Training and entry requirements vary widely for claims
adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators. Although many in
these occupations do not have a college degree, most companies prefer
to hire college graduates. No specific college major is recommended,
but a variety of backgrounds can be an asset. A claims adjuster, for
example, who has a business or an accounting background might
specialize in claims of financial loss due to strikes, equipment
breakdowns, or damage to merchandise. College training in architecture
or engineering is helpful in adjusting industrial claims, such as those
involving damage from fires or other accidents. Some claims adjusters
and examiners apply expertise acquired through specialized professional
training to adjust claims. A legal background can be beneficial to
someone handling workers’ compensation and product liability cases. A
medical background is useful for those examiners working on medical and
life insurance claims.
Because they often work closely with claimants, witnesses, and other
insurance professionals, claims adjusters and examiners must be able to
communicate effectively with others. Knowledge of computer applications
also is extremely important. In addition, a valid driver’s license and
a good driving record are required for workers for whom travel is an
important aspect of their job. Some companies require applicants to
pass a series of written aptitude tests designed to measure
communication, analytical, and general mathematical skills.
Licensing requirements for these workers vary by State. Some States
have very few requirements, while others require the completion of
prelicensing education or a satisfactory score on a licensing exam.
Completion of the requirements to earn a voluntary professional
designation may in some cases be substituted for the exam requirement.
In some States, claims adjusters employed by insurance companies can
work under the company license and need not become licensed themselves.
Separate or additional requirements may apply for public adjusters. For
example, some States require public adjusters to file a surety bond.
Continuing education (CE) in claims is very important for claims
adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators because new Federal
and State laws and court decisions frequently affect how claims are
handled or who is covered by insurance policies. Also, examiners
working on life and health claims must be familiar with new medical
procedures and prescription drugs. Some States that require licensing
also require a certain number of CE credits per year in order to renew
the license. These credits can be obtained from a number of sources.
Many companies offer training sessions to inform their employees of
industry changes. Many schools and associations give courses and
seminars on various topics having to with claims. Correspondence
courses via the Internet are making long-distance learning possible.
Workers also can earn CE credits by writing articles for claims
publications or by giving lectures and presentations. In addition, many
adjusters and examiners choose to earn professional certifications and
designations for independent recognition of their professional
expertise. Although requirements for these designations vary, many
entail at least 5 to 10 years’ experience in the claims field and
passing examinations; in addition, a certain number of CE credits must
be earned each year to retain the designation.
For auto damage appraiser jobs, insurance companies and independent
adjusting firms typically prefer to hire persons with experience as an
estimator or manager of an auto-body repair shop. An appraiser must
know how to repair vehicles in order to identify and estimate damage,
and technical skills are essential. While auto damage appraisers do not
require a college education, most companies prefer to hire persons with
formal training. Many vocational colleges offer 2-year programs in
auto-body repair on how to estimate and repair damaged vehicles. Some
States require auto damage appraisers to be licensed, and certification
also may be required or preferred. Basic computer skills are an
important qualification for many auto damage appraiser positions. As
with adjusters and examiners, continuing education is important because
of the continual introduction of new car models and repair techniques.
Most insurance companies prefer to hire former law enforcement
officers or private investigators as insurance investigators. Many
experienced claims adjusters or examiners also become investigators.
Licensing requirements vary among States. Most employers look for
individuals with ingenuity who are persistent and assertive.
Investigators should not be afraid of confrontation, should communicate
well, and should be able to think on their feet. Good interviewing and
interrogation skills also are important and usually are acquired in
earlier careers in law enforcement.
Beginning claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators
work on small claims under the supervision of an experienced worker. As
they learn more about claims investigation and settlement, they are
assigned larger, more complex claims. Trainees are promoted as they
demonstrate competence in handling assignments and progress in their
coursework. Employees who demonstrate competence in claims work or
administrative skills may be promoted to more responsible managerial or
administrative jobs. Similarly, claims investigators may rise to
supervisor or manager of the investigations department. Once they
achieve a certain level of expertise, many choose to start their own
independent adjusting or auto damage appraising firms.