How to Become an Insurance Adjuster

Author: Ethan Peyton
Updated:

Insurance adjusting is one of the last great unknown career paths left in the US. 

Independent adjusters often bring in more than $100,000 per year, yet aren’t required to have a college degree or highly-specialized skills. If you learn the role and get yourself on the right track, this is a career that can lead to an excellent life.

This article covers how to become an insurance adjuster. We’ll go over the different types of adjusters, requirements of the role – including licensing, helpful certifications, and how to land the right job for you.

Recommended Course

Adjust This recommends AdjusterPro for required pre-licensing courses and exam prep.

Insurance Adjuster Requirements

The list of requirements to become an insurance adjuster is fairly short. Though some of them take a bit of time and effort, the fact that there is no college or other traditional education requirement is a major advantage of this career.

These are the requirements you’ll need to fill to become an adjuster:

  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • An insurance adjuster license in your home state
  • Additional out-of-state licenses for other states you’ll work in
  • Certain criminal charges on your record prevent the ability to get a license
  • Specific types of adjuster roles have additional requirements (noted below)

Types of Insurance Adjusters

There are multiple types of insurance adjusters. Each role offers certain advantages and disadvantages. Depending on your specific needs and wishes, you can follow a path that makes the most sense for you.

  • Independent Adjuster – This is the most common role. You’ll work in the field as a contractor for one or multiple independent adjuster firms (IA firms) and handle claims for many insurance companies (providers). Independent adjusters have a high income potential, but have less control over their schedule or travel.
  • Staff Adjuster – This is the second most common role. Staff adjusters work directly with one insurance company as a regular employee. This role makes sense for those who are willing to trade some of the income potential for a more consistent schedule and workflow. Note: Some states don’t require staff adjusters to carry a license.
  • Desk Adjuster – This is a sub-role of the independent adjuster. You’ll work as a contractor for IA firms, but your work will mostly be done sitting in front of a computer. This can be a work-from-home option for folks who would rather not leave the house for work.
  • Catastrophe Adjuster – This is also a sub-role of the independent adjuster. You’ll travel to impacted areas to work claims that arise from weather events. This is the most common role for new adjusters, as catastrophes are generally wide-spread and require as many hands on deck as possible. Experienced cat adjusters can make very good money, but your schedule will be less predictable.
  • Daily Adjuster – This is another sub-role of the independent adjuster. Daily claims adjusters work in their local area on all types of claims. This role combines the income potential of cat adjusting with less travel requirements, but is generally only offered to adjusters with more experience.
  • Public Adjuster – Public adjusters are a wholly different breed of adjuster. Instead of working on behalf of an insurance company, public adjusters represent the party that is making the claim. Licensing requirements are more stringent, they’re required to carry a surety bond, and the incentive structure is different from other adjusters.

Insurance Adjuster Licensing

The first step to become an insurance adjuster is getting an adjuster license.

Insurance adjuster licenses are regulated at the state level, meaning that every state’s licensing process is a bit different. This also means that you’ll need a license for each state you wish to work in (except for non-licensing states – discussed later).

The first state that you’ll get your license in is your home state – the state in which you live. This process requires a few steps:

  • Pre-licensing / Test Prep Course – Some states require a specific number of pre-licensing coursework hours in the licensing process. In states that don’t have a pre-licensing requirement, a test prep course will give you the knowledge required to pass the state’s adjuster exam. These courses start around $180.
  • Adjuster Exam – Each state requires passing a written exam before issuing a license. These exams are generally between 50 and 200 questions, cost between $50 and $150 per attempt, and require 70% correct answers to pass. These exams are generally pretty tough, which is why we recommend taking a test prep course and adequate study.

Recommended

Adjust This recommends AdjusterPro for all pre-license and test prep courses. They are the industry standard and offer the most comprehensive courses to help you pass the exam and get your license.

  • Application and Background Check – To get your license, you’ll submit an application to your state’s insurance department. They’ll run a background check (often requiring fingerprinting) to ensure that you don’t have any criminal marks on your record that would disqualify you to get a license. Applications vary greatly in price depending on the state.

Non-Licensing States

There are 17 states that don’t require a license to adjust claims. If you live in one of these states, you might think you wouldn’t need a license to become an adjuster. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.

While it’s true that you don’t need a license to legally adjust claims, getting hired without a license is a different story

IA firms get lots of applications, which means they are able to select only the adjusters they see most fit to work with. If you don’t have a license, you’re putting yourself at the bottom of the list.

So if you live in a non-licensing state, but need a license to become an adjuster, what do you do? This is where the designated home state license (DHS) comes in.

Simply put, A DHS license allows folks in non-licensing states to choose a state to act as their home state. This opens up their ability to get a home state license, which then allows them to apply for additional states’ licenses.

Tip

We recommend the Florida Designated Home State License to folks that live in non-licensing states. Their licensing process is the most streamlined, making it the simplest state to get a DHS license in.

An added advantage of the Florida DHS license is that AdjusterPro offers a course that includes the state’s adjuster exam – making the licensing process simpler, faster, and less expensive.

Out-of-State Adjuster Licenses

As mentioned, you’ll need to have a license for each state you wish to work in (aside from non-licensing states).

Fortunately, you won’t need to take an exam for each state in which you need a license. Once you have your home state license, all you need to do is apply for the license and pay the application fee.

It’s common for independent adjusters to get licenses in several states – especially those surrounding their home state. This opens up your ability to work in multiple locations and makes you a better applicant for IA firms.

Note

New York, California, and Alaska don’t offer any reciprocity with home state licenses, meaning that to get an adjuster license in any of those states you will need to go through their entire licensing process – including pre-licensing coursework and an exam.

Independent Adjuster Career

If you’re interested in a high income potential and willing to travel and flex your schedule, we recommend the independent adjuster path.

Independent adjusters work on a contractor basis with IA firms. In the beginning, you’ll want to sign up for work with as many different IA firms as possible. To do this, you’ll reach out to individual IA firms and put in an application to join their roster.

Just because you’re rostered doesn’t mean that you’ll be called for work, however. You’ll need to find a way to stand out against the crowd in order to have claims assigned to you. Here are a few things you can do to put your application above the others:

  • Build a relationship with your point of contact at IA firms
  • Display a strong customer service skill set
  • Get licenses in high-claim states and be willing to travel
  • Get certifications and training that highlight your knowledge of the insurance claims process

It’s worth noting that many independent adjusters get their first chance at a claims deployment during a storm or catastrophe event

This means that you’ll need some patience if you don’t get the call right away. It may also mean that you may need to hold on to that resignation letter for your current job before you get the call to come work a storm. The #1 reason new adjusters fall out of the industry is not having the savings or income to support their expenses prior to and during their first deployment.

After you build some experience, you can work with your IA firm of choice to work from home as a desk adjuster or work locally by taking daily claims. Both of these options keep you on the independent contractor path, but allow you to sleep in your own bed every night.

Check out AdjusterPro’s directory of IA firms to start applying to rosters and building relationships.

Staff Adjuster Career

The other common entry path into the world of adjusting is becoming a staff adjuster. This path loses some of the income potential, but offers a more consistent schedule and pay structure.

As opposed to working as a contractor, you’ll be hired as an employee to one company – generally an insurance company.

This path is akin to finding and applying for any other job. As with the independent adjuster path, you’ll want to stand out against other applicants. The same suggestions above apply for staff adjusters, so check out the list above before applying.

Check out StateRequirement’s Adjuster Job Board to find open staff adjuster jobs in your area.

Insurance Adjuster Certifications and Training

The last item in the path to becoming an insurance adjuster is getting adjuster certifications and training.

For staff adjusters, it’s pretty simple: find a job and you’ll get on-the-job training.

For independent adjusters, it’s a little more in-depth.

There are lots of certifications and training courses available for adjusters, so we’ll list the top and most common ones here:

  • General claims handling training (included in some AdjusterPro test prep courses)
  • State Farm Property Adjuster Certification (available through IA firms that work with State Farm)
  • Xactimate Certifications (we recommend at least level 1 – Xactimate Fundamentals)

Once you get a bit more experience you can look into certifications that further your knowledge or give you access to specialized claims like auto, marine, crop, flood, etc…

Become an Adjuster FAQ

How long does it take to become an insurance adjuster?

Getting your adjuster license takes between 2 and 6 weeks depending on your course, exam, and study schedule. The time it takes to get a deployment as an independent adjuster or finding a job as a staff adjuster is completely dependent on your market and drive.

How much does it cost to become an insurance adjuster?

The main cost in becoming an insurance adjuster is the license. Depending on your state, licensing could cost as little as $250 or as much as $800+.

How much do insurance adjusters make?

New staff adjusters can expect between $50k-$76k, while the overall average salary range goes up to about $100k. Independent adjusters have a bit more variation, but new adjusters working full contracts start around $65k. Depending on the market and your experience level, independent adjusters can make upwards of $150k+.

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