Compensation and Benefits Manager Career Outlook and Salary

As human resources specialists, compensation and benefits managers plan, design, implement and administer the pay and benefits processes for an organization’s employees. In some companies, these duties are divided into two positions: compensation managers and benefits managers. In others, it is a dual role.

Businesses depend on the expertise of these professionals in order to stay competitive when hiring employees.

Compensation and benefits managers develop programs that support a company’s ability to recruit, hire and retain workers. Specific duties include managing and administering compensation and benefits plans, conducting surveys and research, and designing strategic plans to support company objectives.

Compensation and benefits managers may coordinate and supervise staff activities. They are typically also responsible for ensuring compliance with federal, state and local employment regulations. Additional job duties include:

  • Preparing and managing budgets
  • Presenting reports to senior managers
  • Analyzing complex data to determine competitiveness, and develop pay and benefits plans
  • Integrating benefits plans in the event of mergers and acquisitions
  • Identifying ways to improve employee wellness and quality of life

Job Outlook and Salary Range for Compensation and Benefits Managers

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts 6% job growth nationwide for compensation and benefits managers through 2024. Job prospects are expected to be stronger for candidates with advanced degrees, professional certification or experience with complex compensation and benefits plans.

According to the BLS, compensation and benefits managers earned a median annual wage of $116,240 in May 2016. The top 10% earned more than $199,950 and the lowest 10% earned $66,150 or less per year.

Salary potential and job opportunities are affected by multiple factors, including a candidate’s education and employment history, as well as local market conditions.

Education and Training for Compensation and Benefits Managers

Most employers hiring for compensation and benefits manager positions will require at least a bachelor’s degree, with many preferring candidates to have a master’s degree, the BLS reports. A concentration in business administration, finance, business management or a related field may appeal to employers; coursework in areas such as organizational development, business, accounting and statistics is typically beneficial.

Analytical, decision-making, and verbal and written communication skills are core competencies that compensation and benefits managers are expected to master.

For some positions, professional certifications such as Certified Compensation Professional or Certified Benefits Professional may be required. Earning these credentials involves passing a series of exams.

Employment as a benefits manager or human resources generalist may be a first step on the path toward a career as a compensation and benefits managers. Advanced roles include human resources director and director of compensation and benefits.

Military Occupational Specializations

Compensation and benefits managers in the civilian job market generally share the skills and knowledge required of servicemembers in a variety of military specializations:

  • U.S. Air Force roles include personnel and manpower officer.
  • In the U.S. Army, roles include human resources specialist.
  • U.S. Navy roles include human resources specialist, manager or director.
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