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Compensation and Benefits Specialist Career Guide

How to Become a Compensation and Benefits Specialist

Have you ever found yourself between two job offers? Maybe the first offer was presented to you with a lackluster compensation package, but you were enticed by the company culture. Then the second offer appears with higher pay and better benefits, but you’re not sure about the work-life balance. 

Compensation and benefits specialists are behind these offer packages and so much more. They oversee programs that an organization provides to its employees in exchange for work and ensure that their company is competitive when it comes to pay, healthcare, PTO, and other non-wage benefits. 

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What Is a Compensation and Benefits Specialist?

Compensation and benefits specialists work within the HR team to research, implement, and support the compensation and benefits structure of an organization. They are highly analytical and number-oriented thinkers with a balance of soft skills that they utilize to recruit and retain top talent. 

They are subject matter experts in the fields of compensation, healthcare, paid leave, work-life flexibility, and other non-wage benefits that employees are growing to expect more and more in competitive industries. 

What Does a Compensation and Benefits Specialist Do?

Across various industries, typical job functions for compensation and benefits specialists include: 

  • Define a fair, equitable, and competitive total compensation and benefits package that aligns with an organization’s strategy and business goals.
  • Develop a consistent compensation philosophy in line with the work culture and organizational objectives.
  • Ensure that compensation practices are in compliance with current legislation (including pay equity, FMLA, and HIPAA).
  • Use various methods and techniques and make data-based decisions on direct, indirect, and nonfinancial compensation.
  • Assess employee needs by conducting organizational surveys to find out what motivates and engages them.
  • Prepare job descriptions, job analysis, job evaluations, and job classifications.
  • Participate in salary and labor market surveys to determine prevailing pay rates and benefits.
  • Differentiate pay systems to invest in the segments of the workforce that contribute the most value.
  • Deploy effective communication strategies and success metrics.
  • Conduct ongoing research into emerging trends, issues, and best practices.
  • Conduct periodic audits and prepare reports.

How Do I Become a Compensation and Benefits Specialist?

Compensation and benefits specialists typically hold a bachelor’s degree in a human resources-related field. A bachelor of science business administration in human resource management, for example, encompasses coursework like business management, accounting, psychology, industrial relations, and more. This degree ensures you have the business understanding to enter an HR department with confidence, and allows room for study in the area you’d like to specialize in. For those looking to enter the diversity and inclusion space, there are capstone and program opportunities that focus specifically on those trainings. 

Some work experience is typically required and can be attained through internships and entry-level opportunities while pursuing your degree. 

Nearly all compensation and benefits specialists hold a bachelor’s degree, such as a bachelor’s of science in business administration with a major in human resource management. Courses in finance, business, and accounting are extremely beneficial to this role, and those looking to advance to compensation and benefits manager or HR director roles may benefit from advanced master’s degrees in this field. 

Certifications are not a requirement for compensation and benefits specialist, but they do show a level of field experience and passion for the industry that is desirable to employers. Following your bachelor’s degree, explore options from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans and WorldatWork, which offer certification programs that specialize in compensation and benefits. Others, including the HR Certification Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management, offer general human resources credentials.


Best Degree for a Compensation and Benefits Specialist

Human Resource Management – B.S. Business Administration

A SHRM-recognized online business degree program:...

A SHRM-recognized online business degree program:...

A SHRM-recognized online business degree program:

  • Time: 65% of graduates finish within 36 months.
  • Tuition: $3,575 per 6-month term.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Human resource specialist
  • Director of talent acquisition
  • Recruiting manager
  • Organizational learning specialist
  • Vice president of HR

Earn your B.S. in Human Resources and help build strong organizations.

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What Skills Does a Compensation and Benefits Specialist Need?

If you are interested in pursuing a compensation and benefits position, you will need the following skills, in addition to education and industry knowledge: 

  • Highly analytical with proficiency in numbers and data comparison
  • Critical thinker and problem-solver, with a passion for finding solutions for both employee and organization
  • High level of human resource department knowledge, sometimes with experience in other areas of HR like inclusion, rewards or payroll
  • Knowledge of local, state, and federal labor laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)  
  • Outstanding verbal and written communication skills with an ability to negotiate compensation structures and offerings 
  • Ethically driven, with a respect for confidentiality and discretion 

How Much Does a Compensation and Benefits Specialist Make?


The median pay for a compensation and benefits specialist in 2020 was $67,190 annually, or $32.30 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Specialists tend to earn the highest salaries in the professional scientific and technical service industries, followed by management companies and government agencies. 

What Is the Projected Job Growth?


Human resource roles, in general, are projected to grow 7% in the next 10 years, while compensation and benefits roles are projected to grow 8%, according to the BLS. The industry and this role specifically outrank the national average for job growth of all jobs. As organizations continue to offer competitive compensation packages to attract top talent, there will be an increase in opportunities for compensation and benefits specialists. 

Where Does a Compensation and Benefits Specialist Work?


Knowledgeable compensation and benefits specialists are needed in every industry, nationwide. They experience the most demand in professional, scientific, and technical service industries, and any other industry where it is common to offer complex compensation, benefits, bonus, and incentive packages. Startups are particularly in need of talented specialists in this field, who can implement systems from the ground up.

Interested in Becoming a Compensation and Benefits Specialist?

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