Compensation and Benefits Managers

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Compensation and Benefits Managers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Compensation managers plan, develop, and oversee programs to determine how much an organization pays its employees and how employees are paid. Benefits managers plan, direct, and coordinate retirement plans, health insurance, and other benefits that an organization offers its employees.

Duties of Compensation and Benefits Managers

Compensation and benefits managers typically do the following:

  • Set the organization’s pay structure and benefits offerings
  • Determine competitive wage rates and develop or modify compensation plans
  • Evaluate employee benefits policies to assess whether they are current, competitive, and legal
  • Choose and manage outside partners, such as benefits vendors, insurance brokers, and investment managers
  • Coordinate and supervise the work activities of specialists and support staff
  • 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 keep operations within budget

Although some managers administer both the compensation and benefits programs in an organization, other managers—particularly at large organizations—often specialize and oversee one or the other. All managers, however, routinely meet with senior staff, managers of other human resources departments, and the financial officers of their organization. They provide expertise and make recommendations on compensation and benefits policies, programs, and plans.

In addition to their administrative responsibilities, compensation and benefits managers also have technical and analytical duties. For example, they may perform complex data analysis to determine the best pay and benefits plans for an organization. They may also monitor trends affecting pay and benefits and assess how their organization can improve its practices or policies. Using a variety of analytical, database, and presentation software, managers draw conclusions, present their findings, and make recommendations to other managers in the organization.

Compensation managers are responsible for managing an organization’s pay structure. They monitor market conditions and government regulations to ensure their 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 companies. Compensation managers use this information to maintain or develop pay scales 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 a company’s employee benefits program, which includes retirement plans, leave policies, wellness programs, and insurance policies such as health, life, and disability. They select benefits vendors and manage enrollment, renewal, and delivery of benefits to the organization’s employees. They must frequently monitor government regulations and market trends to ensure that their programs are current, competitive, and legal.

Work Environment for Compensation and Benefits Managers[About this section] [To Top]

Compensation and benefits managers hold about 16,900 jobs and work in nearly every industry. Most of these managers work in offices.

Compensation and Benefits Manager Work Schedules

Most compensation and benefits managers work full time. About 1 in 3 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] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Compensation and Benefits Managers near you!

Candidates need a combination of education and related work experience to become a compensation and benefits manager.

Compensation and Benefits Manager Education

Compensation and benefits managers need at least a bachelor’s degree for most positions, and some jobs require a master’s degree. Because not all undergraduate programs offer a degree in human resources, managers often have a bachelor’s degree in business administration, business management, finance, or a related field.

Some employers prefer to hire managers who have a master’s degree, particularly one with a concentration in human resources management, finance, or business administration (MBA).

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

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

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although compensation and benefits managers are not legally required to be certified, certification can show expertise and credibility. Many employers prefer to hire certified candidates, and some positions may require certification.

Certification programs for management positions often require several years of related work experience to qualify for the certifying exam. Many professional associations for human resources workers offer certifications. Some associations, including the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans and WorldatWork, offer certification programs that specialize in compensation and benefits. Others, including the HR Certification Institute, offer general human resources credentials.

Important Qualities for Compensation and Benefits Managers

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

Business acumen. Compensation and benefits managers must manage a budget, build a case for their recommendations, and understand how compensation and benefits plans affect the company’s finances.

Communication skills. Compensation and benefits managers must direct staff, give presentations, and work with colleagues. For example, they may present the advantages of a certain pay scale to management and address any concerns.

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

Writing skills. Compensation and benefits managers must prepare clearly written informational materials on compensation and benefits plans for an organization’s employees. They must also clearly convey recommendations in written reports.

Compensation and Benefits Manager Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for compensation and benefits managers is $111,430. 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 $60,680, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $187,200.

Most compensation and benefits managers work full time. About 1 in 3 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 for Compensation and Benefits Managers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of compensation and benefits managers is projected to grow 6 percent through 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

As organizations focus on reducing compensation and benefits costs, many have established increasingly complex plans that include, for example, pay-for-performance strategies and health and wellness programs. Organizations will need managers to evaluate and direct these compensation and benefits policies and plans.

Due to healthcare reform and rising healthcare costs, organizations will need the expertise of benefits managers when choosing, updating, and administering their benefits policies. Similarly, compensation managers will be needed to analyze compensation policies and design competitive compensation packages.

Many organizations increasingly 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 are able to automate tasks and operate call centers to handle employee questions, thereby reducing the need for compensation and benefits managers.

Compensation and Benefits Managers Job Prospects

Jobseekers can expect very strong competition for available jobs because compensation and benefits manager positions typically offer high pay, and job openings often attract many qualified 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, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Compensation and benefits managers 16,900 18,000 6 1,100


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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