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How Does One Become an Employee Benefit Administrator?

by Mark Applegate

Employee benefits can be a costly part of an organization's already tight compensation and benefits budget. Completing new hire paperwork, changing plans during open enrollment periods and ensuring coverage through COBRA provisions when an employee leaves can be a full-time job for already frazzled human resources staff members. Some firms with enough payroll flexibility hire a benefits administrator to simplify this central office challenge. While the position's average salary was $89,270 in 2010, becoming a benefits admin. requires several basic steps.

Education

Most small to mid-sized firms require a benefits administrator to have at least a bachelor's degree, but prefer a master's degree. Large firms are more likely to require a master's degree. The most common degree fields for benefits administrators are business administration, human resources and finance, although others may be considered with the appropriate work experience. Frequent continuing education is required to stay current with this ever-changing industry.

Certification

Several organizations offer benefits certifications. World at Work Society of Certified Professionals, for example, offers the Certified Benefits Professional (CBP) certification. You must pass seven exams covering topics such as regulations, communications and strategic planning. The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans offers a similar certification called the Administrators Masters Program (AMP). This program requires significant coursework completed during a rigorous two-day seminar. Though not mandatory, either certification may offer you a competitive advantage.

Experience

Work experience is critical in becoming a benefits administrator. Human resources professionals have experience in handling the multitude of forms required in hiring employees and may have an edge in becoming a benefits administrator. Considerable management or customer service experience can also improve your chances. Similarly, employees with significant finance experience may qualify for this position. Insurance industry experience, whether in sales or underwriting, can assist in your job search as well.

Finding a Position

Most small firms cannot afford an official benefits administrator, although they may have designated a human resources professional to do much of the work. Target large firms; visit job posting websites and corporate websites of firms where you would like to work. Consider benefits providers in your career search since they often seek individuals with similar skills. Additional industry licenses are required to sell benefits, such as life and health insurance. Licensing requirements vary from state to state.

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