Canadian CEBS Study Materials Updates

CEBS compliance reporting

As the employee benefits industry evolves, the CEBS® designation’s curriculum is updated to reflect this reality.

Study Materials Updates have been issued for the following Canadian CEBS courses:

GBA 1—Managing Benefit Plans Part 1

GBA/RPA 3—Navigating the Plan Environment

RPA 1—Managing Retirement Plans Part 1

RPA 2—Managing Retirement Plans Part 2

Study Materials Updates are required reading for purposes of the CEBS® program and the national exams for the GBA 1, GBA/RPA 3, RPA 1 and RPA 2 courses administered on or after October 15, 2023.

Please view your Online Study Guide or the Readings Update for Canadian Courses page to access Study Materials Updates.

Questions?

If you have any questions about Study Materials, please reach out to our CEBS Customer Service team at Cancebs@ifebp.org.

Three Tips for Successful CEBS Studies

Understanding how the brain functions can make you a better learner. Here are some insights from the neuroscience field for making the most of your study time for your CEBS® exam.

  1. Know your limits. The maximum attention span for most adult learners is around 20 minutes.  Set a timer and give your study materials your undivided attention. When you’re done, be sure to take a short break. Studying for too long leads to interference, which occurs when your brain’s working memory gets overloaded with new information and doesn’t have time to process and make sense of the content.
  2. Sleep on it. Regularly getting a good night’s sleep helps your brain convert working memory into long-term memory, which is critical to learning.
  3. Practice makes permanent. For new content you’re trying to learn, review at least three times with time to sleep in between. Multiple learning sessions and retrievals focusing on the same content strengthens neural pathways, which will help you remember more.

Do you need guidance on your CEBS journey? Whether you’re about to take your first step or getting close to earning your designation, we’re here to help! For assistance with the U.S. curriculum, give us a call at (800) 449-2327, option 3, or email cebs@ifebp.org. To learn more about the Canadian curriculum, contact us at (833) 886-3749 or cancebs@ifebp.org.

Navigate Uncertainty With Confidence With the CEBS® Designation—From Your Peers

In today’s business environment, change is constant. The Certified Employee Benefit Specialist® (CEBS®) designation speaks for your expertise as a benefits professional in managing change in your organization. You’ll gain the critical knowledge and skills to scan the environment and strategically tailor your benefit offerings to motivate and engage today’s workforce while controlling costs.

We recently surveyed holders of the CEBS designation. Below is a little extra motivation from other benefits industry professionals on how earning the CEBS designation has helped them navigate uncertainty.

“The CEBS designation has given me a better understanding of all of the moving parts in benefits plans and helps me advise clients on changes in the industry.”

David Ghirardini, CEBS
Senior Vice President, Alliant Employee Benefits

“My organization can depend on me to understand and keep abreast of legislative changes. My employer considers me an expert in my employee benefits role.”

Wanda Wallace, CEBS
Benefits Manager, G&J Pepsi Cola Bottling Inc.

“I have developed a strong foundation of knowledge to understand what may be impacted during uncertain times and to ask the right questions and pursue the right information to remain compliant and on track.”

Jennifer Bergman, CEBS
Global Benefits and Well-being Program Manager, Zendesk

“Earning my CEBS designation and staying CEBS Compliant keeps my company compliant. I know where to find resources for emerging issues.”

Marcella Kaminski, CEBS
Director Benefits Planning, Pilkington North America, Inc.

“The CEBS designation has made me aware of how individual bias impacts decision making and strategic planning. This has assisted me greatly and benefitted my organization.” 

Chris Camp, CEBS
Chair, Halifax Professional Firefighters Benefits Trust

“The CEBS designation has helped me understand the current legislation and how it is changing. It has given me a network of resources for learning more.”

Katrina Amoroso, CEBS
Benefits Manager, MRI Software

“The CEBS designation has helped me grasp some of the COVID-19 benefits-related legislation.”

Alexander Rohlfs, CEBS
Financial Analyst, Milliman, Inc.

“The broad curriculum of the CEBS designation sets a fabulous knowledge baseline. Having that strong foundation has assisted me in quickly applying context to the constant bombardment of emerging legislation.”

Jeffery Redford, CEBS
Manager, Service Delivery Management, ADP

“With the CEBS designation, I’ve been able to help my organization manage new challenges such as FMLA administration, pension termination and new health plan designs.”

Peggy West, CEBS
Principal Owner, Benefit Plan Diagnostics LLC

“With the addition of a Study Materials Update about the SECURE Act to the U.S. CEBS curriculum, it confirmed the fact that this retirement legislation is here to stay.”

Catherine Stone, CEBS
Manager of Employee Benefits, Southern Ohio Medical Center

“The past few years have been difficult for many HR professionals as we navigate the ever-changing landscape of legislation in relation to the pandemic. Benefits have been hit particularly hard, as many legislative changes directly affect benefit plans and give employers the opportunity to adopt changes. Being able to track, understand and consider these changes so we can adequately interpret their impact on compliance with our plans and how our plans operate has been invaluable.”

Caitlin Leidy, CEBS
Senior Benefits Specialist, Lehigh University

“I have a deeper understanding of the entire benefits landscape that allows for better strategic thinking.”

Paul Stoehr, CEBS
Partner, Ledbetter Parisi LLC

“My focus is on compliance. Using knowledge from the CEBS designation, I have assisted with keeping plans compliant and reported to government agencies. I handle all plan and DOL audits.”

Carol Day, CEBS
Director Benefits Compliance & Accounting, AECOM

“The CEBS designation has helped shape and fine-tune my critical thinking skills in the employee benefits area.”

Gerald Wernette, CEBS
Principal, Rehmann

“The knowledge I’ve gained from the CEBS designation gives me the confidence to move forward during this time of uncertainty and legislative changes to ensure that our benefit plans are not only fully comprehensive to our employees but remain compliant with quickly changing legislation.”

Patricia Florkowski, CEBS
Director of Benefits, Lehigh University

Are you ready to learn how to help your organization transform uncertainty into opportunity?  Learn more about the industry’s most respected credential—the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) designation

Congratulations to the Newest U.S. CEBS® Graduates

New CEBS Graduates

Congrats to the newest Certified Employee Benefit Specialists through June 2023!

Click image to view full graduate list

Do you recognize anyone? Be sure to celebrate your peers with a personal note or shout-out on social media, tagging #CEBSgoals. Earning the CEBS is a major career and personal achievement, and having peers recognize the work and demonstrated knowledge only sweetens the accomplishment.

Now picture yourself on this list! Continue on your path to earning your CEBS designation.

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

#CEBSgoals

Congratulations to the Newest Canadian CEBS® Graduates!

New CEBS Graduates

Congrats to the newest Certified Employee Benefit Specialists thru June 2023!

Click image to view full graduate list

Do you recognize anyone? Be sure to celebrate your peers with a personal note or shout-out on social media, tagging #CEBSgoals. Earning the CEBS is a major career and personal achievement, and having peers recognize the work and demonstrated knowledge only sweetens the accomplishment.

Now picture yourself on this list! Continue on your path to earning your CEBS designation.

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

#CEBSgoals

Meet Your U.S. CEBS Instructor: Mark Dunlop, CEBS

Meet the CEBS Instructor

A summer getaway gives you insights. Stepping away from your daily routine refreshes you and provides a new perspective on your daily life. The same can be said for learning—It’s an opportunity to expand your horizon by developing new knowledge and skills and to see your work from a strategic vantage point. Consider enrolling in a CEBS Online Study Group With Instructor Support as you embark on your epic learning journey. A weekly schedule sets the pace, so your intention becomes action. Study tools created by your instructor help you explore new information as you prepare for your CEBS exam. Your CEBS designation will put you on the map as an expert in your field, empowering you to reach new heights in your career!

CEBS​​ Online Study Groups are an optional educational resource designed to enhance the self-study approach. Offered over a 12-week session, Online Study Groups set a timeline for completing a CEBS course and are facilitated by established and experienced CEBS professionals. The U.S. fall session runs September 4-November 24, 2023.

What does an online instructor do?

Your online instructor has many roles, including:

  • Designing all content and activities in your Online Study Group 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 Mark Dunlop, CEBS

Mark Dunlop, CEBS, AEC, AFC, CFP, ChFC, CLU, FLMI, REBC, RHU
Principal
Designed Benefit Incentives
Instructor: GBA 2—Directing Benefits Programs Part 2

How has earning the CEBS designation enhanced your career?

The CEBS designation has not only provided me with the tools to strategically apply information and industry knowledge, but it also has helped me to consider issues from various perspectives, including those of decision leadership teams at various sizes of unions and public, corporate and nonprofit employers. It has helped me understand the viewpoints of third-party administrators, employer or union plan administrators, board members, brokers, consultants and participants. This has enabled me to empathize with the personnel involved in plan design and advance in my career progression in the employee field. Holding the CEBS designation helps me speak with confidence and credibility on various topics.

What will benefits professionals learn from taking GBA 2?

GBA 2 places an emphasis on managing and directing employee benefit plans while clarifying the ever-changing dynamics of the United States health care system, including applying lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Benefits in Action Mini Case Studies and the Integrated Case Study, the course examines real-world issues, helping benefits professionals develop a framework to navigate complex, multifaceted benefit issues requiring strategic thinking and tactical problem solving.

The course provides an overview of emerging marketplace innovations in care delivery platforms and quality improvement initiatives. The study materials also delve into disability income programs, long-term care insurance and life insurance concepts.

GBA 2 explores considerations for plan design, including rating and premium setting and different approaches to funding. The course also discusses capitalizing on the enhanced delivery landscape by utilizing the patient-centered medical home model.

Are there any interesting current events or regulatory updates related to concepts the GBA 2 course explores?

Employers and unions are focused on safeguarding employees’ data and health information while striving to offer integrated patient care. There is a renewed focus on tech-driven innovations, including health apps that offer early warnings to mitigate issues to prevent them from becoming serious and minimize the likelihood of spreading contagious illness.

There’s a movement toward virtual health care, including behavioral healthcare. It’s critical for all patient care to be integrated and not siloed.

The COVID-19 pandemic gave people an awareness that they need more than just health insurance coverage. Individuals are now taking a proactive approach to addressing their own life insurance, disability insurance and long-term care needs and coverage.

What are your best study tips for CEBS students?

Enrolling in a CEBS Online Study Group encourages you to interact with other benefits professionals, which helps reinforce your learning. Being part of a community of learners can also reduce your anxiety when you realize you’re not alone in preparing for your CEBS exam.

I also suggest learners plan for frequent, short, focused study sessions. For most adult learners, taking on smaller segments of content leads to better long-term retention.

Why would you encourage benefits professionals to earn the CEBS designation?

I’m a huge advocate for CEBS candidates to get involved with the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists (ISCEBS), even while still studying for their CEBS exams. The interaction with this peer group is quite uplifting.

Networking with my CEBS “family” continues to be a huge blessing for my career. When I moved to St. Louis, Missouri from Miami years ago, having a ready-made network of professionals helped me with my geographic transition. Likewise, when I’m researching options for a solution, I’m able to tap into my CEBS peer network for their considerations, which gives me insight.


The 12-week fall session of the U.S. Online Study Groups With Instructor Support are September 4-November 24, 2023. Jump in anytime and get access to materials from previous weeks.

Do you need additional 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: Jeff Billard, CEBS

Meet the CEBS Instructor

A summer getaway gives you insights. Stepping away from your daily routine refreshes you and provides a new perspective on your daily life. The same can be said for learning—It’s an opportunity to expand your horizon by developing new knowledge and skills and to see your work from a strategic vantage point. Consider enrolling in a CEBS Online Study Group With Instructor Support as you embark on your epic learning journey. A weekly schedule sets the pace, so your intention becomes action. Study tools created by your instructor help you explore new information as you prepare to take your CEBS exam. Your CEBS designation will put you on the map as an expert in your field, empowering you to reach new heights in your career!

CEBS​​ Online Study Groups are an optional educational resource designed to enhance the self-study approach. Offered over a 12-week session, Online Study Groups set a timeline for completing a CEBS course and are facilitated by established and experienced CEBS professionals. The Canadian fall session runs August 21-November 10, 2023.

What does an online instructor do?

Your online instructor has many roles, including:

  • Designing all content and activities in your Online Study Group 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 Jeff Billard, CEBS

Jeff Billard, CEBS
Senior Pension Solutions Specialist
CAAT Pension Plan
Instructor: RPA 1—Managing Retirement Plans Part 1

How has earning the CEBS designation enhanced your career?

Earning the CEBS designation has helped my career in several ways. It’s provided me with a wide range of understanding of the employee benefits field, covering various topics such as retirement plans, benefits in general and compensation. This broad knowledge base not only helped me in my previous role as a pension policy advisor, but it has also given me credibility and recognition among industry peers and HR professionals in my current career path of advocating for defined benefit pension plans, demonstrating my commitment to both professional development and expertise in the field.

What will benefits professionals learn from taking RPA 1?

Benefits professionals gain a solid foundation in retirement plan concepts and regulations from RPA 1. The course covers key topics such as plan types, plan design considerations, fiduciary responsibilities, compliance and communication strategies. Participants will learn about the various retirement plans available—such as defined benefit and defined contribution plans—and understand how to evaluate plan design options based on organizational goals and employee demographics. They’ll also acquire knowledge about compliance requirements and reporting obligations. In short, even if someone is a benefits professional, RPA 1 provides a very comprehensive view of the complexities of retirement plans that professionals may not regularly work with or be familiar with.

Are there any interesting current events or regulatory updates related to concepts the RPA 1 course explores?

One of the interesting evolving elements in the retirement plan landscape in both Canada and the U.S. is the resurgence of the viability of defined benefit pension plans after over 30 years of DB plans disappearing. Alaska replaced its public sector DB plan with a DC plan in 2014, causing a devastating effect on the retention and attraction of public sector employees and teachers. There is currently a bipartisan effort to move back to a DB structure. In Canada, both CAAT Pension Plan and OPTrust Select have supported regulatory changes allowing them to open their jointly sponsored DB plans to new participating employers over the past few years, with better dollar-for-dollar retirement outcomes than DC plans or group RRSP contributions, but at fixed contribution rates and no balance sheet risk for employers.

What are your best study tips for CEBS students?

Here are a few pointers:

  • Establish a study schedule. The CEBS course has a large amount of information to process and digest, so allocating specific time slots for studying each week is very helpful. Consistency is key!
  • Take notes and summarize the information you’re reading. Summarizing the main points in your own words helps reinforce the information and aids in retention.
  • Utilize the various study materials you have access to. Use the Study Guide, textbook, any professional enrichment resources and the 100-question practice exam. If you’ve enrolled in a CEBS Online Study Group With Instructor Support, be sure to access the interactive games and quizzes, flashcards and additional study tools you have access to.
  • Seek clarification in your Online Study Group. I’m an online instructor for a reason: to help students better understand the complexities of RPA 1 and explain concepts in many ways. If you encounter challenging concepts or have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. I enjoy answering questions, and as instructors are human, too, getting a question where I must dig deeper to really understand and explain it to you clearly helps me learn even more about employee benefits as well.

Why would you encourage benefits professionals to earn their CEBS designation?

I’ve had a few students reach out to let me know the designation has helped them with career advancement, which is great to hear. Aside from that, the CEBS designation is internationally recognized and provides a quick check on someone’s knowledge level of employee benefits, and it signals that someone has committed time and energy to understand the world of employee benefits.


The 12-week, fall session of the Canadian Online Study Groups With Instructor Support are August 21-November 10, 2023. Jump in anytime and get access to materials from previous weeks.

Do you need additional 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.

Course Corner–CEBS Study Materials Update: SECURE 2.0 Act

As the employee benefits industry evolves, the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist® (CEBS®) curriculum is updated to reflect this reality.

Enacted in December 2022, the SECURE 2.0 Act has authorized sweeping changes to United States tax law for retirement plans and individual retirement savings. This retirement reform legislation contains over 90 separate provisions; some stipulations are mandatory for plan sponsors and others are optional.

The April 2023 Study Materials Update has been provided to acquaint U.S. CEBS students with the significant changes the SECURE 2.0 Act makes to prior law as well as to update the course material for RPA 1, RPA 2 and the Strategic Benefits Management course (GBA/RPA 3).

This Study Materials Update is required reading for purposes of the CEBS program and the national exams for the RPA 1, RPA 2 and GBA/RPA 3 courses administered on or after July 15, 2023.

Questions?

If you have any questions about Study Materials, please reach out to the CEBS Customer Service team at cebs@ifebp.org.

How to Become an Employee Benefits Professional

How to Become an Employee Benefits Professional article originally published in April 2023 by Petula Workman at College Magazine.

Think about the advice you’ve been given when searching for a job: Make sure to check out the employee benefits. But what are those benefits? Employee benefits are the non-wage portion of compensation such as health insurance, retirement plans, life insurance, disability insurance, pet insurance and more. Those benefits don’t work in a vacuum— they need people to help make them effective. Ever heard of an employee benefits professional? No? You’re not alone. This not-too-well-known but highly rewarding profession consists of the people who make employee benefits effective.

If you like problem solving and helping others, read on to learn how to become an employee benefits professional.

What does an employee benefits professional do?

Generally, employee benefits professionals break into two categories. One category includes individuals who work at an employer in a department that may include human resources or may be a stand-alone department such as employee benefits or total rewards. The other category includes individuals who work at organizations that help employers with employee benefits in a consultative role. Among others, positions include the following:

“Broadly, an employee benefits professional is someone who has core knowledge of the various types of employee benefits and how to administer them for the benefit of employees and their families. That means a whole lot of things. There are so many types of day-to-day jobs. You’re really helping people. Helping them get the benefits of healthcare insurance and later retirement benefits. But you have this knowledge and education to be a professional and do it the right way,” Carey Wooton, CEBS, Director of Educational Program Development, International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans said.

Typically, employee benefits professionals gain expertise in either health and welfare benefits, such as medical insurance, life insurance and similar benefits, or retirement benefits, such as 401k plans. However, some individuals, particularly at smaller organizations, become familiar with requirements and methods of operation for both. Because both categories of benefits are heavily regulated, outside expertise in the form of legal counsel or other consulting fields often becomes essential. Thus, it is possible to become an employee benefits professional through related fields, such as legal, actuarial and other technical fields, but those professionals typically require additional or specialized education or training.

What does it take to become an employee benefits professional?

Generally, organizations require an employee benefits professional to have a bachelor’s degree. Because employee benefits professionals come from many different backgrounds, no specific degree requirement exists. General business degrees are a popular choice for aspiring employee benefits professionals. In addition, education related to human resources will help an individual understand how benefits fit into the broader structure of employment.

“While degree requirements vary by organization, often you will find someone with a degree in business or an analytical field. Employee benefits are governed heavily by federal and state regulations so having a certification in employee benefits is helpful. One of the premier certifications is the Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS), which is offered by the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans,” John Eshleman, CEBS, Director at Benefits at Memorial Hermann Health System said.

“Training with the CEBS program really sets you apart,” Wooton said. “It teaches you about the history and the nuts and bolts of employee benefits administration.”

Notably, students can start their CEBS study at any time during their college careers because students complete the CEBS program through self-study. Granted, you may not really want to add any additional studies to your already heavy load of classes, but certification through the program can really give you a leg up. It takes between one and three years to obtain. Once you become a student, you can join the International Society of Employee Benefit Specialists (ISCEBS), which is where the real advantages arise. ISCEBS has conferences and networking opportunities that allow you to meet and network with working employee benefits professionals. Also, employers may pay for their employees to obtain CEBS certification, so you may be able to start in the program as a college student and then obtain your full certification once you start your career. 

What should you know about becoming an employee benefits specialist?

1. How much will you make as an employee benefits specialist?

Entry level positions start around $50,000 to $60,000 and may be hourly or salaried, depending on the nature of the role. A benefits manager averages an annual compensation of $115,000 to $120,000.

2. How much will you be expected to work?

On average, employee benefits professionals work 40 hours per week. However, certain times of the year require additional hours. These times of year revolve around “annual enrollment” or “open enrollment.” Enrollment periods allow employees to change their benefit elections, and that triggers a heavier workload for a few months.

3. What will your work environment look like?

“Most of the time is spent in an office environment (either at the office or a home office). Many roles require the occasional on-site work for events such as enrollment or benefit fairs,” Eshleman said.

“There’s a lot of hybrid and even remote work. Sometimes, the work will be fully onsite, but that depends on the industry. For example, if you are a benefits professional for a manufacturing company, the employees are mostly onsite; thus, you’d be expected to be onsite too,” Wooton said.

In contrast, consultants more often spend time in other organizations’ offices. Consultants are frequently on the go or working remotely, but they also have professionals working in an office environment to support them and their clients. Because of the nature of their work, consultants often travel and can spend 25% to 50% of their time traveling to other locations and even internationally. Consultants also become involved with enrollment periods and see their working hours increase during the months prior to enrollment.  

“Remote working is where it’s at, and spending time with clients and prospect clients is the majority of the work,” U.S. Division Vice President, Sales Enablement, Gallagher, Kristy Ventimiglia said. “Now, that can include Zoom or Teams meetings, so not all meetings are in person, but consultants spend most of their time with clients and prospects.”  

4. What do you need to know about the future of the employee benefits profession?

After World War II, Congress directed the President to freeze wages and prices as of a certain date in 1942 to fight inflation. As a result of that action, employers seeking to attract and retain employees turned to fringe benefits, such as health insurance. The law did not treat fringe benefits as inflationary, and thus they were not subject to the limitations. Even though Congress eventually relinquished the caps on wages, fringe benefits became a part of the American wage experience and thus a new type of employee, the employee benefits professional became a solid part of the American workforce. Since that time, the field has only grown as the complexity of legislation and the American workers’ expectations for fringe benefits have grown.

“Keeping up with all the legislation in health or retirement can be dizzying, so you really need someone who knows what they’re doing. It’s not going away. Because everyone needs the various benefits, and as workers have more choices about where to work, employee benefits are a big factor,” Wooton said.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Affordable Care Act, also called the ACA. This landmark piece of legislation is just one of the laws impacting employee benefits, and it now has more pages of regulations than the Internal Revenue Code does for tax purposes. Someone must understand and apply those rules (and many more) to employee benefits to help employers avoid the potential for millions of dollars in penalties and to make sure that benefits meet applicable laws. While the field is complex, it’s also an innovative and growing area. Positions exist today not thought of ten years ago. As the need for highly competent individuals grows, that growth and innovation continues.

What skills do you need to become an employee benefits professional?

1. Creative thinking

While the field may seem simple, you select and provide benefits— the day-to-day operation involves a great deal of problem solving and thus a need for creative thinking. If you step back for a moment, it becomes apparent that employee benefits are all about solving problems. I have a health issue; how can I afford to pay for the cost of treatment? I want to retire one day; how am I going to save enough money? I was injured in a car accident and will miss six weeks of work; how am I going to pay my living expenses? Employee benefits provide solutions for these problems.

But then problems crop up within the solutions. “I just received a bill for my surgery saying that the anesthesiologist is out-of-network and I owe $20,000. Help!” Employee benefits professionals often assist with finding solutions to coverage and payment issues such as this. Additionally, employee benefits professionals analyze long-term and short-term organizational goals to determine how employee benefits support those goals and become involved in decision-making processes that impact the daily lives of employees and their families.  

2. Listening

An employee benefits professional must have strong listening skills to be effective. Impactful benefits correlate to a given employer’s needs. To find out what an employer, its employees and its employees’ families need, someone must learn what those needs are, and thus listening skills become front and center. After identifying needs, the employee benefits professional must engage in a second round of listening to find solutions for the expressed needs.

3. Ability to communicate

“Finding ways to effectively communicate to increase awareness of your plans is key,” Eshleman said.

Communication takes both oral and written form, and in some industries, it also involves signed language. Strong communication skills not only involve raising awareness of benefits, but also relate back to creative solutions when problems arise. The opportunity to engage in creative communication arises too— particularly when explaining employee benefits. Should we creative flyers? Should we do a video? Should we send out mass emails? Should we write FAQs? These and many more communication opportunities arise for employee benefits professionals.

What are the reviews on being an employee benefits professional?

“It’s a very rewarding career in that you can help employees’ lives through offering the right benefit programs,” Eshleman said.

“Being an employee benefits professional is really rewarding. It’s the kind of job that you can work in almost any industry and in so many different capacities, but still in the employee benefits arena. You get to help people. You get to be part of the decision-making process. You get to make a positive impact on peoples’ lives. It’s a win-win kind of job with a lot of hard work thrown in between,” Wooton said.

“I work in a field as a consultant. I get to meet new people, and I get to help solve their problems. It’s a lot of fun. Personally, I wish I’d discovered my profession earlier. No one really thinks about insurance. But it’s a respectable career, and if you really like to solve problems, it’s a great career,” Ventimiglia said.


How to Become an Employee Benefits Professional article originally published in April 2023 by Petula Workman at College Magazine.

What’s Your CEBS Story? Patrick Garrabrant, 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 Patrick Garrabrant, CEBS, CLU

Patrick Garrabrant, CEBS, CLU

Employee Benefits Manager

PrimeGroup Insurance

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

I attended a few events at the Tampa Chapter of ISCEBS. I met some super kind people, and I really enjoyed the conversation and companionship of those who had already put in the work to get their CEBS designation. Professional development is definitely a commitment on top of work, family and the day-to-day grind. Their encouragement went a long way when I needed the energy to get through the fourth of the five courses in the designation. It’s very nice to meet others who do what I do and can share best practices in employee benefits.

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

In addition to helping employer groups of three to 300 in Florida, I also teach new insurance agents prelicensing. I prepared for my CEBS exams in the same way I instruct my insurance students to prepare for the license exam, which is by paying attention and learning the vocabulary. 

Most of the difficulty in insurance is that there is a lot of jargon, and it can really be its own language. Most laws and compliance requirements are typically easy to grasp because they are designed to protect the consumer. The difficult part is understanding an exam question and knowing the distinction between the answer choices.  That’s where your knowledge of the terminology comes in. 

I loved the real-world examples that were presented throughout the CEBS courses in the Benefits in Action Mini Cases. There were several examples of an insurance agent or an HR professional putting concepts from the CEBS courses in language that’s easy to understand so clients could make informed choices.  That is my biggest takeaway from the CEBS designation that I use on a day-to-day basis. Knowing employee benefits laws and rules is important but that alone doesn’t really help a client. The best part about having the CEBS designation is that I have tools to help me explain choices in ways clients can understand.

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

I tell my insurance students the best thing about insurance is that things change. Just because someone has been in the business longer than you have doesn’t mean they know more than you do. The downside about insurance is also that things change, so if you want to keep an edge on the competition, you must keep current. I felt attaining the CEBS designation would most clearly demonstrate my commitment to providing clients and prospects with the highest level of service I can. Employee benefits is all I do. I want to support my clients with a strong relationship by being their coach and a benefits expert.

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