What is an Independent Adjuster?


In general, there are two types of insurance adjusters with very different work environments and responsibilities: staff and independent. Both types of adjusters investigate insurance claims and determine if the claimant is owed money and how much they may be owed. However, a staff insurance adjuster usually works within a defined area, and much of their work may get done via phone calls.

An independent insurance adjuster could end up working anywhere in the world. Adjusters that primarily investigate home or disaster-related claims may get sent to a hurricane-ravaged area for months or an area devastated by wildfires. While this may sound exciting, it does take quite a while to get the experience typically necessary to land a traveling job.

Most independent insurance adjusters work for a company or firm that contracts them to insurance companies for deployment to disaster areas or to help with employee shortages. Obviously, the scenarios vary based on the needs of the industry and insurance companies at the time. In short, expect to work with a diverse list of clients and claims as an independent insurance adjuster.

Do I Need Special Qualifications or Education?

There's no easy answer to this question since the laws in your state may be different from those of neighboring states. A few states allow insurance adjusters to operate without oversight by a licensing board. However, states that require a license may not honor your state's laws or licensing, so you may not be able to work in some states with securing a license there.

Many independent insurance adjusters were formerly staff adjusters. If you’re thinking about breaking into the field, it may be a good idea to work as a staff adjuster first to gain some experience, as it can be difficult to secure work as an independent adjuster without some under your belt.

You don’t need a college degree to become an independent insurance adjuster, but some companies and firms may require one. Check with prospective employers to find out what their minimum qualifications are for the job. Companies that hire independent insurance adjusters typically value skills and experience over education.

That said, if you get a bachelor’s degree and plan to work as an insurance adjuster, focus on studies that improve analytical, math, and communication skills. If you want to be an independent medical insurance claims adjuster, you’ll need to understand the basics surrounding medical terminology and procedures. A company may train you if they hire you, but you’ll be more appealing with a focused degree.

What Will My Duties and Responsibilities Be?

Insurance claims vary wildly but insurance adjusters tend to work within their area of expertise. If you work for an automobile insurance company, you may work with small claims like simple accidents or as a total loss adjuster. You'll review and investigate the claim, then make the final decision on whether the request is valid and how much the claim is worth.

If you think this is the field for you, be prepared to work with time constraints and a heavy workload. You’ll have to work several claims at one time. Some insurance adjusters may see 100 or more claims come across their desk each month. You’ll be responsible for settling that many claims each month plus any claims that carry over from the previous month. You’ll have to process each claim and talk to all the people involved such as medical professionals, witnesses and injured parties.

Even though the workload isn’t easy, it’s a job that comes with plenty of rewards, and you get to look into some interesting claims. You may be surprised by some of the things people do that end in a trip to the emergency room!

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry is stable. Many job sites online are loaded with job openings for insurance adjusters. It is important to do your homework and put in plenty of time researching job opportunities in your area before you commit to this, or any, career choice.

Look for employers that offer on the job training and have programs to help you get your license, assuming you need one in your state. Prepare yourself to learn to love paperwork and to spend a lot of time on the phone. We urge you to investigate job opportunities and the licensing requirements in your state before choosing this career. It's rewarding and the pay is good, but it can be stressful at times and is suited for those who can handle the workload.