Becoming a Benefits Administrator: Job Description & Salary Info

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A benefits administrator's median annual salary is $108,000, but is it worth the educational requirements and student loan debt? Get the truth about the job duties and career prospects to decide if it's the right profession for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Benefits Administrator Career

A benefits administrator is a type of human resource manager in charge of a business's employee benefits plan, which includes retirement plans and health insurance coverage. Read about the pros and cons to decide if a career as a benefits administrator is a good fit for you.

Pros of a Benefits Administrator Career
Work is usually done in a comfortable, safe office*
Human resources managers are needed as new companies form*
Job variety: almost every industry requires human resource professionals*
Relatively high pay; as of May 2014, benefit managers made a median annual salary of $108,070*

Cons of a Benefits Administrator Career
Although a bachelor's degree in required, many schools don't offer degrees in benefit administration*
Benefit plans continue to grow more and more complex*
Benefit administrators must constantly review changing state and federal health insurance and retirement benefit laws*
New information technology may eventually limit job growth*

Source: *The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

As a company's benefit's administrator, you'll work to create the business's benefit plan and present benefit options to employees. Benefits administrators often act as negotiators and liaisons between employees in need of benefits and employers in need of cost control. This role may become more urgent as the cost of health care rises. You might be called on to design and implement company-wide health and wellbeing programs to help curb medical risks such as cigarette smoking and obesity. Aside from retirement and health insurance, you may be asked to manage other benefits, such as life insurance, flex time, disability benefits and medical or parental leave.

Job Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment for all types of human resource managers would grow about as fast as average, about 13%, from 2012-2022. Projected job growth for compensation and benefits managers was much lower, at 3%. However, increasingly complex benefits laws contribute to the demand for benefits administrators. The 2014 mean annual salary for compensation and benefits managers was $108,070. As of May 2014, the bottom-earning 10th percentile of benefits managers made $58,000, and the top-earning 75th percentile made $147,000, according to the BLS.

Career Skills and Requirements

Many employers look for benefit's administrators who earned a bachelor's degree. Since colleges aren't likely to offer degrees in benefits administration, you may want to take classes on the subject and related topics such as business law, labor relations and human resource management. You'll need top-notch communication skills because you'll be in constant contact with upper management, employees and other human resource team members. Benefits administrators must balance the company's budget and the staff's wellbeing.

What Real Employers Are Looking For

Employers need knowledgeable administrators with the ability to organize and manage complex employee benefit files. Here's a sample of some typical requirements taken from the March 2012 job boards at Monster.com:

  • A Texas medical company advertised for a benefits administrator with at least three years' corporate experience administrating stock options and 401(k) retirement plans.
  • In Iowa, an import/export company was looking for a benefits administrator with a bachelor's degree. Responsibilities included answering employee questions about benefits plans, maintaining employee enrollment in benefits programs, generating compensation and pension statements and promoting the company wellness plan.
  • A Pennsylvania higher education solutions company advertised applicants who were Certified Employee Benefits Specialists (CEBS). The company also wanted applicants who were fluent in another language, preferably Spanish.
  • In New York, an insurance company advertised for a benefits administrator with the ability to multitask and perform a number of complex benefits duties relating to flexible spending accounts, tuition reimbursement as well as health and life insurance. A college degree and 5-7 years of experience were required.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

When working towards your undergraduate business degree, take classes in business law, human resource management and business administration. Learn a second language, especially if you plan to work in a globalized industry, or one that has a large number of immigrant workers. Employers value administrators who can explain a benefits package to employees in their own language. Develop proficiency with the technology commonly used in office communication and management.

Continuing Education and Certification

Earning a graduate degree in business administration is one way to stand out, and some employers require it for the position. You may consider going to school for your Master's in Business Administration (MBA) degree with a concentration in human resource management. The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans offers the CEBS credential as well as specialty designations, including Compensation Management Specialist (CMS). The CMS and CEBS designations require you to complete specific courses, then pass an exam. Some businesses prefer this certification, while others may require it.

Other Careers to Consider

Administrative Manager

This may be a good choice for you if you like the idea of administration, but don't want to go into human resources. Administrative managers oversee the operations of a company. They coordinate the needs of the various departments, allocating business resources and managing employees. But, this is a competitive field and the BLS projects average job growth (about 15%) from 2010-2020.

Social Worker

Social work and benefits administration have some similar elements, as both jobs help promote people's physical and mental wellbeing. Social workers help people cope with medical issues and social problems such as poverty and abuse. Although social work can be psychologically rewarding, the pay is typically much lower than that of a benefits administrator. The BLS estimated that, as of May 2011, healthcare social workers made a median annual income of $49,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master - Human Resource Management
      • MS - Management
      • MS - Organizational Leadership
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Human Resource Management
      • BS - Business Management
      • BS - Organizational Leadership
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate - Human Resource Management
  • Online Programs Available
    2. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin: Human Resources
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Human Resources
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Management
      • Bachelor of Business Administration - Generalist
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctorate: Management - Organizational Development and Change
      • Doctor of Management - Global Leadership (Executive Format)
      • Doctor of Management (DM) - General Concentration (Executive Format)
    Master's
      • MBA: Human Resource Management
      • Master of Business Admin
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Administration - Human Resource Management
      • BS - Business Administration - Management
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Organizational Behavior
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration - Business Development
      • BS - Business Administration - General
      • B.S. - Psychology - Organizational Behavior
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    4. The University of Scranton

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Human Resources
      • Master of Science in Human Resources
      • Master of Business Administration
      • Dual MBA-MHA
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Human Resources Management
      • PhD in Business Admin - Human Resources Management
      • Doctor of Philosophy Organizational Leadership (PhD-OL)
      • PhD in Business Admin - Management
      • Ed.D. - Global Training and Development
      • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
    Master's
      • MBA - Human Resources Management
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Accelerated Master of Science in Organizational Leadership
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Human Resources Management
      • Master of Business Admin - General Business
      • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
      • MBA - Management
    Certificate
      • Education Specialist - Organizational Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Management (Spanish)
    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Business Admin: Human Resources
      • B.A. - Business Admin: Management
      • Business Administration, BA - Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Accounting
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Strategic Human Resource Management
      • MS in Organizational Development and Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Seton Hall University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Organizational Development
      • DBA - Management
    Master's
      • MBA: Strategic Human Resource Management
      • Master of Science in Organizational Growth and Sales
      • MBA
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
      • BS in Applied Management
      • BS in Business Admin.
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Life Coaching

Featured Schools

Colorado State University Global

  • Master - Human Resource Management
  • BS - Human Resource Management
  • Graduate Certificate - Human Resource Management

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American InterContinental University

  • Master of Business Admin: Human Resources
  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Human Resources
  • Associate of Arts in Business Administration

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Colorado Technical University

  • Doctorate: Management - Organizational Development and Change
  • MBA: Human Resource Management
  • BS - Business Administration - Human Resource Management
  • Associate of Science in Business Administration

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The University of Scranton

  • MBA - Human Resources
  • Master of Science in Human Resources
  • Master of Business Administration

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Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Human Resources Management
  • MBA - Human Resources Management
  • Education Specialist - Organizational Leadership

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Keiser University

  • Master of Business Administration - Management (Spanish)
  • B.A. - Business Admin: Human Resources
  • Associate of Arts - Accounting

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Strategic Human Resource Management
  • MS in Organizational Development and Leadership

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint John's University

  • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business

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