The Student’s Guide to Job Benefits
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- Job benefits are offered by your employer in addition to your salary or wages.
- Popular benefits include health insurance, paid time off, and retirement contributions.
- Employers may also offer perks like discounts, free food, and flexible working options.
- Some employers provide part-time employees with job benefits.
When job hunting, you may be tempted to only compare salaries while choosing where you want to work.
However, more and more employees are weighing job benefits in their decision to accept a job. In fact, 57% of employees are willing to accept a lower salary if the job includes a strong benefits package.
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Learn more about job benefits and which job benefits are most commonly offered.
What Are Job Benefits?
With the rising cost of health insurance and a challenging job market, a salary may not be enough to attract and retain quality employees. Many companies are reexamining job offers to include attractive job benefits along with a competitive wage.
Job benefits are any non-salary or non-wage benefit provided by your employer. Some job benefits are mandated by law to be included, like employer contribution to Social Security and Medicare. Other benefits are optional, such as paid time off (PTO) and life insurance plans.
Typically, job benefits are offered to full-time employees, although there are companies that offer benefits to part-time employees as well. Different benefits may be reflected on your paycheck and may be subject to tax.
Benefits vs. Perks: How Do They Differ?
In addition to job benefits, employers may also offer perks. Job benefits help pay for expenses that you normally have to cover with your earnings, like health insurance, life insurance policies, and retirement savings.
Benefits are offered consistently, whereas perks may be one-time offerings or sporadically given. Perks are extra rewards or incentives in addition to your salary and non-wage compensation. Perks can include discounted gym memberships, free breakfast, and flexible work schedules.
What Are Common Job Benefits?
Many job benefits are commonly provided, and some job-seekers expect to see them in a job offer. Although job benefit offerings may vary by company, the following are frequently mentioned.
Paid Time Off
PTO is paid leave that can be used for personal or sick days off. Many new hires earn a week or more of paid leave after a set amount of time at the company. Employers set their own leave policies, but more PTO may be accrued the longer you are employed.
PTO can be helpful for students who want to take time off during finals week or to take a vacation during a school break.
In addition to your salary, employers may offer retirement-planning options. This could include matching your contributions to a retirement plan, like a 401(k), or providing a stock options plan. Some employers allow staff to purchase company shares at a reduced price.
It is never too early to begin planning for your retirement. Students who graduate from college with a retirement account can weigh the benefits and downsides of withdrawing money early or continuing to contribute to the account.
The price of healthcare is continuing to rise. Employer-funded healthcare plans are one of the most desirable benefits for job-seekers. Because prices are so high, many people compare salary and healthcare offerings when making an employment decision.
Healthcare plans may include basic health insurance plans as well as dental and vision insurance plans. Many college students are able to access their parents' healthcare plans during school, but must find their own at 26.
Commuter benefits are tax-free dollars provided to employees by their employers to be used for commuting to and from work. Commuter benefits cover many different travel expenses, including ferry/bus fees, metered parking, and toll road costs. Many programs cover ridesharing and carpooling companies, too.
Employees may have access to commuter benefit funds in a variety of ways, including through vouchers, passes, or debit cards. Although these costs may seem small, commuting expenses add up quickly, especially when traveling for work several days a week.
With the rising costs of college, tuition assistance and tuition reimbursement programs are a popular benefit offering. Employers who participate in these programs contribute money toward employees' college courses. This is typically done by reimbursing a set amount toward the course's cost. This money is not considered taxable income.
For students who want to help pay for college, or who want to further their degree, tuition assistance is a great option.
Who Can Help Students Understand Job Benefits?
Understanding job benefits helps you compare different job offers and choose the best job for you based on all factors. Although picking the highest salary offer may seem like the best option, you should weigh all costs and benefits.
The following resources can help you better understand your job benefits.
Employers typically have a human resources department, or at least one person, who is in charge of managing benefits, training, and employment. If you do not understand your benefits options, you can ask someone in the human resources department. An employee will be able to explain the benefits and compare options with you.
Student unions are organizational groups on campus that can assist students by advocating for change and helping solve problems for students on campus. Even if you seek employment off campus, you may be able to tap into your student union's resources and receive assistance understanding your employment package, including benefits.
Office of Student Affairs
The office of student affairs offers many student services to assist students in college and beyond, including employment and career coaching. Along with helping students navigate the process of creating resumes and applying for jobs, many student affairs employees are knowledgeable in and can explain job benefits.
Part-Time Jobs With Benefits for Students
Although job benefits are usually associated with full-time positions, there are a wide variety of companies that provide benefits to their part-time employees.
Benefits can include health insurance, stock options, and retirement funds. Many of these companies have part-time and seasonal jobs that can be great options for college students.
Many large retail and restaurant companies give part-time employees access to job benefits. The flexible hours can make these options appealing to students. Many of these places also hire seasonal workers who may also have access to these job benefits.
- Food: Restaurant companies like Starbucks and Chipotle offer health insurance and other benefits to part-time employees. Other perks may include tuition reimbursement.
- Retail: Retail companies including Macy's, REI, and Staples offer various benefits and perks to part-time employees including stock share, healthcare coverage, or retirement fund options.
- Grocery: Costco and Trader Joe's are among the grocery store chains that provide health insurance coverage and other job benefits to part-time employees.
- Temp Agencies: Aerotek is one temp agency that allows its part-time and contract employees access to some benefit options.
- Mail companies: Both UPS and the U.S. Postal Service include benefits packages, including health insurance, to their part-time and seasonal employees.
Frequently Asked Questions About Job Benefits
When should I ask about employee benefits?
Knowing when to ask about employee benefits can be confusing. Some employers will mention their benefits package during your initial interview, while others may not discuss benefits until a job offer has been made. Typically, job experts caution against asking about job benefits during your first interview.
If you receive a job offer and have not received any information about benefits, you should clarify what benefits exist before accepting the offer. You may even be able to negotiate your benefits once given a job offer.
What are competitive benefits?
Competitive benefits are common benefits that are highly sought after by employees. A strong health insurance package or a strong retirement fund option can make a position seem more desirable, especially with the rising costs of healthcare. Some employees may take a lower salary if the benefits compensate for that loss.
Not all benefits are equal, however. When comparing jobs, having health coverage may not be competitive enough. Knowing exactly what plans are offered and the cost of premiums and copays can determine how competitive health benefits truly are.
What benefits do employees most value?
With the continually rising costs of healthcare, it is no surprise that medical insurance most often tops the list of benefits employees value the most. This includes health insurance, dental, and vision coverage. Along with health coverage, PTO is another highly valued benefit employees consider.
Employees also weigh the perks of different job offers before accepting a position. The most sought after perks include flexible work options -- whether that is flexible working hours or remote/work-from-home options.