Welcome to the forum. We need young people such as yourself in our graying profession and I wish you all the luck in the world. The problem with some of the advise is it is hard to know who is ethical or unethical. Especially when first coming into the industry. It is hard enough simply doing the actual technical work (when first starting off). Many forget there are stages. The first of which is understanding the process (just knowing where to get the information). The second is performing the process (actually being able to write the report). And the final is knowing the rules of the process. You can have all the classes on the rules of the process but without knowing how to perform the process most of the time they have little meaning with the exception of the obvious (do not lie or fudge any factual information). What others are pointing to is you will need to rely on a mentor who understands, can perform and knows the rules of producing creditable appraisals. Then of course, they need to be hiring. A pretty tall order under current economic conditions. Timing is everything.
If you find an entry port, after a couple of years, you will start coming to an understanding of the appraisal process and how to communicate your work to clients. At about 5 years you will begin to believe you are the only one in the world that fully understands what you are doing. This stage last from 5 to 10 years depending on your personality (yet some never grow out of this). This stage is necessary. It is the confidence stage. The reason it is necessary is you will have endless discussions with clients, brokers and owners, trying to influence your opinion and strong opinion formulations simply helps one survive. However, it has side effects and you can read many on this forum.
Most good appraisers are open to the facts. The preponderance of the evidence is what is important. This brings us to the final stage (one that I mostly see in appraisers who are +60-years). It no longer matters what others say. You simply do what you have to with no emotional attachment based on the data. I remember sometime back, my mentor, now retired and I meet an opposing attorney (who we hammered in court the week before). We needed to do a final inspection of an area we could not originally access, ordered by the judge. The opposing attorney meet us at the property and was livid in remembrance of his loss. He attacked my mentor with every cuss word in the book. My mentor just let him talk, staying stone face the whole time. After the attorney was finished my mentor simply said, in a very clam voice, "does this section have a basement"? The attorney just pointed to a door and did not say a word thereafter, until we were about to leave. While going out the door the attorney apologized for being so upset. Again, my mentor simply smile and said "don't worry about it". I found that amazing as a hot headed young man.
But you asked, what should be your next step and the above could be many years off. I would contact some of the larger lenders or institutional users who need reviewers or researchers. I would also get a ICAP directory or get on their web site and start sending out your CV. If you are a college graduate I would look into the commercial side. Currently this side of the business is strong and may provide more opportunities. The AI directory would be your best bet for commercial employment.
I teach entry-level appraisal courses at a community college, and always am continually faced with similar questions from my students. I try not to phrase my responses carefully because I don't want to discourage them, but the cold fact is that breaking into this field has become extremely difficult.
There used to be (and I'm sure there still are) quite a few certified appraisers who didn't hesitate to take unethical advantage of this situation, knowing that newly licensed appraisers have difficulty finding work. A common practice was to charge associate appraisers a substantial fee to simply sign off on reports (and checking the "did inspect" box when they, in fact, never left the office). Typically, part of the deal was to have the associates go out and market their own clients, and often these were "value to order" relationships with mortgage brokerages. I've heard dozens of horror stories as have, I'm sure, most other appraisers in this forum.
My suggestion would be similar to Stephen Vertin's. I would try looking to see if any lenders are hiring staff positions. In the past, I've found that many of them sometimes prefer entry-level people who, generally, are easier to train to the institution's specific procedures, etc rather than some seasoned, stubborn, set-in-their-ways, veterna appraisers. But remember that with the constant mergers, buy-outs and corporate re-structurings, such positions usually don't last very long.