A business’ human resources department is filled with skilled professionals who may specialize in key areas. A benefits specialist is one type of professional who is in charge of making sure that a business complies with company, state, and federal regulations (HR University). This requires keeping attention to detail, being up to date on the latest regulations, and having exceptional people skills. Individuals interested in pursuing this route may have a unique combination of working well with various personality types, strong organizational skills, and the ability to translate complex legal jargon into easy-to-understand language.
What Does a Benefits Specialist Do?
HR University describes this position as a resource to the company. Benefits specialists provide support to upper-level management, resolve complex benefits issues, and develop policies for an organization. They may also be in charge of certain retirement considerations when special conditions are present. Benefits specialists are also investigators when an issue of potential benefits fraud arises. They keep abreast of developments at the legislative level that may impact retirement or insurance programs as well as work-life programs.
Job Outlook for Benefits Specialists
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), HR specialists’ positions are slated to grow 22% by 2020 which is well above the average job growth in other fields. The median salary is $52,960 or $25.33 per hour. As of 2010, there were 422,400 HR specialists in the U.S. The BLS lists a bachelor’s degree as a requirement, but keep in mind that educational prerequisites may vary by employer. The HR field is a fairly stable industry since every company, business, corporation, government agency, and organization requires the skills of HR professionals.
Educational Background of Benefits Specialists
While the BLS lists a bachelor’s degree as a requirement for this position, not every employer requires four-year degrees. However, a bachelor’s degree in a related field can improve someone’s chances of job offers, job security, and possibility of advancement. An advanced degree can further improve career prospects and even help move someone into a managerial position. A degree in Human Resources Development is one avenue interested candidates may decide to pursue. In addition, related degrees might include Business, Finance, Communication, or Law. Another avenue for advancing in this field is via certification with the HR Certification Institute (HRCI). There are many certifications available, but the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) requires the least amount of experience and education.
What Does a Benefits Specialist Have to Know?
There are many areas where benefits specialists are expected to be experts. This is where education and experience come into play. According to HR University, these professionals must be adept at federal benefits, injury compensation, federal work-life balance programs, and workforce planning.
Personality Traits of Benefits Specialists
According to HR University, benefits specialists should have a variety of well-rounded skills. Customer service is paramount in this role since professionals will be working with all types of people including new hires and executives. An analytical mind is helpful since knowledge of legal codes is critical. Organizational, problem solving and critical thinking skills should also be well-honed. Working well as part of a team and having effective tools for managing stress are also important in this role. This is not an autonomous position and benefits specialists are expected to be able to multi-task and juggle many different projects at a time.
Specializing in a specific area of a thriving industry is a great way to ensure job security. However, since these roles are expected to grow rapidly in the next decade competition will be fierce. Individuals should consider ways to stand out above the competition with a solid education, certification, and on the job training if possible. Interning or taking an entry-level position in an HR department is a great way to build a foundation.