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

Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) is a professional designation earned by those who administer employee benefits packages. The designation is given by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, with curriculums developed by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Dalhousie University in Canada.

Key Takeaways

  • The CEBS is a professional designation for professionals who administer employee benefits.
  • CEBS candidates must take five courses, each with its own exam.
  • The two main areas covered by the CEBS designation are group health and other benefit plans, and retirement benefits packages.

Understanding the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) Designation

CEBS candidates must complete five core courses drawn from two related credentials: the Group Benefits Associate (GBA) and Retirement Plans Associate (RPA) designations. The GBA is designed for those who will administer health and other group benefits. The RPA is a credential for those who work with defined benefit and defined contribution plans. Candidates must take a 100-question exam after completing each course. The CEBS program typically takes three years to complete.

CEBS candidates can study independently, enroll in online classes, or sign-up for in-person classes. Materials are available in print and digital formats. Because regulations differ between the U.S. and Canada, students from these respective countries will encounter different course material. For example, U.S. students will study the Affordable Care Act (ACA), whereas Canadian professionals will study their country's system of universal healthcare coverage.

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. 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 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.