Compensation professionals work in human resource (HR) management, dealing with payroll, insurance, retirement plans and other types of employee benefits. Programs that are completely online are common, with students watching videos of lessons at their convenience.
Many online programs do not offer college credit, but some can count toward a degree program at an accredited college. Some are graduate certificates, which require that students hold a bachelor's degree, and take around 18 months to complete. Others are continuing education courses in the basics of compensation that take just a few weeks.
Certificate Programs in Human Resource Management
Compensation is a rapidly changing field in human resource (HR) management, and many online certificate programs in HR management include coursework to keep payroll staffers up-to-date with the latest in government policies, retirement plans and compensation strategies. College business schools are most likely to offer programs with for-credit courses in compensation design, welfare benefits administration and health plan management. Private companies and for-profit schools also offer online HR training programs, but the courses are generally not for credit.
Program Information and Requirements
Distance learning programs can be completed fully off-site, although the methods of delivery vary considerably. Some programs require a minimum of online connectivity, using CD-ROMs to deliver study texts, video and software presentations. Other programs offer video, interactive learning modules and examinations completely online.
All students need a computer with high-speed Internet access. Some schools require CD-ROM drives or specific applications to deliver text, spreadsheets or presentations. The level of computer technology required of most certification programs for compensation professionals is modest.
Human resource management programs might require as few as three or as many as ten 3-credit courses to complete. Courses are designed to strengthen HR professionals' work skills and expose them to new aspects of compensation handling. Sample courses include:
Compensation and Benefits
This course presents issues affecting compensation and benefits in contemporary companies, the design of compensation packages and management of benefits systems. Topics include recent changes in government regulations, direct vs. indirect compensation, voluntary programs, stock plans and expense reimbursements.
The regulations, timetables and procedures for handling federal, state and local taxes are complex, often necessitating computerized payroll and reporting systems. Considerations include multistate taxation, supplemental wages, tips, special compensation and business expenses.
Salary is just one aspect of employee compensation. Many fringe benefits, like medical insurance and retirement plans, are major hiring considerations. This course discusses various types of fringe benefits, including dental, life and liability insurance, personal leave, sick leave, third-party sick leave, stock options, annuities and deferred compensation.
Legal and Ethical Issues
Legal conflict resolution, ethical training and conflict resolution are often the responsibility of HR departments. Personnel laws governing immigration, affirmative action and harassment are discussed.
In a large company, a compensation professional may specialize in one area, such as pensions, health insurance or retirement plans. In smaller companies, someone trained in compensation may be responsible for all compensation and benefits issues, or even branch out into other HR specialties.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for compensation specialists were projected to grow by 4% from 2014-2024, a rate considered slower than average. Jobs for compensation and benefits managers were projected to grow at 6%, fast as average of all U.S. jobs. The median 2015 wage was $60,850 for compensation specialists and $111,430 for compensation managers (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
There are several professional organizations for compensation professionals, including the International Foundation of Education, Benefits and Compensation (IFEBP) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Three levels of HR certification exams conducted by the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI), an SHRM affiliate, have become national standards in the field. Certifications must be renewed every three years, by accumulating 60 hours of continuing education credits.
Online certificate programs in human resources management typically include compensation coursework and will inform students of relevant tax, legal and strategy issues in the field. These online programs can be found in for-credit, non-credit, continuing education and graduate certificate formats.