Every large company employs benefits specialists and analysts. It’s the job of a specialist to gather and interpret data about various personnel costs, make sure the company complies with current laws, present information to company stakeholders, among other things each company may require. Smaller companies or nonprofits often employ a part-time benefits analyst.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the easiest path to becoming a benefits specialist is to earn a bachelor’s degree in human resources. People who attend a university that doesn’t offer a degree in human resources degree can take individual courses, earn a certification, or take an internship or entry-level work to start gaining experience in the field.
On average, a benefits specialist earns $66,490 annually. Specialized fields in the private sector have higher average wages, for example working for an aerospace company ($92,780/year), telecommunications company ($84,310), or an insurance company ($72,270). However, employment in the public sector shows lower than average salaries for example for a state government ($54,420) or a local government ($64,220).
Hot and Cold Locations
The BLS reports that there are more available positions in east coast states, California, Texas, and the two Midwestern states of Illinois and Ohio and the average salary in these locations is higher. Employment opportunities are the worst in the Midwest, Alaska, and Hawaii and the average salary in these states is generally lower than average.
Specifically, the New York City metropolitan area has the highest number of benefits specialists positions, and the average person earns $77,980 annually. The Harford, Connecticut metropolitan area has the highest average salary at $88,480 per year. The Newark, NJ metro is a close second with an annual average of $85,890, and in third place is the San Jose, CA metro at $85,000.
The future of benefits specialists is projected by the BLS to increase 9% by the year 2026, adding 7,200 jobs across the country. Specialists are needed in every occupational sector and by nearly every business and organization. The statistics show that earning a degree in human resources or a certificate is a solid career choice.
Stepping Up to Management
People who have experience in the field may want to move up to a management position to improve their salary. There are no industry-wide requirements for qualification, but there are certificate courses that you can pass to show your competency and increase your chances of promotion. The HR Certification Institute is a professionally respected online program that offers examinations and certifications in seven primary areas. The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans offers certification courses that are valid in both the United States and Canada. The WorldatWork is another popular hub for professional development courses.
The BLS estimates that people can expect a salary increase with a promotion to an average of $116,240 annually. Similarly to specialist positions, managers can earn higher salaries in insurance and technical industries, and lower than average salaries if working for the government.
Future positions as benefits managers are expected to grow by 5% by the year 2026. This increase is slightly less than the average projected growth across all industries.
Overall, a career in human resources is a stable choice with possibilities for qualified people to move into management positions. There are many paths into a career as a benefits specialist, making it a fairly accessible career option.