4 Steps to Become a Cat Adjuster
This is a revised post taken from a popular article originally published last year on Ezine:
Independent catastrophic claims adjusting or “cat” adjusting is an exciting, lucrative, and relatively unknown occupational niche in the insurance industry. When disaster strikes, cat adjusters or “storm troopers” answer the call to assist insurance policyholders in recovering from their losses. The work is challenging, personally fulfilling and can be surprisingly profitable. Follow these 4 steps to become a licensed, trained, ready-to-deploy cat adjuster:
#1: Obtain Your Adjuster License
It is highly recommended that you obtain an adjuster license as a first step in this career. Obtaining a license demonstrates to hiring companies that you are a legitimate applicant, that you know the basics of claims practice and policy, and that you are legally certified to handle claims in the state you are licensed in. As a general rule, it is best to first obtain a license in the state of your residence. Many states, however, do not require a license to operate as an adjuster. Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia are but a few examples. In this case it is suggested that you obtain either a Texas adjuster license or Florida adjuster license. Both licenses are very well respected and highly reciprocal – meaning you can obtain other states licenses with them without having to take that state’s exam or required coursework. Texas and Florida adjuster pre-licensing courses, which satisfy all requirements for obtaining their respective state licenses, are available in either a classroom or online setting. Course tuition will average $300 for online and $500 for classroom. After the course has been completed and you have submitted your application to the regulating authority, you can expect to be a licensed adjuster in just a few weeks.
(UPDATE as of 8/22/2012 – In addition to Texas and Florida, Indiana’s new PreLicensing option is a particularly excellent route for independent adjusters looking to obtain licensure in the industry. It may even be better than Texas and Florida for residents of non-licensing states. For more details, check out a recent blog called Changing the Game in Adjuster Licensing – Daniel Kerr)
#2: Obtain Critical Adjuster Training
For those making career transitions from the residential or commercial contracting industries, supplemental training may prove unnecessary. But for those who have little previous experience with construction, loss analysis, estimating software, and standard methods of repair, it is tremendously helpful to undertake some practical training. Probably the most important training a newly licensed adjuster should consider is Xactimate training. Used by roughly 75% of independent adjusters, Xactimate is the most popular estimating program today. Others, like MSB IntegriClaim, have their place, and may be preferred by particular insurance carriers. Still, Xactimate is accepted by more carriers than any other and is the best place to begin learning software estimatics. Courses, ranging from 1 to 5 days ($400 to $1,200) may be taken and courses taught by actual claims adjusters ought to be preferred over those taught by programmers.
#3: Find a Job
Becoming an adjuster doesn’t make sense unless there is work to do. While ultimately there is no silver bullet (outside the handy personal contact) for finding work, understanding the employment landscape will go a long way towards helping you land a job.
The bottom line is that the demand for independent adjusters fluctuates greatly and depends on the frequency and severity of catastrophic weather events. In 2005 and 2006, in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, finding work as a cat adjuster was almost as simple as raising your hand. 2007, however, saw surprisingly clement weather and did not produce many claims. Adjusting companies consequently could afford to be far pickier in their hiring process. 3 to 5 year experience requirements became common and job prospects were bleak for new cat adjusters. The 2008 storm season was quite active with Hurricanes Bertha, Gustav, and massive Ike making landfall. Claims poured in from the immediately impacted coast to as far north as Cincinnati and beyond in some cases (Ike). While not comparable to the historical 2005 season, 2008 created many opportunities for new adjusters to prove themselves in the field. Ultimately, because demand is weather driven, timing is crucial in finding work as an independent adjuster.
Who do I Work For?
It isn’t always correctly understood who cat adjusters work for. Lets clear this up. Technically, and for tax purposes, an independent adjuster is an independent contractor that works for oneself. Work is typically obtained, however, through adjusting firms that in turn contract with insurance companies to handle claims. For example, after Hurricane Katrina, insurance companies didn’t have nearly enough adjusters on staff to handle the massive influx of claims. Acme insurance company, as a theoretical, would then give out 10,000 claims to be handled by Pinnacle adjusting firm. Pinnacle adjusting firm in turn hires individual independent adjusters in sufficient numbers to handle the 10,000 claims. Those adjusters who work efficiently and with little oversight (babysitting) get the most claims from Pinnacle. So, if you are looking for a job as a cat adjuster, you should be looking towards getting on with adjusting firm.
Where do I Look for a Job?
There are several useful adjusting firm directories and social networks that keep you apprised of adjuster job listings. Adjusting firms maintain deployment rosters of qualified adjusters who are eligible for being put to work in the event of a catastrophe. A new independent adjuster should aspire to join as many rosters as possible. The ultimate goal is to have a steady stream of invitations to work which can be accepted or declined at your discretion. Remember, you are your own boss!
#4: Maintain Your Good Standing
Staying on top of Continuing Education (CE) requirements keeps you in compliance with your adjuster license and also gives you a legitimate opportunity to advance your knowledge base and skills as an adjuster. CE opportunities abound in both online and classroom form. Failure to maintain CE compliance can result in very steep penalties and forfeiture of your license. Considering the ease by which most states’ CE is kept this should be easily avoided.