Benefits Manager Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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A benefits manager's mean annual salary is around $118,670 Is the job worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a benefits manager is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Benefits Manager Career

Benefits managers plan and administer a company's benefits programs, which may include retirement, health insurance, workers' compensation and life insurance plans. Review the pros and cons to know what to expect from a benefits manager career.

Pros of a Benefits Manager Career
Potential for high pay (mean annual salary was $118,670 as of May 2014)*
May advance to human resources director positions**
Can work for many different types of employers (businesses, government offices, hospitals, insurance companies)*
Usually requires little to no travel since most professionals work in offices**

Cons of a Benefits Manager Career
Sluggish job growth (three percent from 2012-2022)*
Work experience required (about 1-5 years in finance, management or human resources)*
Position may require overtime hours*
Required to stay current on many legal aspects of employment and compensation*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **CareerBuilder.com job postings.

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Duties

A benefits manager's job duties may include selecting employee benefits programs through negotiations with vendors, recommending changes that can improve the competitiveness of current programs and helping employees with the enrollment process. When selecting or changing benefits plans, these managers must consider all relevant local, national and international laws to ensure that programs meet regulatory requirements. As employment and compensation laws change, managers must stay current to ensure that all requirements are being followed. They also communicate information about plans throughout their organization by giving presentations and answering employee questions.

Keeping track of employees who are eligible for certain benefits and checking that the information in the employee database is correct are some other tasks that benefits managers may perform. When an employee is terminated, takes a leave of absence or undergoes some other change in job status, the manager must note these changes to see how they affect the employee's eligibility for benefits. Reports must be compiled to keep up with all of these changes.

This career can also involve financial management duties, such as making sure premiums are collected appropriately and that carriers are billed. These tasks might require frequent interaction with payroll departments and vendors, especially when employee issues arise. In general, benefits managers often must work long hours to perform all assigned duties for their company or organization.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

Because some companies increasingly use contractors for human resources duties, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a slower-than-average job growth of three percent for compensation and benefits managers from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). Since fewer benefits management positions will be needed, competition for available jobs should remain strong. New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas and California were states with the highest employment levels in this field.

Despite the limited job growth, benefits managers can earn high salaries. The BLS reported that the mean annual wage for these managers was about $118,670 as of May 2014, and the top ten percent of workers earned over $187,000 annually. The securities and commodity contracts intermediation and brokerage industry offered the highest average wages, at approximately $158,760 per year. Managers in the lowest-paying states, including Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, Mississippi, West Virginia and Tennessee, earned approximate mean annual wages of $63,470-$89,570 as of May 2014. Delaware, Rhode Island, Virginia, New Jersey and New York had some of the highest wages; benefits managers in these states took in average wages between $128,410 and $149,800.

What Are the Requirements?

Benefits managers usually need a bachelor's degree related to business administration or human resources. Since the position requires financial analysis skills, some employers accept an accounting or a finance degree. Those in business administration or human resources degree programs may take finance courses to become more proficient in financial management. You also need expertise in federal and state employment laws regarding workers' compensation, healthcare plans, leaves of absence, retirement plans and discrimination. Some global companies may require you to know about relevant international laws.

Useful Skills

Technical skills are needed for a benefits management job, since you must use productivity software to perform calculations, design presentations and write business documents, as well as use reporting tools and human resources information systems. You must also show attention to detail in order to accurately enter large amounts of information into company databases. Strong presentation skills are helpful for speaking to large groups about benefits programs, and clear communication is a must for interacting with employees, vendors and company officers. Organization and planning skills are necessary for developing benefits plans and assessing current plans for needed improvements.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers seek experienced human resources professionals who have expertise in benefits and employment laws, along with computer skills. They also typically require applicants to have a bachelor's degree and may ask for specific certifications. Below are some job postings for benefits managers from April 2012.

  • A retail optical chain in Texas is looking for a human resources benefits manager to manage both employee benefits programs and leave administration. The candidate needs at least five years of work experience in human resources, with three years working in benefits management. Other requirements include earning certification in human resources or benefits management, as well as holding a bachelor's degree related to accounting, human resources or business administration.
  • A pest control and landscaping company in Orlando, FL, advertised for a benefits manager with five years of benefits experience, a bachelor's degree and expertise in Microsoft Office applications. The company prefers applicants with experience using human resources information systems.
  • A California entertainment firm seeks a benefits manager who is tech savvy and understands federal and state laws related to benefits programs. The candidate needs a bachelor's degree and at least three years of experience using human resources information systems. The employer prefers individuals with knowledge of sports.
  • A New York City non-profit organization is looking for a benefits manager with a bachelor's degree in business administration or human resources, at least five years of experience in benefits administration, professional certification and international benefits experience. The candidate should also be familiar with human resources reporting tools.

How to Beat the Competition

Get Certified

While it's not an absolute requirement for benefits manager positions, some companies look for professionals with certification in benefits or human resources. Two common certifications include the Certified Benefits Professional (CBP) from the WorldatWork Society of Certified Professionals and the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. Seven exams are required for the CBP credential, and test questions cover rewards management, communication, regulations, retirement plans, healthcare plans, welfare plans and outsourcing (www.worldatworksociety.org).

The CEBS designation also requires an examination, along with the completion of eight courses, including six required classes and two electives (www.ifebp.org). Required courses focus on healthcare plans, group benefits and compensation management. If you're looking for a more general certification, HR Certification Institute offers the title of Professional in Human Resources (PHR), which requires you to pass a single exam covering development, risk management, labor relations, business strategy, compensation, benefits and workforce planning (www.hrci.org). You should also typically hold 2-4 years of human resources work experience to take the exam.

Earn a Master's Degree

According to the BLS, earning a master's degree can improve your career prospects as a benefits manager and can help you stand out in this competitive career. You might want to consider a graduate program in business administration, human resources or finance. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) program with a human resources management concentration contains general business courses with a smaller set of human resources courses. If you already have a bachelor's degree in human resources and want to improve your financial skills, you could earn an MBA with a finance concentration, which may include courses in economics, financial analysis, banking, acquisitions and global money management.

Alternative Career Paths

Human Resources Specialist

If you want a human resources job that offers favorable job prospects, consider a career as a human resources specialist. You can choose to be a general HR specialist who deals with recruiting, benefits, compensation, training and administration, or you could work as a labor relations specialist and handle benefits issues in work contracts. You usually need a business or human resources bachelor's degree, and prior work experience may be necessary. According to May 2011 estimates from the BLS, human resources specialists earned a mean annual wage of about $59,000. Employment in this career was expected to increase 21% from 2010-2020, which was higher than average.

Human Resources Manager

A career as a human resources manager can provide a leadership position that offers good job prospects, a high salary and a greater variety of job tasks than a benefits management position. Some example job duties include handling employee disciplinary issues, selecting new employees, overseeing payroll and mediating workplace disputes. Requirements can include a bachelor's or master's degree, professional certification and previous human resources work experience. The BLS projected an employment increase of 13% for human resources managers from 2010-2020. As of May 2011, human resources managers earned a mean annual wage of approximately $109,000. The top ten percent of professionals made over $169,000 yearly.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Colorado State University Global

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      • Master - Human Resource Management
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      • BS - Human Resource Management
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    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate - Human Resource Management
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Baker College Online

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    Doctorate
      • Business Administration - DBA (Doctorate)
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      • Human Resource Management - MBA
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      • Human Resource Management - Bachelor
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      • Business Administration - Associate
  • Online Programs Available
    3. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR
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      • B.S. - Business Management: Human Resource Development Concentration
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    5. American University

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    Master's
      • Master of Science in Human Resource Analytics and Management
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    6. Northcentral University

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    7. Kaplan University

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      • MBA: Human Resources
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      • BSBA in Human Resources
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    8. Saint Joseph's University

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      • MS in Strategic Human Resource Management
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    Master's
      • Master of Science in Government Analytics
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Keiser University

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    Master's
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      • Associate of Arts - Accounting

Featured Schools

Colorado State University Global

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

What is your highest level of education?

Baker College Online

  • Business Administration - DBA (Doctorate)
  • Human Resource Management - MBA
  • Human Resource Management - Bachelor
  • Business Administration - Associate

What is your highest level of education?

George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
  • B.S. - Business Management: Human Resource Development Concentration
  • Associate of Science - Business Management

What is your highest level of education?

American University

  • Master of Science in Human Resource Analytics and Management

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

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

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 Joseph's University

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

What is your highest level of education completed?