Benefits make up a key element of any employee compensation package. As a result, employers must fully understand how they work in order to use them to best meet their employees’ needs.
Certified Employee Benefits Specialists (CEBS) are thoroughly trained in all aspects of employee benefits and their proper use. The CEBS certification is currently recognized as the leading credential in the employee benefits arena and is provided by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) in partnership with the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
Over 100,000 professionals have earned this mark since it was first introduced in 1976.
Becoming a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS)
Benefits of Becoming a CEBS
CEBS certificants have the knowledge and training to understand complex issues related to employee benefits and how to deal with them. Those who carry this credential are attractive candidates for management and supervisory positions, as well as teaching and administrative positions.
Many employers in the benefits industry now require that new hires either carry this credential or earn it within a certain period of time after employment begins.
Costs of Becoming a CEBS
Candidates must complete eight courses and pass their respective exams to become designated a CEBS. Course materials through the IFEBP range between $150 and $350, and students receive a $20 exam discount if they register simultaneously for the exam and the course. Each exam (without the discount) costs $315 and students must pay an initial registration fee of $125.
Classroom instruction is available at additional cost that will vary according to the provider. Those who opt for online courses through the IFEBP will pay $175 for each course and just over $4,000 for the entire curriculum including initial registration and exam fees. This does not include testing center fees. Certain other designations, such as the CFP or CLU, can satisfy the exam requirement for up to two courses, depending on the designation.
CEBS certificants must take the Pledge of Conduct that is given by the IFEBP, and adhere to a code of ethics that requires competence, objectivity, and professionalism. They pledge to participate in continuing education as part of the code of ethics, though continuing education is not explicitly required to maintain the designation.
State guidelines may vary and candidates should check the number of hours required by their state, if any. Unlike other credentialed professionals, CEBS holders are not required to pay periodic renewal fees.
CEBS Courses & Requirements
Unlike virtually all other financial designations, the IFEBP does not require a CEBS to have prior experience working with employee benefits.
The CEBS curriculum consists of two segments: six required courses and two electives. The six required courses cover basic tenets of employee benefits, and the two electives allow the certificant to focus on an area of specialization.
Required Core Courses
- Group Health Plan Design
- Group Benefits Management
- Retirement Plan Design
- Retirement Plan Management
- Human Resources and Compensation Management
- Compensation Concepts and Principles
Additional Elective Courses
- Asset Management
- Health Care Financing and Economics
- Executive Compensation and Compensation Issues
- Personal Financial Planning 1: Concepts and Principle
- Personal Financial Planning 2: Tax and Estate Planning Techniques
Prospective candidates who have earned other credentials, such as the CFP or CLU, may satisfy the exam requirement (and thereby skip the coursework) for up to two courses by applying for an exam credit for $75. Those who earn the CEBS credential can challenge to sit for the CFP board exam, although this coursework does not cover all material found in the CFP curriculum.
Students must pass eight two-hour exams that consists of 100 multiple-choice questions that uniformly cover all of topics in each course. The passing grade is about 70%. Those who fail an exam will receive a breakdown of their results and can retake it for a reduced fee of $145.
Once registered for an exam, candidates become eligible to take it within an academic quarter specified by the IFEBP. If unable or not ready to take the exam during that period, they can pay a $100 extension fee to delay it until a future quarter. An extension must be filed before the end of the quarter or the full exam fee will be charged, in addition to ancillary no-show or reschedule fees if the candidate scheduled a date with a testing center.
Achieving the CEBS credential is an important step for advancing a career in the benefits and compensation industry. The coursework is a thorough education in this arena, and is also a valuable source of continuing education for other credentialed professionals, such as CLUs, CFPs, and CPAs.
Because it transfers well to related disciplines, the CEBS is a good jumping off point to attaining these and other designations as well.