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

  • Campus and Online Programs
    1. Louisiana State University Shreveport

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Human Resource Management Concentration
      • Master of Business Administration - Human Resource Management Specialization
      • Master of Business Administration with a General Business Specialization
  • Online Programs Available
    2. 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
    3. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA: Human Resources
      • Master: Management/Human Resources
      • MSM in Organizational Design and Development
      • Master : Business Admin
    Bachelor's
      • BSBA in Human Resources
      • Bachelor of Business Admin
      • BSBA - Investment
    Associate's
      • AASBA in Business
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA: Human Resources
      • BA: Business Administration - Management
      • BA: Business Administration - Logistics
      • BA: Business Administration - Marketing
    Associate's
      • AA: Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Regent University

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    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership
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    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Law - Human Resources Management
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      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Kingdom Business
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business - HR Management
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      • Bachelor of Arts in English - Government
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  • Online Programs Available
    6. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Government Analytics
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    8. American National University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration
    Associate's
      • Business Administration Management - Associate
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  • Campus and Online Programs
    9. South College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Administration with a Concentration in Human Resources Management
      • Bachelor of Business Administration
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Abilene Christian University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • EdD Organizational Leadership - Conflict Resolution Track
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      • EdD Organizational Leadership
    Master's
      • Master of Science in Organizational Development
      • MBA
      • Master of Science in Management
      • Master of Arts in Conflict Management and Resolution

Featured Schools

Louisiana State University Shreveport

  • Master of Business Administration - Human Resource Management Concentration
  • Master of Business Administration - Human Resource Management Specialization
  • Master of Business Administration with a General Business Specialization

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado State University Global

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

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • MBA: Human Resources
  • BSBA in Human Resources
  • AASBA in Business

Which subject are you interested in?

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Human Resources
  • BA: Business Administration - Management
  • AA: Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Regent University

  • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Law - Human Resources Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Business - HR Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Science in Government Analytics

What is your highest level of education?

American National University

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Business Administration Management - Associate
  • Business Administration - Diploma

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