Career Education - Learn about all careers, career pay salary, job outlook

How to Become a Compensation or Benefits Manager

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


Compensation and benefits managers need at least a bachelor’s degree for most positions, although 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. 

Many 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

Related work experience is essential for compensation and benefits managers.

Compensation managers usually need experience in compensation or another job where they performed complex financial analysis.

In addition to experience working with benefits plans, most benefits managers must have strong knowledge of benefits practices and government regulations. Work experience in other human resource fields, finance, or management is also helpful for getting a job as a benefits manager.


Many professional associations for human resources professionals offer classes to enhance the skills of their members. Some associations, including the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans and WorldatWork, specialize in compensation and benefits and offer certification programs.

Although not required, certification can show professional expertise and credibility. In fact, 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 credential. 

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Analytical skills are essential for compensation and benefits managers. In addition to analyzing data on salaries and the cost of benefits, they must assess and devise programs that best fit an organization and its employees. 

Decision-making skills. Compensation and benefits managers need strong decision-making skills. They must weigh the strengths and weaknesses of different pay structures and benefits plans and choose the best options for an organization. 

Managerial skills. Compensation and benefits managers must coordinate the work activities of their staff and properly administer compensation and benefits programs. 

Speaking skills. Compensation and benefits managers rely on speaking skills when directing their staff and giving presentations. For example, they may present the advantages of a certain pay scale to management or inform employees of their benefits plan options.

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

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition