. 

However, these roles all involve investigating insurance claims, reviewing evidence, and determining the responsibility of the insurance company.

Keep in mind, licensing requirements sometimes vary based on the type of insurance adjuster and the state(s) you’ll be operating in. Be sure to review licensing requirements for your state.

Here are the main types of insurance adjusters:  

Independent Adjuster

Independent adjusters work as contractors with an IA firm and are ideal for adjusters craving flexibility. During periods with a substantial uptick in claims, such as a catastrophe or other incident, large insurance companies will outsource claims to IA firms. 

Once the claim is received, it is directed to an independent adjuster who will travel to investigate the claim. Often, but not always, independent adjusters pursue catastrophe adjusting. 

Read More: What is an Independent Adjuster
Take Action: How to Become an Independent Adjuster

Catastrophe Adjuster

Catastrophe adjusters travel to weather-related incidents or the affected areas as well as other emergencies to investigate insurance claims. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and extreme heat are common sources of work for this type of adjuster. 

These adjusters receive CAT claims from IA firms to investigate claims which can take a number of days to complete. 

Staff Adjuster

Staff adjusters work exclusively for insurance companies to investigate claims.

This is typically a salaried position that includes benefits such as medical/dental coverage, pension, and continued education. If you’re looking for a steady, 9-5 adjusting role, an employee adjuster or staff adjuster might be the role for you.

Read more on our guide: What is a Staff Adjuster.

Desk Adjuster

While desk adjusters and remote adjusters may seem similar to a staff adjuster, there is one key difference. Desk adjusters work primarily from one location, commonly a corporate office, home office, or call center, receiving information and images from the claimant, a field adjuster, or a third-party. 

For many new adjusters, the desk adjuster role can be a perfect method of gaining experience as these roles are usually entry level and can often span the course of only a few months. Additionally, this can be a great option for adjusters with physical limitations. 

Daily Claims Adjuster

Daily claims adjusters are typically a remote role. However, unlike other independent adjusters such as catastrophe adjusters, daily claims adjusters don’t commonly travel to weather-related incidents or handle catastrophe (CAT) claims. Instead, this type of adjuster usually works with local, smaller insurance adjuster (IA) firms. 

This role typically requires experience and is not an entry level position. 

Public Adjuster

Rather than working for an insurance company, public adjusters work on behalf of the policyholders. 

Typically a contract position, public adjusters often help file claims on behalf of individuals and businesses that are not being covered or accepted by insurance companies. 

This type of adjuster role is different from any of the others on this list in both the type of work involved as well as the required licensing. 

How to Become an Insurance Adjuster 

Becoming an insurance adjuster requires an adjuster license, certifications and training, and then finding work. 

To learn more about how to become an insurance adjuster, check out our in-depth guide. 

Step 1: Get a License 

The first step to becoming an insurance adjuster is obtaining the required license(s). If your state requires a license to operate as an insurance adjuster, you will need to acquire a license in that state.

Select Your State

If your state does not require an adjuster license to operate and you would like to work as an adjuster in more than one state, you can opt to apply for a Designated Home State (DHS) license. 

Once you have your DHS license or home-state license, you can apply for additional licenses in other states. If you are looking to work as an adjuster in more than one state you will need licenses to operate in any state that requires a license which generally requires only a fee. 

Step 2: Obtain Necessary Certifications and Training

In order to work as an insurance adjuster, you will need to be trained on Xactimate, the industry-standard software for insurance adjuster. In some cases, you may need to be trained and certified on this software before you’re licensed. 

To get started with Xactimate, start with this guide. 

Step 3: Find Work 

Once you are licensed and trained, you’re ready to find work as an insurance adjuster. This looks different for each type of adjuster. For example, independent adjusters and catastrophe adjusters will need to apply to Independent Adjuster (IA) Firms. 

Alternatively, adjusters such as staff adjusters, desk adjusters, or daily claims adjusters will likely seek longer term contracts through insurance companies or local IA firms.

Adjuster Licensing FAQ

What is the job description of an insurance adjuster?

An insurance adjuster investigates claims to determine the amount owed by the insurance company.
This involves interviewing witnesses, inspection of all property involved in the claim, and review of associated medical and/or police records.
Insurance adjusters can work as independent contractors or salaried employees. 

How do I become a claims adjuster with no experience?

To become an insurance adjuster you will need to acquire a license in your state.
While some states do not require licenses to operate as an insurance adjuster, it is recommended that you obtain a Designated Home License from another state. For this purpose, we recommend Florida.

Are insurance adjusters in demand? 

Insurance adjusters are constantly in demand due to the steady stream of insurance claims from catastrophes, accidents, and daily occurrences or incidents. However, work may be more consistent depending on the type of insurance adjusting you are doing.

Why become an insurance adjuster? 

Depending on the type of insurance adjuster you decide to become, this role can provide location flexibility and the opportunity to make substantial money in a small period of time. Or alternatively, there are adjuster roles, such as desk and staff adjusters, that provide financial security and steady work. 
Becoming an insurance adjuster offers plenty of opportunity and freedom over your time and location.

How much do insurance adjusters make?

Adjuster salaries vary widely. Inexperienced staff adjusters start around $50,000 - $60,000, while more experienced independent adjusters can easily bring in $100,000+, and even more on busy years.