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What Compensation and Benefits Managers Do About this section

Compensation and benefits managers
Managers ensure that pay plans comply with federal regulations.

Compensation and benefits managers plan, develop, and oversee programs to pay employees.

Duties

Compensation and benefits managers typically do the following:

  • Coordinate and supervise the work activities of staff
  • Set the organization’s pay and benefits structure
  • Monitor competitive wage rates to develop or modify compensation plans
  • Choose and manage outside partners, such as benefits vendors, insurance brokers, and investment managers
  • Oversee the distribution of pay and benefits information to the organization’s employees
  • Ensure that pay and benefits plans comply with federal and state regulations
  • Prepare a program budget and operate within that budget

Although some managers administer both the compensation and benefits programs in an organization, other managers—particularly at large organizations—specialize and oversee one or the other. However, all compensation and benefits managers routinely meet with senior staff, managers of other human resources departments, and the financial officers of their organization. They use their expertise to recommend compensation and benefits policies, programs, and plans.

Compensation and benefits managers may analyze data to determine the best pay and benefits plans for an organization. They may also monitor trends affecting pay and benefits and assess ways for their organization to improve practices or policies. Using analytical, database, and presentation software, managers draw conclusions, present their findings, and make recommendations to other managers in the organization.

Compensation managers direct an organization’s pay structure. They monitor market conditions and government regulations to ensure that their organization’s pay rates are current and competitive. They analyze data on wages and salaries, and they evaluate how their organization’s pay structure compares with that of other organizations. Compensation managers use this information to maintain or develop pay levels for an organization.

Some also design pay-for-performance plans, which include guidelines for bonuses and incentive pay. They also may help determine commission rates and other incentives for sales staff.

Benefits managers administer an organization’s employee benefits program, which may include retirement plans, leave policies, wellness programs, and insurance policies such as health, life, and disability. They select benefits vendors and oversee enrollment, renewal, and delivery of benefits to the organization’s employees. They frequently monitor government regulations and market trends to ensure that their programs are current, competitive, and legal.

Work Environment About this section

Compensation and benefits managers
Compensation and benefits managers coordinate the work activities of specialists in offices.

Compensation and benefits managers held about 18,000 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of compensation and benefits managers were as follows:

Management of companies and enterprises 19%
Professional, scientific, and technical services 17
Insurance carriers and related activities 11
Government 8
Healthcare and social assistance 7

Compensation and benefits managers work in nearly every industry. Most of these managers work in offices.

Work Schedules

Most compensation and benefits managers work full time. Some work more than 40 hours per week. They may work more hours during peak times to meet deadlines, especially during the benefits enrollment period of their organization.

How to Become a Compensation or Benefits Manager About this section

Compensation and benefits managers
Compensation and benefits managers often start out as compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists.

Compensation and benefits managers typically need a combination of education and related work experience.

Education

For most positions, compensation and benefits managers typically need a bachelor’s degree in business, human resources, or a related field.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Work experience is essential for compensation and benefits managers. Managers often specialize in either compensation or benefits, depending on the experience they gain in previous jobs. Managers often start out as compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists. Work experience in other human resource fields, in finance, or in management is also helpful.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not required, certification gives compensation and benefits managers credibility because it shows that they have expertise. Employers may prefer to hire candidates with certification, and some positions require it.

Certification often requires several years of related work experience and passing an exam. Professional associations, including the Society for Human Resource Management, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans and WorldatWork, offer certification programs that may be helpful for compensation and benefits managers.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Compensation and benefits managers analyze data on wages and salaries and the cost of benefits, and they assess and devise programs that best fit an organization and its employees.

Business skills. These managers oversee a budget, build a case for their recommendations, and understand how compensation and benefits plans affect an organization’s finances.

Communication skills. Compensation and benefits managers direct staff, give presentations, and work with colleagues. With each of these groups, they must be able to clearly explain concepts and respond to concerns.

Decisionmaking skills. These managers weigh the strengths and weaknesses of different pay structures and benefits plans and choose the best options for an organization.

Leadership skills. Compensation and benefits managers coordinate the activities of their staff and administer compensation and benefits programs, ensuring that the work is completed accurately and on schedule.

Pay About this section

Compensation and Benefits Managers

Median annual wages, May 2019

Compensation and benefits managers

$122,270

Operations specialties managers

$120,960

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

The median annual wage for compensation and benefits managers was $122,270 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $69,870, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for compensation and benefits managers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Management of companies and enterprises $130,640
Insurance carriers and related activities 127,920
Professional, scientific, and technical services 127,910
Healthcare and social assistance 115,040
Government 104,640

Most compensation and benefits managers work full time. Some work more than 40 hours per week. They may work more hours during peak times to meet deadlines, especially during the benefits enrollment period of their organization.

Job Outlook About this section

Compensation and Benefits Managers

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Operations specialties managers

9%

Total, all occupations

4%

Compensation and benefits managers

3%

 

Employment of compensation and benefits managers is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Organizations continue to focus on reducing compensation and benefits costs, such as by introducing pay-for-performance and health and wellness programs. Organizations will need managers to evaluate and direct these compensation and benefits policies and plans.

However, organizations may contract out a portion of their compensation and benefits functions to human resources consulting firms in order to reduce costs and gain access to technical expertise. For example, to reduce administrative costs, organizations commonly use an outside vendor for processing payroll and insurance claims. These consulting firms automate tasks and operate call centers to handle employee questions, thereby reducing the need for compensation and benefits managers.

Job Prospects

Despite limited employment growth, about 1,300 openings for compensation and benefits managers are projected annually, on average, over the decade.

Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Jobseekers can expect strong competition for available jobs because compensation and benefits manager positions typically offer high pay, and job openings often attract many applicants. Those who have a master’s degree, certification, and extensive experience working with compensation or benefits plans should have the best job opportunities.

Employment projections data for compensation and benefits managers, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Compensation and benefits managers

11-3111 18,000 18,400 3 500 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about compensation and benefits managers, including certification, visit

International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

WorldatWork

For more information about human resources careers and certification, visit

Society for Human Resource Management

O*NET

Compensation and Benefits Managers

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