Compensation and Benefits Managers Overview

Because of diverse duties and responsibilities, the educational backgrounds of compensation and benefits managers vary greatly. That said, the best job and advancement opportunities will go to college graduates with certification. Interpersonal skills are incredibly important in human resources careers. Over the next decade, employment growth is expected to be much faster than average.

Nature of the Work for Compensation and Benefits Managers

Compensation and Benefits Managers

Companies want to retain and motivate the best and most qualified employees and so workers in the field of human resources help achieve this goal. In the past these professionals focused on administrative functions, but now they tend to consult more with top executives and help lead the company and their policies in addition to administrative tasks.

Compensation and benefits managers sometimes specialize in a particular area such as healthcare or pensions, but overall, they’re responsible for administering compensation programs for employers as well as benefits programs. They’re often called upon to analyze job duties and determine a salary to match. Large corporations that introduce new jobs look to these experts.

Health insurance and retirement plans also fall under the responsibilities of compensation and benefits managers. Employer-provided benefits are an important part of an employees overall compensation package and as benefit plans become more complex and widely-offered experts are needed to design, negotiate and administer these programs. Retirement plans now often include a stock ownership or profit sharing plans, a 401(k) or other defined contribution plan and defined benefit pension plans. Plus, a healthcare plan might include medical, vision and dental insurance along with insurance for the possibility of catastrophic illness. As healthcare benefits begin to rise in cost and eat away at corporate budget, knowledge of health benefits is a top priority in hiring compensation and benefits managers. Many other options are also commonly offered including parental leave, wellness programs, flexible benefits plans, long term nursing care insurance, disability insurance and life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance. Compensation and benefits managers must stay up to date on Federal and state regulations and legislation that could affect employee benefits. Mental and physical health programs also fall to the compensation and benefits managers. In partnership with employee assistance plan managers or work-life coordinators, many managers integrate smoking cessation, obesity and employee assistance programs into existing health benefits programs.

Most work of a compensation and benefits managers is done in a clean and comfortable office, though some must travel to regional or international corporate offices or to meet with employees who work outside of corporate headquarters.

Most compensation and benefits managers work a standard 40-hour week, but when contract agreements must be completed or other deadlines must be met, longer hours may be necessary.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Compensation and Benefits Managers

Recommended Education Level

The education of compensation and benefits managers varies depending on job duties and the level of responsibility required. Entry-level positions usually go to college graduates who major in human resources, human resources administration or labor and industrial relations. Though some employers seek college grads with a well-round liberal arts degree or a business or technical background.

A bachelor’s degree is the common first step for compensation and benefits managers, many colleges and universities don’t offer degree programs in human resources or related fields until the graduate level. During undergraduate years, students can enroll in related courses or complete a concentration in human resources management, compensation and benefits or human resources administration.

An interdisciplinary background is typically desired so a combination of business administration, social sciences and behavioral sciences is common. Compensation and benefits managers may also need more technical skills in finance or law. In fact, courses in finance and accounting are becoming increasingly important along with core classes like principles of management, industrial psychology and organizational structure. Labor law, labor history, labor economics and collective bargaining are also strong choices for prospective compensation and benefits managers. Computer skills will also prove useful.

More and more employers are beginning to look for advanced degrees for human resources professionals seeking top-level management positions.

At the entry level, job duties will correlate with the amount of education an employee has and whether or not an internship or other related experience has been completed. Workers may start out performing administrative tasks such as researching information for a supervisor or inputting information into the computer. Often, they participate in on-the-job training programs and assigned to specific areas. With experience they can advance to supervisory positions such as compensation and benefits managers.

Experience is a great asset for compensation and benefits managers and essential for advancement to the manager level. Employers typically look for workers with experience whether through an internship or work-study program. In this field, workers need to be able to work well with others and commit to organizational goals. Some compensation and benefits managers positions are filled by workers who gained valuable experience in other field such as business or government.

Compensation and benefits managers usually must work with a variety of people from many cultural backgrounds and education levels. Those with foreign language skills will have an advantage especially for companies that work with overseas operations or large immigrant workforces. In this field, workers often need to work under pressure, demonstrate discretion and exude integrity. Compensation and benefits managers work with confidential information so they must have the character and responsibility to handle such sensitive information.

Some professional associations offer classes and certification programs to enhance the skills of human resources workers and attest to competency and credibility to improve advancement opportunities. The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans offers a designation in retirement, compensation and group benefit. Candidates must pass exams and a series of college-level courses. Those who earn the designation in all three areas earn credit toward becoming a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS). The WorldatWork Society of Certified Professionals offers designations in benefits of a Certified Benefits Professional (CBP), compensation of a Certified Compensation Professional (CCP), global remuneration of a Global Remuneration Professional (GRP) and work-life of a Work-Life Certified Professional (WLCP). Candidates must pass a series of knowledge-based exams that correspond with each designation. The organization also offers online and classroom courses for continuing education.

Some compensation and benefits managers may advance to director of human resources or industrial relations, sometimes leading to top executive or managerial positions. Opening a business or joining a consulting firm are other ways to advance. With a PhD, some compensation and benefits managers later find success consulting, teaching or writing.

Top 10 Most Popular Human Resources Schools

1. American InterContinental University (Multiple Campus Locations)
2. University of Phoenix (Multiple Campus Locations)
3. Webster University (Saint Louis, Missouri)
4. Community College of the Air Force (Montgomery, Alabama)
5. University of Oklahoma, Norman Campus (Norman, Oklahoma)
6. Central Michigan University (Mount Pleasant, Michigan)
7. Park University, NW River Park Dr. (Kansas City, Missouri)
8. Cornell University (Ithaca, New York)
9. Colorado Technical University (Multiple Campus Locations)
10. SUNY Empire State College (Saratoga Springs, New York)

See All Human Resources Schools

Top 10 Most Popular Online Human Resources Schools

1. American InterContinental University - Online School
2. University of Phoenix - Online School
3. Colorado Technical University - Online School
4. Saint Leo University Online
5. Kaplan University - Online School
6. DeVry University - Online School
7. Ashford University - Online
8. Penn Foster High School
9. South University - Online Programs
10. Strayer University - Online School

See All Online Human Resources Schools

Employment and Job Outlook for Compensation and Benefits Managers

Number of People in Profession

35,630

Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow much faster than average (increase 20% or more).

In 2008 there were 40,500 compensation and benefits managers and 121,900 compensation, benefits and job analysis specialists. These workers are found in just about every type of industry including administrative and support services, professional, scientific and technical services, healthcare and social assistance, and finance and insurance firms. A small number of compensation and benefits managers were self-employed working as consultants.

Job opportunities are expected to grow much faster than average and the best opportunities will go to college graduates who are certified.

Over the next decade employment in the human resources field should grow about 22 percent, which is much faster than average compared to all occupations. Standards are set to be revised in healthcare, wages, retirement plans, family leave, occupation safety and health and more increase the demand for compensation and benefits managers. In addition, as healthcare costs grow and coverage options expand, more specialists will be need to develop packages for current and prospective employees. Management, consulting and employment services companies will offer many jobs as more and more firms are contracting out compensation and benefits managers duties. Those who develop and administer benefits and compensation packages for other organizations will also be in demand.

The best opportunities will go to college graduates who’ve earned a certification, and especially to those with a bachelor’s degree in human resources, human resources administration or industrial and labor relations. A technical or business background or even a well-round liberal arts education can also be attractive to employers.

Demand for compensation and benefits managers sometimes changes in response to economic conditions or the business cycle. Businesses that are rapidly expanding tend to need human resources staff as permanent employees or consultants and those that are consolidating may look to cut these workers.

In addition to job growth expected for the next decade, new jobs will become available as workers retire, transfer or otherwise leave the occupation.

Earnings and Salary for Compensation and Benefits Managers

Level of experience, location, firm size and training can impact compensation and benefits managers’ salaries. Median annual wages are $86,500. The highest 10 percent earned above $147,050, the lowest 10 percent earned under $49,350 and the middle 50 percent earned between $64,930 and $113,480. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers salary survey, those with a bachelor’s degree in human resources or labor and industrial relations received starting annual salary offers of $45,170 on average.

Broken down by industry annual wages are:

Depository credit intermediation: $84,980

General medical and surgical hospitals: $86,060

Management of companies and enterprises: $94,230

Insurance carriers: $94,340

Computer systems design and related services: $97,630

Annual Salary for Compensation and Benefits Managers

On average, Compensation and Benefits Managers earn $88,050 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $50,590/yr $66,510/yr $115,180/yr $148,390/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook