Insurance Claims Careers—Restoring People’s Lives, One Story at a Time

A claims professional uses an iPad to process a claim related to a fender bender.

Claims professionals step in to help people, fulfilling the promise insurance companies make to reimburse them for unexpected financial losses.

Karen Hope’s always busy as a team manager for State Farm Insurance in Baton Rouge, La., but there’s one thing that makes the beginning of the year extra hectic.

“Once Mardi Gras starts is when the craziness kicks in,” she said, adding that it’s “a little more tame [here] and family-oriented than what you see in New Orleans, but there’s always an awful lot going on here.”

And when there’s a lot going on, well, things can be broken or damaged. That’s when Karen and her team of claims professionals step in to help people, fulfilling the promise insurance companies make to reimburse them for unexpected financial losses.

Of course, she didn’t always plan on making insurance her career. After majoring in journalism and communications, she found an opportunity in the insurance industry at a great company with great benefits. Since then, she’s held nearly every insurance job under the sun, with a heavy focus on claims. But she knows that not many people outside the industry understand what those jobs entailed.

“Talking to noninsurance people is funny,” she said. “Their idea of what insurance professionals and claims specialists do is so off base it can get quite comical.”

There are a lot of different job titles under the umbrella of “claims professional,” but they’re all focused on reacting to insurable losses and making sure that customers get the reimbursement they’re entitled to — that’s why MyPath refers to them as the Protectors of Promises.

Claims pros need to have a strong attention to detail. The ability to really dig into the nitty gritty of a claim or policy is a must. But they need to have strong people skills, too. They need to be able to listen to and empathize with policyholders who are going through a tough time in their lives and looking for reassurance and answers.

“It’s not a job for the faint of heart. You have to want to be in public service,” Hope says. “Sometimes you have to deliver bad news. You need to have your facts straight and have correct explanations for policyholders. It’s so important to make sure people understand you’re there to help. Claims professionals provide a great service. I’d hate to not have coverage when [I] need it.”

Let’s dig into what jobs people in the claims field are doing. On the front lines, there are claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners and investigators. They are the people evaluating the claims. They spend a lot of time out of the office looking into damaged buildings or vehicles. In 2014, the median salary of these claims pros was $62,300, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

There are plenty of job opportunities for claims adjusters and investigators, but the field is competitive. The BLS projects a 3 percent growth in the industry over the next 10 years, which is slower than the average of all industries. Here’s why: the feds predict that safer cars will result in fewer car accidents and auto claims to be investigated. Claims jobs in the health insurance field, however, are expected to increase significantly.

Behind the scenes, claims and policyholder services clerks keep the claims process running like a well-oiled machine. They’re the ones who chase down details needed for a policy and verify the little details that make insurance work. It’s why we like to call them the Wizards of Clause.

For many, it’s a great starting point for an insurance career. They’re essential to the industry, which is why there are more than 250,000 claims and policyholder services clerks in the U.S. — and 88,000 more jobs are expected to be added in the next decade. These pros tend to earn between $36,000 and $55,000 a year.

Regardless of specific job titles, any claims professional who’s been in the business a while is bound to have some pretty good stories.

“Get a group of claims pros together, and everyone is going to start telling war stories about the claims they’ve handled,” Hope says. “It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be funny — mostly. Everyone is going to try to one-up each other on the craziest claims they’ve seen.”