Note: This is a revised and updated version of an article originally published in March 2009.
H ow much insurance claims adjusters can make per annum is the subject of considerable interest and speculation to those interested in a career in claims.
Some folks have heard through the grapevine – from their girlfriend’s brother or an estranged uncle – that claims adjusting is a money tree. The money tree sits there blooming Benjamins, just waiting to be plucked by any newcomer with the inside scoop. And as an added bonus, you don’t really have to work.
Then there’s the opposite misconception: that claims adjusters make next to nothing, and adjusting is a dead-end job. This is as far from the truth as the money-tree concept, but it’s even more commonly believed.
So, how much money does an insurance adjuster really make?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, claims adjusters earned an average of $59,960 in 2012.
The top ten percent earned more than $89,810.
The bottom ten percent earned less than $36,950. This seems like a fairly significant disparity. Who is at the bottom and who is at the top?
Let’s answer that question with another question: What type of claims adjuster do you have in mind?
In general, there are two types of adjusters: staff adjusters who are salaried employees of an insurance carrier, and independent adjusters who are independent contractors working for adjusting firms. This initial difference affects both pay structure and the type of claims handled – from worker’s compensation to multi-million dollar commercial properties.
Staff adjusters are typically going to be earning less than independent adjusters and in some cases dramatically less. $35,000-$70,000 is a reasonable salary range for a career staff claim adjuster. Entry level salaries for staff adjusters average about 40k.
But an independent adjuster can make a lot more than $100,000 in
a good year, especially handling catastrophe claims.
Staff adjusters can make a good stable living. For independent adjusters, the opportunity can be a little more interesting and exciting.
Independent adjusters working catastrophe claims earn a percentage of the amount of each claim they settle. This system of payment is known as a fee schedule. and is formulated differently for each insurance carrier represented and storm situation confronted. For example:
An independent adjuster handling hurricane claims may receive a fee schedule that pays $500 for claims between $3,000 to $5,000, $650 for claims between $5,000 and $7,500, and $750 for claims between $7,500 and $10,000.
The adjuster will receive between 60-70% of the fee, with the other 30-40% going to the adjusting firm they work for.
Hurricane adjusters can easily average a $10,000 settlement per claim, which would put between $400 and $500 in their pocket per claim.
A good adjuster should be closing 2 to 4 claims per day, and a superb adjuster closes 4 to 7. Let’s do the math: with $400 earned per claim, and up to 7 claims settled per day, independent adjusters working catastrophe claims commonly earn more than $1,000 per day, and sometimes a lot more. A good independent adjuster can reach a six-figure income in less than six months !
So, is this the money tree after all?
Well, not so fast. Remember that catastrophes, especially catastrophes sufficient to employ significant numbers of adjusters, are relatively few and far between.
During “dry” spells for independent adjusters, work can be scarce and competition fierce for the claims that do come along.
That said, there is a tremendous and exciting opportunity for very real, very lucrative work when disaster does strike.
Whether its operating on staff or as an independent contractor, claims adjusting offers potential for solid and, in some cases, spectacular income.