Benefits Administrator Jobs & Career Guide

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Benefits Administration CareersWhat is a Benefits Administrator?

Benefits Administration careers first came into being during the 1960s, when companies began growing larger and employee benefits plans became a more significant part of overall employee compensation.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for talent to fill Benefits Administration jobs will increase over the next decade due to both new job creation and the need to replace workers who have left the industry due to retirement or for other reasons. Demand will increase in firms with Human Resources departments as well as in outsourcing companies that provide Benefits Administration services for other organizations.

As businesses attempt to both manage expenses and maintain employee satisfaction, benefits compensation plans will become increasingly complex and increase Benefits Administration jobs opportunities. Outsourcing firms in particular will benefit, due to their ability to specialize and to develop and implement sophisticated benefits packages for other organizations.

There has been some movement toward implementing online, self-service employee benefits enrollment, but so far it hasn’t proved very popular and should have little impact on employment prospects for the industry. Because of the large number of choices to be made in Benefits Administration careers, and the potential risks involved when choosing benefits and compensation components, most employees are reluctant to take on the task themselves and prefer to have the expert guidance of a qualified Benefits Administrator.

What is a Benefits Administrator Responsible For?

A Benefits Administrator, sometimes known as a Benefits Administration Manager or Benefits Administration Specialist, performs a wide variety of duties and employs an impressive array of interpersonal, technical, and analytical abilities. Benefits Administrators manage workers’ employee benefits plans, including health insurance, retirement funds, and other forms of incentives and compensation. Managing employee benefits plans requires a very broad set of skills, including attention to detail, analytical ability, and good people skills.

The primary responsibility for those in Benefits Administration jobs is to create compensation packages that meet employees’ needs while at the same time helping the parent organization control costs and remain competitive in its industry. This responsibility becomes progressively more complex and challenging as employers look for ways to continue to turn a profit and remain competitive in their industry in the face of an economic downturn, without sacrificing employees’ satisfaction with their jobs. The dramatic rise in health care costs presents a further challenge for those seeking careers in Benefits Administration.

Benefits Administration Careers

The number of different types of compensation now available in employee benefits packages has grown dramatically in recent years, making  Benefits Administration careers both more demanding and more rewarding. Benefits Administrators do spend a lot of their time working with data, but they are also responsible for implementing and administering benefits plans, so some of their time is spent working with employees directly, either individually or in groups.

Benefits Administrators have traditionally been responsible for overseeing employee health insurance, pension plans, IRAs and 401(k)s, disability insurance, life insurance, long-term-care benefits and death benefits. Today’s compensation packages also include benefits such as maternity/paternity leave, child care, long-term care, preventive medicine plans, and flexible spending plans.

Benefits Administration managers and specialists must ensure that their company’s benefits plans are being properly implemented. They must verify that benefits claims meet all of the company’s requirements, and also ensure that employees receive all of the benefits to which they are entitled, including medical coverage, sick leave, and vacation time. They must also make sure that health care providers are paid for their services in a timely manner.

Those in Benefits Administration jobs are responsible for ensuring that the employees of their company fully understand the benefits available to them, along with the associated costs and the procedures which must be followed.

Where Does a Benefits Administration Work?

Benefits Administration Managers and specialists are a part of nearly every organization, from large corporations with offices all over the world to small businesses with only 30 employees. Virtually every organization with paid employees needs someone to manage the employee’s total compensation package, including health insurance, retirement plans, and other benefits.

The work environment for most in Benefits Administration careers is generally a private, or sometimes shared, office space. Work days are usually the traditional Monday to Friday work week, and work hours are generally from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or similar traditional office work schedules. Certain Benefits Administrators may be able to work from their homes for at least part of the work week. Those in Benefits Administration jobs may be employed by a private or government organization, may work for an outsourcing firm, or they may be self employed.

Benefits Administration jobs are often a part of the Human Resources department of the employing company. Most Benefits Administrators work out of their offices, but, for many, extensive travel may be required. While Benefits Administrators may work for either large or small companies, the majority of opportunities available at larger companies that have entire departments devoted to Benefits Administration.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, Human resources managers and specialists, including Benefits Administrators, were employed in virtually every industry in 2006. Human resources, training, and labor relations managers and specialists held 868,000 jobs, of which 110,000 were held by Benefits Administrators. Of these jobs, 87 percent were in the private sector, while the remaining 13 percent were with the government, administering benefits programs for public workers.

In terms of government Benefits Administration jobs, two major employers are the Social Security Administration and the Veteran’s Administration. The primary focus of each of these organizations is providing, managing, and monitoring disability benefits, death benefits, and veteran’s benefits.

What Degree is Required to Become A Benefits Administrator?

It is possible to obtain a Benefits Administration job without any higher education, but generally these would be low-level positions with limited duties and low wages. With the proper related work experience, it is possible to be promoted to a Benefits Administration Manager, if you have the required skills and a good work history.

Most Benefits Administration jobs require a minimum of an associate’s degree. The most popular associate’s degrees employers look for when filling entry-level positions include degrees in human resources and accounting.

The most common degrees for Benefits Administration specialists are bachelor’s degrees in business administration or human resources administration. Other four-year degrees that would be helpful in obtaining a job in Benefits Administration are bachelor’s degrees in public administration, finance, and statistics. Because the field is so broad, however, employers will also consider candidates with a liberal arts degree, provided their coursework included relevant areas of study.

Because of the complexity of the field and the need for Benefits Administrators to stay current on rapidly changing policies, services, technologies, and state and federal regulations, many top-level Benefits Administration jobs require graduate degrees. Many institutions specialize in offering degree programs related to Benefits Administration careers.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, advanced degrees are becoming increasingly important for many Benefits Administration jobs. In many specialties, including negotiation, mediation, and arbitration, a background in industrial relations and law is strongly preferred. Because of the complexity of the law in these areas, and the constantly evolving laws and regulations, many Benefits Administrators who specialize in the above area are lawyers.

For top management positions, a master’s degree is generally considered to be a must. The most desired master’s degrees are human resources, labor relations, and business administration with a concentration in human resources management.

Benefits Administrator Job Requirements

While there are no formal licensing or certification requirements for Benefits Administrators, earning professional credentials is a way to improve skills, gain expertise and distinguish yourself from other applicants when applying for benefits administration jobs or promotions.

Professional certifications for Benefits Administrators include the Benefits Analyst Credential (BAC), Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS), Certified Benefits Professional (CBP), and Job and Compensation Analyst (JCA) designations.

Benefits Analyst Credential

The BAC is an online credential program that focuses on strategic benefits planning in benefits administration jobs. The self-paced program consists of 12 courses covering such topics as Workers’ Compensation law, life and disability insurance, IRAs and 401(k) plans, and federal employment law. In order to earn the credential, students must pass the final exam with a score of 80% or higher.

Certified Employee Benefit Specialist

According to the non-profit International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP), for people in Benefits Administration jobs the CEBS is the most widely recognized and respected credential in the field of employee benefits and compensation.

The IFEBP oversees the CEBS program, which offers designations in three individual specialty areas: Group Benefits Associate (GBA), which focuses on health care and other group benefits; Retirement Plans Associate (RPA),  which focuses on all aspects of retirement plans, and Compensation Management Specialist (CMS), which focuses on compensation and human resources.

Certified Benefits Professional

The CBP program focuses on strategic planning and the design and management of various types of benefits plans. To earn the CBP designation, students must successfully complete six courses and nine exams.

Job and Compensation Analyst

JCA certification consists of courses in job analysis techniques, compensation planning methods, and salary survey software. Courses are available on site and online.

In addition to the above credentials, many higher learning institutions offer professional development courses for Benefits Administration specialists. Most of these courses are available online, allowing those in Benefits Administration careers obs to enhance their skills and employability on their own schedule, and from their own homes.

Benefits Administration Career Path

Depending on your educational background and professional certifications, it may take two to five of entry-level, assistant Human Resources staff work before you are able to move into the position of Benefits Administrator.

Benefits Administration candidates with backgrounds in technology, particularly information systems management, and those with legal backgrounds, will be highly sought after, as benefits plans become increasingly complex, and laws and regulations continually evolve.

Steps you can take to help smooth your transition or entry into a career in Benefits Administration include obtaining professional Benefits Administration certifications, and targeting your education toward specialty fields within Benefits Administration, such as Social Security disability benefits, veteran’s benefits, or mediation and arbitration.

How Much Money Does a Benefits Administrator Earn?

Benefits Administrators earn an average of $119,000 per year. This salary varies widely based on location, degree, experience and position. Recent figures indicate Insurance Carrier Benefits Administrators earn approximately $128,000 and Company Benefits Administrators earn around $127,000 annually. Professional Services Benefits Administrators earn on average $125,000. Healthcare Benefits Administrators make approximately $108,000 and Government Benefits Administrators can earn over $97,000.

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