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Benefits make up more than 30% of the typical job’s compensation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But figuring out what your benefits are worth isn’t always easy.
You may need to do a little digging to find how much your employer contributes toward health insurance, retirement plans and other perks. Some benefits also have nonmonetary value, and people can value the same benefits in different ways.
For example, people with health conditions are likely to appreciate guaranteed access to disability or life insurance that could be hard to get or prohibitively expensive otherwise. Someone with student loans may value a program to help with education debt far more than someone without student loan debt.
Now that open enrollment season is upon us again, it’s a great time to review your employer’s current offerings. Understanding what your benefits are worth could renew your commitment to your current job — or make you realize it’s time to seek out a better deal. If you’re thinking of becoming self-employed, you can better understand how much more you’ll need to earn to replace your current benefits.
Here are some of the most common benefits, along with typical employer contribution amounts, according to Mercer, an employee benefits consultant.
Health insurance: $5,000 to $20,000
Employer-provided health insurance plans range from bare bones to fairly extravagant. On average, though, employers paid 83% of the $7,739 premium last year for single coverage and 73% of the $22,221 premium for family coverage, according to KFF, a health insurance research organization.
You can find what both you and your employer paid for your health insurance last year on your 2021 W-2, says Paul Fronstin, director of health benefits research at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, or EBRI. The annual figure is often reported using a “DD” code.
Your employer also may break out its contribution on your pay stub. A pay stub is a document that provides the details of your gross and after-tax pay along with various deductions. You often can access your pay stub through your company’s online payroll system; ask your human resources department for details.
Premiums are just one factor in evaluating your health care coverage, of course. Deductibles, co-pays and provider networks matter as well. Having access to different types of plans can make open enrollment more confusing, but it also can help you tailor your coverage to your situation.
Businesswomen talking in the office
Retirement savings plan: 3% to 10% of salary
EBRI surveys have consistently found that the benefit employees value most after health insurance is access to a retirement plan, with all other benefits coming in at “a distant third,” Fronstin says.
People who have workplace retirement plans such as 401(k)s are far more likely to save for retirement than those who don’t, according to AARP. These plans offer automatic paycheck deductions, and many sign people up automatically as well.
Most 401(k)s also come with company matches — free money that can help employees build wealth faster. Among the most common matches are 50% of the first 6% of salary the worker contributes, or a dollar-for-dollar match of 3% to 6% of pay.
Employers can contribute an even greater percentage of pay to traditional pension plans, which promise a specified monthly benefit amount in retirement. That’s in contrast to 401(k)s and other defined contribution plans, where the amounts you get in retirement depend on how much is contributed and how your investments perform.
Pensions are still common among government agencies, colleges and health care nonprofits, although only about 15% of private sector workers have access to such plans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Everything else: Zero to thousands
Employers that provide dental insurance usually pay $500 to $2,500 a year for the coverage, according to Sandra Sweeney, principal in Mercer’s career practice. Life insurance averages $100 to $300 per employee, while disability insurance usually costs $250 to $1,500.
Employers may offer access to other coverage, such as additional life insurance, long-term care insurance or pet insurance. Workers typically pay the full cost but may benefit from group rates for the policies, Fronstin says.
Help with education costs is increasingly popular, as well. About half of employers offer tuition assistance, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. And of the companies surveyed by EBRI last year, 17% offered some kind of student loan debt assistance while another 31% planned to do so.
Workers can also exclude up to $5,250 of tuition assistance from their incomes on their tax returns, according to the IRS. And through 2025, the limit includes student loan repayment help, as well.
Remember that your employer provides benefits to attract, retain and reward workers. If you’re not sure what all your benefits are, or what they’re worth, your human resources department should be happy to fill you in, says Fronstin.
“Ask your employer,” Fronstin says. “It’s not a secret.”
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Business and financial occupations—which concern the day-to-day duties of running a business or are related to raising or managing money— pay well. People in those positions made a median annual wage of $76,570 in May 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. That far exceeds the BLS-measured median annual wage of $45,760 for all occupations.
Employment in these occupations is also expected to increase 7% through 2031, leading to about 715,100 new jobs over the decade that began in 2021. Besides newly created jobs, opportunities are created when workers leave the field, either from moving to new occupations or retirements. Those openings will total about 980,200 a year on average for the next decade.
Santa Clara University used the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics from May 2021 to find the 25 highest-paying business and financial occupations. The analysis ranks occupations by their median annual wage across all industries, including both the public and private sectors. It excluded occupations in "other" categories. (For example, "Business Operations Specialists, All Other.") Standard errors ranging between 0.2% and 4% mean that the actual median wages could vary, creating probable overlap between many of the rankings.
Descriptions of jobs and information on educational backgrounds are also from the BLS website.
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- Annual median wage: $60,660
- Employment: 82,080
As the title suggests, fundraisers are responsible for raising money and other types of donations through events and campaigns that they organize. The money might go to nonprofit organizations—including educational, religious, health research, or social services organizations—or contributions to a politician running for public office.
Typically a bachelor's degree is required at the minimum, with a focus in communications, public relations, or business, and English proficiency is often preferred. The professional outlook is good, with employment in the fundraising field expected to grow 11% this decade, outpacing most other occupations.
Andrey_Popov // Shutterstock
- Annual median wage: $61,340
- Employment: 58,340
Property appraisers and assessors provide an estimate on the value of real estate—often necessary to obtain a mortgage, for example—and on personal and business property. They will likely have a bachelor's degree but also extensive on-the-job training. Growth in the field through 2031 is projected at 4%, nearly as fast as the national average. There are expected to be about 6,800 openings each year over the decade, replacing those who leave the field or retire.
Rawpixel.com // Shutterstock
- Annual median wage: $61,570
- Employment: 336,030
These specialists, who usually need a bachelor's degree to enter the field, help employees improve their skills. They plan and administer programs to foster that advancement and work in nearly every industry. To be successful, they should have strong communication skills and on-the-job experience. The job outlook through 2031 projects an 8% growth rate.
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- Annual median wage: $62,290
- Employment: 740,830
Human resources specialists recruit, screen, and interview candidates for jobs, and may also handle pay and other compensation, as well as benefits, training, and employee relations. Those responsible for recruitment in particular may conduct video interviews via Zoom, but also travel to job fairs and college campuses. Typically, those in the field have a bachelor's degree, often specializing in human resources or business. Employment in the HR specialist field is expected to grow by 8% through 2031.
ITisha // Shutterstock
- Annual median wage: $62,680
- Employment: 11,430
Auto damage appraisers typically have experience estimating the cost of vehicle repairs or a certificate indicating postsecondary training in the field. They usually receive on-the-job training that can last several months, during which they are supervised by an experienced appraiser while estimating the cost of damages. Licensing requirements vary from state to state. The number of jobs for all claims adjusters and appraisers is expected to decline by 6% over the next decade.
Amnaj Khetsamtip // Shutterstock
- Annual median wage: $63,380
- Employment: 340,170
Employees in this field evaluate loan applications to either approve or reject them or recommend further underwriting. They typically have both a bachelor's degree as well as on-the-job training. Most loan officers work for financial institutions, whether banks, credit unions, or mortgage companies. Mortgage loan officers also must undergo a criminal background check to be licensed.
GLRL // Shutterstock
- Annual median wage: $63,470
- Employment: 439,020
These agents are responsible for buying products and services. Their work is overseen by purchasing managers. They usually have a bachelor's degree, often in business, finance, or supply management, while managers also have work experience. Those expecting to work in agriculture might also consider a degree in agriculture production or animal science. The outlook for the field is not good for the next decade, as job prospects are expected to drop 6% through 2031.
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- Annual median wage: $63,920
- Employment: 727,540
Market research analysts try to determine the potential sales of products or services by studying such factors as business conditions and consumer preferences. Widely used throughout many industries, potential employees in this occupation must at least have a bachelor's degree, although some employers require a master's degree. Job prospects in the field are much better than average, with 19% growth in positions projected over the next 10 years. Marketing specialists develop campaigns to encourage brand awareness and promote sales, as well as organize trade shows, conferences, webinars, and similar events.
Akira Kaelyn // Shutterstock
- Annual median wage: $64,120
- Employment: 87,750
These specialists handle wages and other benefits that companies or nonprofits provide for their employees. They may also determine salaries and job classifications. A bachelor's degree is typically required. The outlook for future growth is projected to reach 7% through 2031.
Africa Studio // Shutterstock
- Annual median wage: $65,080
- Employment: 278,140
Claims adjusters, examiners, and investigators are charged with evaluating insurance claims. Education or experience requirements vary, from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree to previous work experience in the insurance field. For investigators, some employers prefer to hire trained law enforcement officers or state-licensed private investigators. The overall employment of these specialists is expected to fall 6% through 2031, although there are about 23,200 openings every year.
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- Annual median wage: $65,170
- Employment: 208,950
Cost estimators determine how much it will cost to produce a product or provide a service. To do that, they collect and analyze data that allows them to assess the labor, materials, time, and money that would be needed. A bachelor's degree is usually required, although experience in construction can be sufficient to start. Hiring in the field is expected to drop 2% over this decade, although there are some 18,500 openings each year to replace workers who have left or retired.
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- Annual median wage: $71,650
- Employment: 334,340
This position requires a determination of whether companies or government offices and agencies are in compliance with legal regulations and other standards. The federal government hires the most compliance officers in the United States. The highest paid work can be found in mining industry compliance, with an annual mean wage of $111,640.
Africa Studio // Shutterstock
- Annual median wage: $76,390
- Employment: 107,690
Insurance underwriters evaluate applications for insurance to decide whether to offer it and to determine the terms. Usually, a bachelor's degree is required, although some positions may need only experience and competent computer skills while other more advanced roles—such as a senior underwriter or underwriter manager—could demand an industry certificate. The field has been in decline for years, with employment expected to fall 4% through 2031. However, there are about 8,400 openings each year to replace those who move to other careers or retire.
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- Annual median wage: $77,010
- Employment: 63,810
Labor relations specialists focus on contracts, administering and interpreting contractual provisions. A bachelor's degree in one of the following subjects is typically required: business, industrial relations, labor relations, or human resources. The need for labor relations specialists is expected to fall 3% over the next decade, but 5,800 replacements will be required for retiring union negotiators and others who move on from the field.
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- Annual median wage: $77,030
- Employment: 189,320
Logisticians have shined under the spotlight during the coronavirus pandemic, when disruptions upended supply chains around the world. That's because logisticians are responsible for analyzing and coordinating supply chains. An often fast-paced and stressful job became even more difficult due to new government social distancing rules in food processing and consumer goods warehouses, as well as lockdowns in supplier countries such as China. The demand for logisticians is growing and is expected to expand by 28% through 2031.
Andrey_Popov // Shutterstock
- Annual median wage: $77,250
- Employment: 1,318,550
Accountants and auditors handle financial records, preparing and examining them. They typically have a bachelor's degree in accounting or similar subjects. Becoming a certified public accountant or CPA usually will improve job prospects. Employment in the field is expected to increase by 6% over the next 10 years.
Ground Picture // Shutterstock
- Annual median wage: $77,440
- Employment: 68,770
Credit analysts examine financial statements and other data from individuals and companies to measure the risk of extending credit or lending money. They also prepare credit reports to be used in making loans. Credit analysts typically need a bachelor's degree, and as of May 2021, there are more than 68,000 employed credit analysts.
Pressmaster // Shutterstock
- Annual median wage: $78,410
- Employment: 12,480
Agents and business managers represent and promote their clients in their interactions with their current employers and also with prospective ones. They also might handle negotiations over contracts for actors, athletes, and entertainers. There are about 12,480 agents and business managers; however, the number does not include self-employed workers.
Most agents and business managers are located in or near the Los Angeles or New York City metro areas, where the cost of living is high.
fizkes // Shutterstock
- Annual median wage: $79,940
- Employment: 47,440
Analysts in this field help plan the finances of public and private organizations. They usually need a bachelor's degree and take courses in accounting, statistics, and economics. The growth outlook for the field is 3% through 2031, which is slower than average. However, about 4,000 jobs open up every year.
Andrey_Popov // Shutterstock
- Annual median wage: $81,410
- Employment: 60,750
Financial examiners make sure that institutions handling monetary transactions adhere to all applicable laws. They typically work in the finance or insurance industries or for the federal or state governments. They usually need a bachelor's degree with some classes in accounting and are trained on the job. The field is expected to grow 21% over the decade, much faster than the average job growth rate.
- Annual median wage: $91,580
- Employment: 291,880
These analysts advise their clients, businesses, and individuals on how to invest their money to make a profit. More than 373,000 people, who ordinarily need a bachelor's degree to do the job, are employed in this occupation. The field is projected to grow 9% through 2031, well above the national average rate of job growth.
DC Studio // Shutterstock
- Annual median wage: $93,000
- Employment: 768,450
Management analysts examine the workings of organizations to recommend ways they can improve efficiency and increase profitability. Those in the field usually have a bachelor's degree and several years of relevant experience. The growth rate for the profession is expected to reach 11% through 2031, well above the average for all fields.
- Annual median wage: $94,170
- Employment: 263,030
Personal financial advisors help their clients to manage money and plan for their retirement, children's education, purchasing a home, and other life goals. Advisors typically need a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree and some industry certification, such as the Certified Financial Planner, can be helpful to advance an advisor's career. As the population ages and Gen Xers and millennials inherit wealth from boomer parents passing on, the field is on pace to grow faster than the average throughout the economy, by 15% over the next decade.
NicoElNino // Shutterstock
- Annual median wage: $94,500
- Employment: 743,860
Project management specialists oversee projects, from coordinating the budget to managing scheduling and handling staffing. Project managers usually have a bachelor's degree, with an emphasis on business, project management, or a similar field, while industry certifications can be helpful for advancement. The field is positioned to expand by 7% through 2031, which is about the national average for all occupations.
fizkes // Shutterstock
- Annual median wage: $100,000
- Employment: 54,320
These specialists analyze and measure the credit or market risks that could affect the economic health of an organization, including its assets and earnings capacity. Financial risk specialists can recommend ways to limit risk and often work for the Federal Reserve, in the securities and commodities industries, or for insurance carriers.
This story originally appeared on Santa Clara University and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.