Employee Benefits Manager
Employee Benefits Manager
Education and Training: College
Salary: Median—$66,530 per year
Employment Outlook: Very good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Employee benefits managers, sometimes referred to as employee benefits specialists or professional benefits administrators, are responsible for developing and administering employee benefits programs, such as pension plans, 401(k) retirement plans, medical and life insurance, and education benefits. Their duties include researching, designing, and evaluating the benefits options offered to employees by a business or government agency. They may also offer financial counseling for employees who are near retirement.
The complexity and scope of employee benefits has been growing in recent years. In addition to conventional health insurance and pension coverage, many employers now offer benefits in the form of dental and optical insurance, disability and accidental death insurance, homeowners' insurance, stock options, and thrift savings plans. Because of its substantial financial value, employers increasingly use their employee benefits package to recruit capable workers.
Some employers sponsor or subsidize services that provide their employees with child care, counseling, or recreation and physical fitness programs. Education benefits for employees and for their children may also be provided.
Employer-sponsored benefits sometimes encourage employees to make longer-term job commitments, because employees must wait a period of time before they can collect certain portions of their benefits package. This is particularly true in the case of thrift savings plans and retirement pensions.
Employee benefits managers must be familiar with laws and regulations governing employee benefits. In addition, they must be aware of employer tax incentives associated with certain benefits.
Employee benefits managers are employed by government agencies, by medium and large corporations, and by consulting firms that specialize in employee benefits management. Rather than maintain an in-house benefits management staff, some employers, especially smaller ones, hire independent consulting firms to design or revise their employee benefits package. They may choose firms that have expertise in the benefit needs of local government agencies, nonprofit companies, small private universities, or whatever their particular organization might require.
Education and Training Requirements
Although some employee benefits managers are high school graduates who have learned their duties through on-the-job training, most managers have a bachelor's degree. Specialized programs that offer certification in employee benefits are available at the master's level in some colleges and universities. College courses in business law and administration, economics, finance, and accounting offer useful preparation for this field. Training in the use of computers is also helpful. Several states have licensing requirements for people holding this job.
Getting the Job
Employers in private industry often advertise job openings on the Internet and in newspapers and professional journals. They also recruit through employment agencies and sometimes at colleges and universities. Your school's placement office may be able to help you with job leads. If you are interested in government work, arrange to take the necessary civil service examination. You can contact your local civil service representative for information about government job openings and exam requirements.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
College graduates with advanced degrees will have the best chances for advancement. Some employee benefits managers can advance through self-employment as benefits consultants.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of employee benefits managers was expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. Because of the increasing complexity of laws and regulations governing employee benefits, specialists in this area will be in high demand.
Employee benefits managers generally work a standard thirty-five- to forty-hour week. They may work alone or as members of a team of personnel workers. Employee benefits managers must be skilled at conducting research, analyzing complex data, working with numbers, and maintaining comprehensive records.
Where to Go for More Information
International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
18700 W. Bluemound Rd.
Brookfield, WI 53045
International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists
18700 W. Bluemound Rd.
PO Box 209
Brookfield, WI 53008-0209
Society for Human Resource Management
1800 Duke St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
World at Work
14040 N. Northsight Blvd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Earnings and Benefits
The median annual salary for employee benefits managers in 2004 was $66,530, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employee benefits managers usually receive paid vacations and holidays, health and life insurance, and pension plans.