Should I Become an Auto Insurance Appraiser?
Auto insurance appraisers are typically hired by insurance companies to inspect vehicles damaged in accidents. The insurance appraiser will often travel to see the vehicle, take pictures of any observable damage, interview drivers and accident witnesses, and assess how much the insurance company should pay for repair costs. Often spending long hours in auto body shops, auto insurance appraisers also negotiate replacement parts and repair costs with shops and suppliers, as well as settling payments to claimants.
|Degree Level||High school diploma or GED is standard, although some employers prefer formal training and a college degree|
|Degree Field||Auto body repair|
|Licensure and/or Certification||Requirements vary by state, but an adjuster's or appraiser's license and valid driver's license are often required; auto repair certification often preferred|
|Key Skills||Analytical ability; verbal and written communication; interpersonal and customer service; skilled at mathematics; familiarity with word processing, spreadsheets, and appraisal software; auto body and mechanical knowledge; digital camera operation|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$63,060 yearly (for all adjusters, examiners, and investigators)|
Sources: Job postings by employers (November 2012), *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine
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Steps to Become an Auto Insurance Appraiser
Let's examine some of the steps to become an auto insurance appraiser.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree or Certification
Since auto insurance appraisers must inspect damaged vehicles and assess repair costs, employers often prefer formal training or knowledge of auto body repair. Aspiring auto insurance appraisers may earn an associate's degree or technical certificate in auto body repair technology at a community college or vocational school.
The hands-on learning techniques used by many schools and colleges prepare students with working knowledge of auto body repair using current methods and practices. Students are also trained in recognizing and diagnosing automotive problems. Understanding the design of the automobile, metalworking, glass installation, painting, and frame alignment used in auto construction is essential for a career as an auto insurance appraiser. Schools and colleges often follow industry standard training and certification programs, such as the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, I-CAR, and the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).
Learn basic computer skills: An auto insurance appraiser should have experience with computers and software for job requirements, such as communications and record keeping. Since insurance appraisers often travel to client sites, employers will usually issue laptop computers for mobile work needs. Necessary computer skills include Microsoft Office programs, especially Word and Excel, and the ability to use appraisal software.
Step 2: Become Professionally Licensed
Licensing requirements for auto insurance appraisers vary by state. Some states require pre-licensing experience or education, while other states require the individual to pass a licensing exam. A fee is often required when the license is first issued, as well as upon renewal. States requiring a license to work as an auto insurance appraiser may also require yearly educational credits towards license renewal.
Maintain a clean driving record: A driver's license and a clean driving record are usually required as a condition of employment, since many auto insurance appraisers must travel to the site of an automobile accident or to automotive body shops. Some insurance agencies also issue company vehicles for auto appraisers to use during work hours for travel to client sites.
Step 3: Decide to Work Independently or with a Firm
An auto insurance appraiser may choose to work exclusively with one insurance firm or independently as a 1099 independent contractor. Those who choose to work as an independent contractor may work with multiple insurance agencies.
Maintain familiarity with changing laws and policies: After acquiring a license, if one is required, auto insurance appraisers must remain up-to-date on new and changing state and federal laws, as well as how courts handle insurance claims. Many companies hold seminars ensuring their employees' familiarity with new policies and laws. Appraisers may also obtain continuing education through the NATEF's Continuing Automotive Service Education (CASE) program.
Auto insurance appraisers are required to have a bachelor's degree or certification, be licensed, and must decide whether to stay independent or join an existing office.