A benefits administrator is part of a company's human resources team. In this role, the employee administers the company's benefits program. This can include offering workers health, dental or vision insurance, retirement plans and flexible spending accounts. The work can be challenging, as insurance choices and retirement-plan options can be complex. The benefits administrator has to know the ins and outs of all the benefits choices the company is offering, and may be in charge of choosing the benefits the company will offer.
A benefits administrator teaches employees about their benefits options. The administrator might do this by taking phone calls throughout the day from employees who have questions about when they are allowed to change benefits, or by putting together employee handbooks for new workers. When a company offers various plans for its employees, the benefits administrator needs to know what plan is best for different types of employees and family situations.
Once or twice a year, companies usually offer an open-enrollment session. During this session the benefits administrator will be busy fielding questions from employees and signing up employees for different plans. It is during this enrollment period, which usually lasts one month, that employees can change their benefits preferences, even if they are not new to the company.
Businesses have various paid time off policies, with some referring to it as PTO, or paid time off, and others separating the days as sick days and vacation days. The benefits administrator is usually responsible for letting employees know about the company's policy and working with the payroll department to make sure employees are getting paid for days off that have been approved. Some businesses offer employees more paid time off as they’ve been at the company longer. The benefits administrator will ensure that the employee receives this additional time when it is appropriate.
Often, the benefits administrator will act as the go-between with the insurance companies or other people providing the benefits, and the employees. When employees have grievances with the benefits choices in a certain plan, the administrator can give that information to the companies providing the benefits. The administrator can work with the insurance companies to ensure that employees' benefit choices include the most coverage at the lowest possible cost to both the employer and the employees.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most companies look for candidates who have college degrees. Some colleges offer degrees in human resources or classes in benefits, management and other administrative duties.
The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans gives human resource professionals the ability, through testing and courses, to be designated as specialists in categories such as group benefits. A benefits specialist can study online, then take an exam to get one of these designations. After passing the exam and receiving the designation, such as a group benefits associate, the employee can apply for the Certified Employee Benefits Specialist credential (CEBS). These credentials and designations can help professionals in the human resources industry to move up in their careers or gain higher pay.
Salaries of benefits administrators can vary widely. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008, the median salary was a little over $86,000. However, the lowest 10 percent of those working in the field earned less than $50,000. The highest paid benefits administrators worked for companies in computer design. Those employees made a mean salary of almost $100,000.