Benefits Specialist Career and Salary Profile
As part of a company’s human resources (HR) team, a benefits specialist manages compensation and benefits programs and ensures compliance with federal and state laws. Combining a human resources administration minor with any bachelor’s degree program is a great way to gain the skills needed to succeed as a benefits specialist.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts faster-than-average employment growth for all human resources specialists – including benefits specialists – in coming years. As companies face increased competition for qualified employees and as employment laws and healthcare coverage options continue to change, there should be high demand for human resources professionals with compensation and benefits expertise.
Benefits Specialist Job Duties
Benefits specialists administer a company’s employee benefits and retirement programs –an important part of overall compensation for employees. Managing these programs may include coordinating 401(k), pension, profit-sharing and stock ownership plans. Benefits specialists are also responsible for researching and analyzing healthcare plans, including medical, dental, vision and disability insurance.
Designing a comprehensive benefits package to meet the needs of a changing workforce is another requirement for benefits specialists. They will generally evaluate the costs and value of offering perks such as wellness programs, life and long-term care insurance, smoking cessation and employee assistance programs, in addition to flexible benefits plans overall.
Additional job duties benefits specialists may perform include evaluating job positions for classification, status and salary requirements; planning, developing, evaluating and communicating techniques for compensating employees; and advising management on resolving benefits issues.
Building and maintaining relationships with health and retirement plan providers is yet another key aspect of a benefits specialist’s position. These professionals may also assist employees by explaining benefits and appealing decisions made by insurance companies. Some are required to review vendor invoices, resolve disputes and report on fees and costs.
Most human resources staff members, including benefits specialists, work in an office setting. A standard 40-hour week is typical. Travel to meet with vendors may be required.
BLS data from May 2009 indicated that as a whole, compensation, benefits and job analysis specialists earned an average annual salary of $58,520. The middle 50% earned between $43,340 and $70,130, while salaries for the lowest 10% were around $34,960. The highest 10% brought in upwards of $86,540 per year.
In looking specifically at a benefits specialist role, national salary data on PayScale.com showed that these professionals earned an average salary ranging from $36,918 to $52,367 as of October 2010. Recent bachelor’s graduates will generally start out toward the lower end of these salary ranges. The top salaries generally go to benefits specialists with extensive experience and advanced education or certification.
Education and Training
When seeking to fill benefits specialist positions, many employers look for candidates with a bachelor’s degree in business or interdisciplinary studies, along with knowledge or experience in human resources. These skills can be obtained by incorporating a human resources administration minor as part of an undergraduate degree program.
The path to a successful benefits specialist career can begin with enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program in business administration, applied psychology with a concentration in organizational psychology or a related field with a minor in human resources administration. HR coursework typically includes compensation and benefits, organizational behavior and development, management of human resources, and administrative and personnel law.
Employers can be confident that graduates of a human resources administration program are able to:
- Apply organizational training theory, methodology and evaluation to real-world business situations.
- Understand the legal issues relating to wages, pay equity and benefits.
- Comprehend the forces shaping current and future training and development practices.
- Complete the Professional in Human Resources (PHR®) and Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR®) certification exams.
- Leverage advanced skills and knowledge to succeed as a benefits specialist.
Many employers offer opportunities for continuing education. It’s possible to gain an entry-level position with a bachelor’s degree and use tuition assistance to further your education.
Could a Benefits Specialist Career Be the Right Choice for You?
The ideal skill set for a benefits specialist includes excellent written and verbal communication skills, attention to detail, strong interpersonal skills and the ability to think rationally and analytically. Together with general business knowledge, a strong foundation in human resources will place you ahead of the competition for the best jobs in this field. A bachelor’s degree with a minor in human resources administration will demonstrate your capability to thrive in a benefits specialist career.