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Benefits Specialist Career Guide

Do you have excellent customer service skills? Are you self-motivated with the ability to provide accurate and confidential information? Then becoming a benefits specialist might be the perfect role for you. 

A benefits specialist manages and administers the company’s employees’ benefits. They inform employees of eligibility, verify claim forms, and maintain benefit records. They will also research and analyze healthcare plans, design benefit packages, and evaluate job positions for things such as status, classification, status, and salary. They build and maintain relationships with health and retirement plan providers as well. Explaining benefits to employees is another role of a benefits specialist.  

They often work inside the HR department, and their main job will be keeping track of who does and doesn’t receive benefits. As some companies have specific trial periods where employees aren’t able to receive benefits, the specialist will need to keep track of everyone new who has been hired and when they are eligible to receive their benefits.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is looking for a benefits specialist. The main role is to act as a subject matter expert on benefit and claim questions. The majority of your time will be spent managing daily benefits processing including new enrollments, terminations, and changes. Determine and regularly monitor for benefit eligibility. You will also document and maintain administrative procedures for benefits processes. As an ideal candidate, you have proven experience planning and organizing programs and activities as well as carrying out a variety of administrative and program management tasks. 

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Process paperwork such as FMLA absence, disability, employee life status changes, and more
  • Advise employees, answer benefit questions, and enroll employees in benefit and compensation programs
  • Research, analyze, and administer healthcare plans
  • Assist with new hire orientations
  • Distribute benefit enrollment materials 
  • Assist with open enrollment
  • Administer tuition reimbursement program
  • Provide necessary reports for billing charges

Education and experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in human resources, finance, business administration, or a related field
  • 2+ years of work experience in finance, business administration, insurance, or a related field

Required skills and qualifications

  • Extensive knowledge of employee benefits and applicable laws
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Exceptional time management and organizational skills
  • Research and analytical skills
  • Strong computer literacy

Preferred qualifications

  • Masters degree preferred
  • Knowledge of Peoplesoft or relatable software
  • Advanced Excel skills preferred
  • Experience with state benefits systems and retirement systems preferred

Typical work environment

Benefits specialists work in almost every industry. They work normal business hours in an office setting. Answering questions through phone calls and emails is part of the daily work of a benefits specialist. Communicating with employees and the public is a critical role of the company’s benefits specialist. 

Benefits specialists should expect to work around 40 hours a day and are not typically needed overtime (for holidays, weekends, evenings, etc). Light physical activity, such as standing and walking is required.

Typical hours

Benefits specialists typically work a standard 40-hour workweek, with weekends and evenings off. That means they’ll be in the office Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM.

Available certifications

Certifications can be a valuable asset when applying to be a benefits specialist. These certifications can help you sharpen skills, improve knowledge, help you think strategically, and make decisions more confidently. Here are some of the available certifications:

  • Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional or Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM/CP or SHRM/SCP). This certification is designed to help human resource professionals advance in their careers. To be eligible to take the exam, you must pass certain education and work experience criteria. After passing the exam, you must recertify every three years by repeating the exam or completing 60 hours of professional development credits. 
  • CEBS (Certified Employee Benefits Specialist). This certification is earned by those who administer employee benefits packages. The coursework covers employee benefits principles and concepts. A series of exams must be passed to earn certification. 
  • Professional in Human Resources (PHR). The PHR certification focuses on the mastery of technical and operational aspects of human resource management. You must have a combination of education and experience to sit for the exam. Once the exam is passed, you have to recertify every three years by retaking the exam or having 60 recertification credits.   

Career path

To become a benefits specialist, you typically need to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in human resources or a related field. Some employers are looking for candidates with a master’s degree. However, you can become a benefits specialist with an associate’s degree if you have significant work experience. 

Benefit specialists positions usually require two or more years of experience in a benefits or human resources position. Starting in an entry-level human resource role is a great start to getting relevant experience. 

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 11-3111

2020 Employment18,700
Projected Employment in 203019,400
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 4% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift700 increase

The role of the benefits specialist is evolving, and though it’s growing at a slower pace than many other jobs, it’s still growing. As larger companies grow and begin to hire more people, they’ll need specialists in HR to handle the benefits of their employees. In the next 10 years, there will be a slight increase of 4%, meaning there will be about 700 new positions to open.