Adjuster Education Options Grow

By Lori Widmer | September 21, 2012

Undergraduate programs aren’t the only educational choices available to claims adjusters. Colleges are beginning to respond to the need for additional skill sets.

So says Peter Kochenburger, executive director of University of Connecticut’s Insurance Law Center. Kochenburger, who is also associate clinical professor of law, says that the students who attend the school’s LLM (Masters of Law) in Insurance Law courses already have their juris doctorate degree. For them, he says, insurance is a specialization.

Still, insurance claims executives who currently hold law degrees are attending the LLM courses with more frequency to give them a foundation of knowledge that spans the claim lifecycle.

Some of the individual courses that are offered in either of the two LLM in Insurance Law programs could be helpful to insurance adjusters wanting to enhance their skill set, according to Lisa Sewell DeMoss, associate professor and director of LLM in Insurance Law at Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Lansing, Mich.

Both Kochenburger and DeMoss are part of the only two LLM in Insurance Law programs in the country. DeMoss heads the Cooley program, which offers courses in partnership with Olivet College, and Kochenburger is director of UConn’s Graduate Programs. While the programs at both schools are beyond what many claims adjusters may intend for their careers, some adjusters are taking advantage of the additional coursework, and a few adjusters with juris doctorate degrees are completing the programs.

DeMoss says the courses in insurance law are available on a guest basis for adjusters without a juris doctorate, but the better opportunity lies in certification classes, such as CPCU, where she says adjusters will get a “broader understanding of the business and operational considerations that impact the business.”

While both Cooley and UConn are providing degrees and programs that are possibly useful to adjusters — degrees such as Masters in risk management or Masters in risk and insurance — there is, to most experts’ minds, no adjuster-specific offering that can help adjusters gain a comprehensive skill set in claims management.

What’s Available

The lack of specific educational opportunities for adjusters could be the result of how insurance adjusters happen upon their careers. Many start out at agencies and eventually decide to take a serious look at the adjuster position. Because the requirements in most states are relatively low, a career in adjusting is an easy choice to make.

What isn’t easy is knowing when and more importantly where one can go to improve on skills and gain an educational advantage. According to Stephen Figlin, senior professional public adjuster with Young Adjustment Co., Blue Bell, Pa., there are no Bachelor-level programs specific to insurance adjusting. Generally, the courses would be in insurance and risk management, but Figlin says they’re not offered in the adjustment of property claims or in adjustment as a specialty. As he says, the skills you need can be learned while you do the work, and each insurer will require a different type of skills.

He gives the example of his own background in commercial and industrial adjusting. He says his experience is not indicative of what all adjusters need. On the contrary, Figlin says most adjusters can get up and running with “rudimentary” skills.

The challenge begins when adjusters in the job a number of years want to up their game. Many adjusters and their employers seem content with the training that states require and that companies provide. Most national carriers and a few of the larger third-party administrator (TPA) firms have training for adjusters, says Richard Meyers, chairman and CEO of Richard Meyers & Associates Inc., Warren, N.J.

Meyers’ firm places insurance and risk management professionals, and he sees the need for more formalized educational opportunities for adjusters. He outlines skills that he believes will give adjusters career progression, such as expense management, operational change, loss reserving and forecasting, and technology that will differentiate adjusters from what Meyers calls the typical claims person.

“It is the kiss of death if you do not have any real understanding of technology, particularly when you’re dealing with the collection and aggregation of data,” Meyers says.

Yet courses and training in technology, in Meyers’ estimation, is limited to whatever the adjuster’s company is offering. He believes adjusters should become proactive in their own education and training, and not wait for companies and states to suggest or require various training. Too often, Meyers adds, adjusters don’t take the initiative to make themselves more attractive to employers.

For example, Meyers is currently recruiting for a regional workers’ compensation claims manager position. The job pays up to $100,000 with a $25,000 bonus. He was surprised that most of the candidates for the job have no claims adjusting education.

“One individual was a claims manager with a larger insurer and had no college experience.” When he asked her why she had not sought more training, she responded that it wasn’t important to her job. “Of course it’s important,” Meyers says. But he believes because it wasn’t required, the adjuster didn’t bother.

What’s Required

Even so, requirements for continuing education run the gamut from state to state. A majority of the states do require some type of continuing education (see chart). However, adjusters should not be content to accept that continuing education as the limits of their potential, Meyers says. He is a strong proponent of adjusters voluntarily advancing their education and training.

“It gets them beyond the point where they’re being looked upon as a clerk or processor,” Meyers says. Also, he says it will empower adjusters to get into the things that matter most in claims management — cost control and cost containment.

Licensure itself is a mixed bag of requirements, if any exist at all in the state. Most states have no undergraduate/graduate education requirement for licensure as a public adjuster. The exceptions: Washington requires an associate in claims program completion; Alabama, Kentucky, and Wyoming require applicants to be graduates of a recognized law school. Still, most states require an exam, and some require an educational component. Some states require nothing more than a passing grade on a licensing exam.

No matter what the requirement or lack thereof, Figlin says that education is ongoing. Figlin, who is a member of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA), on several of its committees, and as past president, says that much of the post-licensure training is required by most states.

What’s Recommended

What isn’t required, Figlin says, is earning a designation with organizations such as NAPIA, where he says adjusters can get “Masters-level” training that’s rigorous and thorough. He recommends adjusters look into the Certified Professional Public Adjuster (CPPA) certification. Yet there are requirements to meet before being accepted into the program — adjusters must have at least five years of full-time experience in adjusting just to sit for the CPPA exam. Also, applicants must have a college degree or its equivalent in education, experience or knowledge.

Figlin says the certification process is tough, but gives adjusters a more comprehensive knowledge base and skill set than any refresher licensing requirements might.

For adjusters with 10 years of experience, Figlin recommends the Senior Professional Public Adjuster (SCPPA) designation. Each examination is administered by The American Institutes for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters (The Institutes).

For independent adjusters, Figlin says there are educational programs available from Property Loss Research Bureau (PLRB), Loss Executive Association (LEA), and Risk & Insurance Management Society (RIMS). PLRB offers continuing education (CE) and mandatory attorney continuing legal education (CLE) credit. LEA offers continuing education credits. RIMS offers various workshops, courses and online education options, as well as in-company training.

Meyers finds the lack of advanced training for adjusters a “sad commentary” on how companies have cut back on costs at the expense of the knowledge. “There was such quick decision-making [during the recession] on where to cut without the foresight of trying to look through the crystal ball,” he says. “Do we really want to cut the very skills that enable employees to service our clients?”

Meyers recommends adjusters focus their educational energies on the following areas: operational change, communication, technology, data analytics, loss reserving/forecasting, and financial skills. Savvy employers, in his opinion, will invest in adjusters like they would any other business area. “The operative word is not only new product, but also retention.”

Retention is something DeMoss believes is critical to the industry. She cites studies indicating a turning over of talent and knowledge as highly skilled, long-term employees leave the insurance industry. Development of programs that attract and effectively train new talent will help. “The industry needs to reinvent itself to appear much more attractive to those best and brightest coming out of school,” she says.

Claims CE requirements by state can be found here.

This article originally appeared in the summer issue of Claims Journal magazine.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.