ISCEBS Membership–Say Yes to ISCEBS!

ISCEBS Symposium 2022 attendees

Working with the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists for my entire tenure, I have worked with many members in a variety of capacities. But before the stories, let me tell you about ISCEBS!

The Society (we go by all three names, but most often “The Society” or “ISCEBS”) is the professional organization for CEBS graduates and students. Society members come from all industries and professions throughout North America. We are an incredibly diverse group of benefits professionals who either hold or are pursuing the CEBS designation.

Why should you say yes and join ISCEBS? What’s in it for you? Simple answer: a lot!

Say Yes to the Benefits

The Society and our community of local chapters offer a bevy of benefits, services and opportunities. The benefits and services are what you might expect from an organization: free webcasts, unlimited information requests to our research library, discounts on purchases, members-only discussion forums and more. But it’s the opportunities you should be really interested in! Let me explain.

Similar challenges and similar resolutions

Picture it: You’re sitting at an educational conference and your tablemate strikes up a conversation about the topic you’ll be hearing about. Through the conversation, you learn you both work in the same geographic region, know the same groups and are facing similar challenges. Before the end of the session, you have exchanged information and are planning a joint education event with your two organizations.

That happened to two attendees at the 2022 ISCEBS Employee Benefits Symposium.

ISCEBS Symposium 2022 attendees
Local leadership opportunities

A unique aspect of ISCEBS is our community of local chapters. More than 40 local chapters throughout the United States and Canada provide not only specialized education focusing on regional benefit issues, they also provide volunteer leadership opportunities.

Picture it: You’re a new CEBS graduate and looking for “whatever comes next.” You get a call (or email) from a local CEBS professional congratulating you on your designation and inviting you to come to a local event. You think “what the heck, why not?” and you go. When you get there, you get congratulated so much you start to lose count. The education offered is truly great; it’s not a sales pitch and you can already see how a couple of the strategies could fit into your organization. You hear about the next event and pencil it into your calendar. When you attend the next event, the chapter president mentions the need for volunteers. You think about it but aren’t sure if it’s for you. You see a person you met at the first event, and they ask you if you’re interested in volunteering. You ask some questions and learn a little more about it. You decide to take the leap and volunteer to start out on a committee.

Not only does your personal and professional contact list grow, but you’re also organizing meetings and events and you’re able to leverage that info your professional life. Your boss is impressed with your initiative and you two begin talking about career moves and options.

All because you said “yes” to help a local chapter.

Personal connections = professional enhancements

The Society’s annual education event, the ISCEBS Employee Benefits Symposium, has been described by attendees as “a family reunion” that adds new family members every year. Attendees come from all 50 states, the Canadian provinces and some foreign countries. Attendees mingle at mealtimes, at receptions and during session breaks. You get to know not only the person sitting next to you at session but the person eating lunch with you.

Picture it: You meet someone from another country. While your businesses likely don’t overlap much (if at all) they are pretty awesome, and you connect on a personal level. You exchange information and keep in touch after the Symposium.

Now imagine your role at work changes. Maybe you’re a Canadian benefits professional who now has to administer benefits to a U.S. workforce. Maybe you’re a U.S. benefits professional whose company was acquired by a firm in Germany, and you need to pivot and work with a global workforce. Where do you even BEGIN to start with these situations?

Then you remember your friend from the Symposium. That friend who has experience in this area. Or maybe they know someone who does. So you reach out, and within ten minutes and one phone call you have a solid action plan in place.

Say Yes to Investing in Yourself

The benefits of joining the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists are numerous and extend far beyond the services offered by ISCEBS. See for yourself and say yes to ISCEBS. Join today.

Jennifer Mathe, CEBS Compliant
Director, Member Services
International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists

What’s Your CEBS Story? Dottie Dykstra, CEBS

What's Your CEBS Story

Earning your CEBS® designation is a learning journey. Along the way, you acquire valuable employee benefits knowledge and relevant new skills. As you apply what you’ve learned to your work, you can forge a unique career pathway that is truly your own. Here’s a designee’s CEBS story.

A Chat With Dottie Dykstra, CEBS


Dottie Dykstra, CEBS
Manager–Employee Benefits
TDS

Could you describe how expanding your professional network has helped you attain success?

Once the CEBS designation is achieved, the learning never stops. There is so much to health and well-being benefits, and compliance is ever-evolving; it can be hard to keep up. What makes this easier is the wealth of ways to stay abreast or to ask questions of my benefits-professional peers. If I have a sticky question, most likely there is another benefits professional out there who has asked and gotten feedback on a similar question. Workshops, webinars, blog posts, connecting with peers on LinkedIn, community listservs and other types of networking are all easily accessible with ISCEBS.

Could you share a story about how you prepared for your CEBS exam and applied what you learned to your work?

The exams are intense! My formula for retaining the knowledge was to type up the course material in my own words; for some of the more complex benefits rules, I wrote up stories that helped me remember what I was learning. This method has helped me over the years as we have evaluated and changed our benefit plans. I may not remember all the intricacies of a certain benefit rule, but I remember enough to nudge me along in my research.

Could you describe how earning your CEBS designation has supported you in your role and professional growth?

I began my benefits career in 2002 as an administrative coordinator in the TDS benefits department, with absolutely no background in benefits. I was eager to learn, and my team taught me a lot about benefits while I took a variety of Certificate Series programs through the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. Eager for more, CEBS was the next logical step. The CEBS courses rounded out my education and helped me to understand options beyond how our benefit plans were designed. My benefits education, and more specifically the CEBS designation, primed me well. I was promoted to a benefits analyst role and then to a senior benefits analyst role. In 2017, I was selected to become manager–employee benefits with a focus on health and well-being.

Visit CEBS online for information about purchasing course materials, signing up for an Online Study Group, virtual exams and more details on earning your designation.

Check Out Recent CEBS News Stories

What’s Your CEBS Story? Andrew Burgess, CEBS

Earning your CEBS® designation is a learning journey. Along the way, you acquire valuable employee benefits knowledge and relevant new skills. As you apply what you’ve learned to your work, you can forge a unique career pathway that is truly your own. Here’s a designee’s CEBS story.

A Chat With Andrew Burgess, CEBS


Andrew Burgess, CEBS
Regional Manager, Group Benefit Solutions, High Net Worth Insurance Services
RBC Insurance

Could you share a story about how you prepared for your CEBS exam and applied what you learned to your work?

Starting in the group benefits industry without any prior experience, I knew that I wanted to enroll in the CEBS program and complete the entire designation within my first year in the industry. Not only would this provide me with the foundation that I needed to begin my career, but it would also give me a leg up on other specialists in the industry who may have had the experience but not the credentials.

It was important for me to block out time each day in my calendar to study. I would treat that as I would any other task throughout the day, including meetings.

I was able to apply the GBA specialty designation portion of the full CEBS designation almost immediately in my day-to-day work. This helped to reinforce what I had been learning while also making it much easier to remember the content for the exams.

Could you describe how earning your CEBS designation has supported you in your role and professional growth?

I started in the group benefits industry without having any prior experience. Previously, I had spent a couple of years in individual life and living benefits, but as I began a new role in the group benefits space, I was starting from the beginning.

In my very first year in this industry, which was 2018, I started and completed my CEBS designation. This provided me with the foundation and knowledge that I needed to feel comfortable and confident meeting with my centres of influence (COIs), prospects and clients. Not only that, but my having the CEBS designation provided my COIs, prospects and clients with immediate confidence in me and my abilities.

I have been able to move from a junior group benefits specialist to a senior group benefits specialist to a regional manager in a short amount of time, and I attribute a lot of that to the CEBS designation and the ongoing education that comes with being involved with ISCEBS.

Visit CEBS online for information about purchasing course materials, signing up for an Online Study Group, virtual exams and more details on earning your designation.

Check Out Recent CEBS News Stories

Course Corner: Canadian GBA 1 Revisions

As the employee benefits industry evolves, the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist® (CEBS®) curriculum is updated to reflect this reality. The Canadian GBA 1 course has been fully revised to meet the changing group benefit plans landscape. This new CEBS course will help you gain valuable skills that you can put into practice on the job today as well as provide the emergent, cutting-edge knowledge that will prepare you for future roles.

Study Materials for GBA 1, including a new Study Guide and textbook, are available for purchase.  You’ll be able to write exams for the new course beginning in the first Testing Window of 2023. Online Study Groups With Instructor Support for the new courses will be offered for the first time during the spring 2023 session.

Below is an outline of the new Canadian course:

GBA 1—Managing Benefit Plans Part 1

Module 1: Managing Risk in Benefit Plans
Benefits in Action #1: We need a benefits plan.

Module 2: Leveraging the Benefits Plan Management Function
Benefits in Action #2: What is within my scope of accountability as a benefits plan sponsor?

Module 3: Applying Functional Analysis to Benefit Plans

Module 4: Designing Benefit Plans
Benefits in Action #3: How do I make this plan competitive and comprehensive?

Module 5: Funding Benefit Plans

Module 6: Administering Benefit Plans

Module 7: Processing Benefit Plan Claims

Module 8: Initial Pricing of Group Insurance Products

Module 9: Establishing Renewal Rates for Group Insurance
Benefits in Action #4: How do I prepare for a benefits renewal?

Module 10: Marketing a Group Insurance Plan

Module 11: Capstone Case:  Learning the Benefits Management Ropes—From Funding to Admin to Marketing

If you have any questions about Study Materials or the new Canadian GBA 1 course, please reach out to our CEBS Customer Service team at cebs@ifebp.org.

CEBS Benefits You

There’s so much to gain when you earn your CEBS designation!  We asked graduates many questions to learn about their experience with the CEBS designation and their professional development in a cohort survey.  483 individuals from the United States and Canada responded in 2022. 

Here’s a snapshot of how earning the CEBS designation has transformed those benefits professionals’ careers and helped them reach their aspirations.

Gain New Skills and Respect From Colleagues

A whopping 94% of CEBS designation holders report that having their CEBS designation expanded their skills and knowledge, which helped them do their job better.  85% report that having their CEBS designation earned them respect from their colleagues.

Earn Promotions and Salary Increases

Three in five CEBS designation holders report that earning their CEBS designation helped them get a promotion or a job, and over half of respondents said their CEBS designation helped them get a raise or a bonus!

Make an Impact at Your Organization

Eighty-two percent of the survey respondents said having their CEBS designation gave them the knowledge to make or recommend plan design improvements for their employer.  Three in four said having their CEBS designation qualified them for additional roles and responsibilities.

Achieve Personal Satisfaction

The majority of CEBS designation holders, 96%, report that earning their CEBS designation gave them personal satisfaction.  Three in five said the designation helped them build their network within the benefits industry.


Are you ready to learn strategic knowledge and valuable skills to elevate your career?  The CEBS designation benefits you!  Please click here to learn more about the designation and consider taking an Online Study Group With Instructor Support to engage with other benefits professionals as you learn.  CEBS staff periodically host informational webinars about the CEBS courses, online convenience and case study applications. 

Meet Your U.S. CEBS Instructor: Elizabeth McBurney, CEBS

Meet the CEBS Instructor

There’s something about fall that makes us all want to go back to school.  Would you like to feel prepared to take your next CEBS® exam by the end of the year?  Get motivated to learn with CEBS Online Study Groups!  Many CEBS candidates rely on CEBS Online Study Groups With Instructor Support for extra help on their learning journeys.

CEBS​​ Online Study Groups are an optional educational resource designed to complement the self-study approach.  Offered over a 12-week session, Online Study Groups provide structure to your study efforts and are facilitated by established and experienced CEBS professionals.

What does an online instructor do?

Your online instructor has many roles, including:

  • Designing all content and activities in your class to help you retain knowledge and study for your CEBS exam
  • Facilitating live review sessions
  • Monitoring the discussion forum to provide clarification and guidance to learners
  • Creating discussion questions for each module and Benefits in Action Mini Case to stimulate engagement and enhance learning about employee benefits
  • Sharing their real-world experience about being a benefits professional
  • Answering questions that students submit via the discussion forum, email and private message

A Chat With Elizabeth McBurney, CEBS

Elizabeth McBurney, M.B.A., CEBS, ACHRM, SHRM-SCP, SPHR
Assistant Human Resources Manager
Columbia County Board of Commissioners
Instructor: GBA/RPA 3—Strategic Benefits Management

How has earning the CEBS designation enhanced your career?

There is no doubt that earning the CEBS designation brings with it industry recognition and value. For me, once I obtained my CEBS designation, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity for an adjunct teaching position at a local university in the fields of human resources and organizational behavior.  The CEBS designation truly opened doors for me in ways that I don’t believe would have happened otherwise.  To me, the CEBS designation is the gold standard in the benefits industry.  It brought me knowledge and the ability to act strategically within my organization. My proudest accomplishments, however, are being able to lead the GBA/RPA3 Online Study Group and being part of a great organization.

What will benefits professionals learn from GBA/RPA 3?

Benefits professionals will learn the foundations of ERISA, the value of using analytics in the healthcare arena and the legal ramifications of the benefit industry, among many other things. This course is truly the “nuts and bolts” of benefits. It is extremely important to understand the complexities of health and retirement plans, and this knowledge can be gained from getting the CEBS designation. 

Are there any interesting current events, regulatory updates or industry trends related to concepts or issues your course explores?

As we explore the various modules of the course, each one interacts in some way with current events. In today’s world, we are dealing with an increasingly diverse workforce and post pandemic survival. We ask, how do we put our organizations back to the pre-COVID days? We don’t—We must adjust to a new way of doing business and look at every benefit offered. Many organizations are looking to increase voluntary benefits as a means to keep employees as organizations are fighting for talent. We must know what those industry trends are and how we can maintain our organizations. Without the knowledge provided by the CEBS designation, it would be more difficult to see a clear path forward.

What are your best study tips for CEBS students?

Read the Study Materials thoroughly and utilize all the available Study Tools in your Online Study Group. Also, put yourself in the position of a company CEO and ask yourself what you would do if you had to run the company. How would you use your knowledge to become a strategic business partner in employee benefits for your organization? Instead of just trying to memorize the data, get to understand the theory behind the material.

What sort of success stories have you heard from your students? Why would you encourage people to earn their CEBS designation?

Many students have told me that they have been able to offer knowledge to their organizations and have a clear understanding of the legalities of benefits and retirement. They have commented that once they have the designation, it is easier for them to “gain a seat at the table” and make meaningful input.

In my geographical area, there are only a few individuals who hold the CEBS designation, which puts them at a tremendous advantage in the benefits world. Not everyone has a clear understanding of the rules and laws surrounding benefits. There is no doubt that CEBS has made a success out of many people.


Learn more about CEBS and the CEBS Online Study Groups With Instructor Support.

Do you need guidance on your CEBS journey? Whether you’re about to take your first step or getting close to reaching your designation, we’re here to help! Give us a call at (800) 449-2327, option 3, or email cebs@ifebp.org.

Meet Your Canadian CEBS Instructor: Brian Will, CEBS

Meet the CEBS Instructor

There’s something about fall that makes us all want to go back to school. Would you like to feel prepared to take your next CEBS® exam by the end of the year? Get motivated to learn with CEBS Online Study Groups!  Many CEBS candidates rely on CEBS Online Study Groups With Instructor Support for extra help on their learning journeys.

CEBS​​ Online Study Groups are an optional educational resource designed to complement the self-study approach. Offered over a 12-week session, online study groups provide structure to your study efforts and are facilitated by established and experienced CEBS professionals.

What does an online instructor do?

Your online instructor has many roles, including:

  • Designing all content and activities in your class to help you retain knowledge and study for your CEBS exam
  • Facilitating live review sessions
  • Monitoring the discussion forum to provide clarification and guidance to learners
  • Creating discussion questions for each module and Benefits in Action Mini Case to stimulate engagement and enhance learning about employee benefits
  • Sharing their real-world experience about being a benefits professional
  • Answering questions that students submit via the discussion forum, email and private message

A Chat With Brian Will, CEBS

Brian Will, CEBS
Senior Manager, Sales & Service
CUMIS
Instructor: RPA 2—Managing Retirement Plans Part 2

How has earning the CEBS designation enhanced your career?

The CEBS designation provided me with a broader view of the industry and has allowed me to grow within the industry and better support client needs. I have also been able to make new industry contacts through discussions with other CEBS designation holders.

Are there any interesting current events, regulatory updates or industry trends related to concepts or issues your course explores?

Personally, I’m very interested in new investment trends and solutions being made available to CAP plan members. I try to tie this into the Online Study Group.

What are your best study tips for CEBS students?

Keep up with your reading. Remember, all Assigned Reading is testable content. Review the Instructor Notes in your Online Study Group and any supplementary resources. Most of all, ask questions if something doesn’t make sense.

Why would you encourage people to earn their CEBS designation?

The CEBS designation is very recognizable in the industry. It will help you progress your career and support your clients. The continuing education opportunities post designation and CEBS Compliance are also important to keep in mind.


Learn more about CEBS and the CEBS Online Study Groups With Instructor Support.

Do you need guidance on your CEBS journey?  Whether you’re about to take your first step or getting close to reaching your designation, we’re here to help! Give us a call at (833) 886-3749 or email cancebs@ifebp.org.

Three Tips to Study Smarter

Create Good Habits for CEBS® Success

Are you in a time crunch? That’s okay! You still have time to learn today. Choose a study tool from your CEBS Online Study Group that fits your time budget.

1. Do you have just five minutes? Try an interactive game or quiz in the Online Study Group for the module you’re working on.

2. You’re cooking dinner and wish you could be learning, too. Listen to an audio overview created by your instructor.

3. You have all Saturday afternoon to study, and it’s getting close to your exam day. Take on the Integrated Case Study (U.S. students) / Capstone Case (Canadian students) as part of your in-depth, final review and a test of your benefits know-how!

Get more details on CEBS study materials.

Consider signing up for an Online Study Group With Instructor Support.

What is your CEBS Story? Bradley Churchill, CEBS

Earning your CEBS designation is a learning journey. Along the way, you acquire valuable employee benefits knowledge and relevant new skills. As you apply what you’ve learned to your work, you can forge a unique career pathway that is truly your own. Here’s a designee’s CEBS story.

A Chat With Bradley Churchill, CEBS


Bradley Churchill, CEBS
Senior Group Retirement Consultant
Belmont Health and Wealth

Could you share some insight about how pursuing your CEBS demonstrates that you are a lifelong learner and an expert in your profession?

The ability to show the world that you are continuing to strive and grow through online learning, courses and designations has become exceptionally valuable. Holding a CEBS designation brings a class of distinction; you are among experts in the field of employee benefits.

Could you share a story about how you prepared for your CEBS exam and applied what you learned to your work?

Preparing for my CEBS exam began with dedicating early mornings to my studies. I would take two hours a day, five days a week to study for each exam before the regular workday began. I continue this routine today and apply this time to my professional development and growth.

Could you describe how earning your CEBS designation has supported you in your role and professional growth?

Participating in my ISCEBS local chapter events has significantly expanded my professional network as well as my knowledge in the benefits and pensions industry. Learning from some of the top experts in your field is extremely imperative. Since graduating, I have joined my local chapter board to further build relationships with members in the industry.

My CEBS designation has helped me to be recognized as a professional in the employee benefits field. It has opened doors that I never expected, even during my studies. I am very thankful to hold the title of CEBS.

What’s Your CEBS Story? Christine Sebranek, CEBS

What's Your CEBS Story

Earning your CEBS designation is a learning journey. Along the way, you acquire valuable employee benefits knowledge and relevant new skills. As you apply what you’ve learned to your work, you can forge a unique career pathway that is truly your own. Here’s a designee’s CEBS story.

A Chat With Christine Sebranek, CEBS


Christine Sebranek, CEBS
Director, Employee Benefits and Well-Being
Children’s Hospital and Health System

Could you describe how expanding your professional network has helped you attain success?

When I obtained my CEBS designation, I was a few years out of college and did not know many people in the benefits field. Having my CEBS, being involved in the Milwaukee Chapter of ISCEBS through the monthly meetings and participating in the local chapter as a newsletter editor, secretary, vice president and then president allowed me to work with people in the field from many of the employers in Milwaukee. It enabled me to expand my professional network and make many lifelong friends.

Could you share some insight about how pursuing your CEBS demonstrates that you are a lifelong learner and an expert in your profession?

When I pursued the designation, ten tests were required and two were very focused on areas of benefits I was not working in initially—pensions and investments. Learning about all benefits formed a very strong foundation for my career. That foundation allowed flexibility for me to be employed as a broker, a consultant and a benefits director. It gave me the credibility to be seen as an expert in the field of benefits and showed my commitment to lifelong learning in that field. It gave me greater confidence—especially when I was new in my career— to operate in a benefits position in either welfare or retirement.

Could you share a story about how you prepared for your CEBS exam and applied what you learned to your work?

At the encouragement of my employer, I took some of the exams right after I graduated from college. Gallagher was very supportive—They paid for the designation and provided small bonuses for passing the exams. As you can imagine, all this encouragement made me want to achieve the CEBS designation, so I set a goal to get my designation done within three years.

My tip for success is to self-study, create a “study timeline” and take notes using the outline in the Study Guide and the key terms/concepts.  The level of detail in the exams helped prepare me well for all the details of administering benefit plans. Also, although the retirement courses did not resonate with me at the time that I took them, they ultimately helped as I moved through different positions in my career. I feel that I stood out as a candidate for jobs because I had my designation. I do feel I have gone much further in my career—I have been promoted, and was able to move between consulting and working for an employer—because of the CEBS designation.