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. A bachelor’s degree program in human resources management can provide the foundation for a career as a benefits specialist.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)* anticipates that the employment for workers known as compensation, benefits and job analysis specialists will grow 6% in the coming years. As companies face increased competition for qualified employees, and as employment laws and healthcare coverage options change, there should be continuing demand for benefits specialists.
What is a Benefits Specialist?
Benefits specialists work in human resource (HR) departments and may also be known as a compensation specialist. These titles are often used interchangeably because they might perform duties that are like one another. Some of these professionals work in various areas of HR, while others are assigned to specific departments. Generally, benefits specialists oversee company benefit systems and can be responsible for creating benefits packages that attract potential employees.
Without a benefits specialist’s expertise, employees could find themselves navigating complex databases and not know what to do about them if they’re not well informed. That’s where these specialists come in. They’re indirectly responsible for attracting and retaining top talent in-house and keeping up with the hiring market as well as the competition. When asked whether they’d consider better benefits over higher pay, 88% of respondents on a Harvard Business Review survey in 2017 said they’d consider the benefits, either heavily or somewhat.
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What Does a Benefits Specialist Do?
Benefits specialists administer and manage a company’s employee benefits and retirement programs – an essential part of overall compensation for employees. Job duties can include:
- Coordinating retirement, pension, profit-sharing and stock ownership plans
- 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
- Evaluating the costs and benefits of wellness programs, life and long-term care insurance, and employee assistance programs
- Evaluating job positions for classification, status and salary requirements
- Planning, developing, evaluating and communicating techniques for compensating employees
- Advising management on resolving benefits issues
- Building and maintaining relationships with health and retirement plan providers
- Assisting employees by explaining benefits and appealing decisions made by insurance companies
- Reviewing vendor invoices, resolving disputes, and reporting on fees and costs
Do Benefits Specialists Need to be Certified?
No. Most human resources management programs can prepare those pursuing a career as a benefits specialist to take on core job duties. But students considering enrolling in Florida Tech’s online degree program have the option to pursue a professional certification offered by external organizations (e.g., the HR Certification Institute) because the university offers courses that are aligned with the academic knowledge required to obtain some certifications, as acknowledged by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
Similar Job Titles
You might also want to consider different human resources roles that a Benefits Specialist can fill either after years of experience in their current role or simply as a part of a job transition:
The average annual salary for compensation, benefits and job analysis specialists was $63,000 as of May 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics*. Yearly salaries for the highest 10% of earners exceeded $102,400. Like employment opportunities, potential salary ranges are determined by a variety of factors, such as a candidate’s work experience and level of educational attainment, as well as regional market conditions.
How to Become a Benefits Specialist
The journey to a career as a benefits specialist can begin with enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program in human resources management. HR coursework typically includes compensation and benefits, organizational behavior and development, management of human resources, and administrative and personnel law.
Graduates of a human resources management program should be 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
Most job prospects can come to those with a bachelor’s degree and five years or less of work experience performing compensation analysis or benefits administration. Benefits specialists who secure an entry-level position with a bachelor’s degree may be eligible for employer-provided tuition assistance to further their education.
Could a Benefits Specialist Career Be the Right Choice for You?
Typical attributes for benefits specialists include 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 can help prepare individuals to thrive in a benefits specialist career.
Interested in learning more about professional opportunities that impact critical business factors? Check out Florida Tech’s 100% online BA in Human Resources Management program.
*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists, on the internet at https://www.bls.gov/oes/2017/may/oes131141.htm (visited December 4, 2019).
National long-term projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth. Information provided is not intended to represent a complete list of hiring companies or job titles, and program options do not guarantee career or salary outcomes. Students should conduct independent research for specific employment information.