What Is the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) Designation?

Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) is a professional designation earned by those who negotiate and oversee employee benefits packages. Jointly administered by the Wharton School of Business and Dalhousie University, the CEBS is a leading certification in the field and can often lead to enhanced employment prospects.

Key Takeaways

  • The CEBS is a prestigious professional designation in the benefits industry.
  • It consists of five courses, each with its own exam.
  • The two main areas covered by the CEBS designation are group health plans and retirement benefits packages, helping employers improve the acquisition and retention of their employees.

Understanding the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) Designation

Holders of the CEBS must complete five core courses, which are drawn from the standard curriculums of two related certifications: the Group Benefits Associate (GBA) designation and the Retirement Plans Associate (RPA) designation. Whereas the GBA focuses primarily on group-related health benefits and its governing healthcare legislation, the RPA is focused on the management of retirement plan assets. For each of these five courses, successful candidates must take and pass a national exam, with the entire CEBS program typically taking three years to complete.

Those wishing to pursue the CEBS can do so either independently or by enrolling in online classes. In either cases, materials are available both in print and in digital formats. Due to differences in the regulatory landscape between Canada and the U.S., candidates in either country will navigate slightly different course materials. For example, laws such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are relevant in the United States, whereas Canadian professionals must learn to navigate the Canadian system of universal healthcare.

Although the coursework for the CEBS is jointly developed by the Wharton School of Business and Dalhousie University, there are many other business schools that can assist candidates in pursuing the CEBS designation. Some of the most popular business schools for this designation include Strayer University, Southern New Hampshire University, Herzing University, Colorado State University Global, and Capella University.

Real World Example of the CEBS

From an employer’s perspective, CEBS professionals can help improve the attractiveness of a workplace to employees, thereby contributing both to talent acquisition and retention. To that end, the CEBS curriculum includes various technical skills, such as how to manage the financial risks associated with different benefits plans, how to use discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis to estimate the likely cost of a plan, and how to evaluate the initial pricing of a group insurance product.

CEBS professionals can also contribute significantly in regard to managing employers' retirement plans. To prepare them for this role, the CEBS curriculum teaches retirement-related skills such as how to design employee profit-sharing plans, how to comply with financial reporting requirements, how to navigate special situations such as corporate reorganizations, and how to encourage tax efficiencies and effective corporate governance.