Job Benefits

Finding jobs with the right benefits may not be as difficult as you think. Most jobs offer additional benefits that can make a big difference to yourself and your dependents.

The most obvious (and arguably, important) benefit of a job is the paycheck you get in exchange for your work. But most jobs offer additional benefits that can make a big difference to yourself and your dependents. In this article, we'll describe how total benefits and total employee compensation differ as well as outline some of the most common benefits out there.

What are job benefits and who benefits from them?

Benefits are added perks, privileges, or opportunities that you get from your employer on top of your regular compensation. Total compensation alternatively defined as the value of an employee's paycheck with the addition of any benefits or perks the company offers. Some of the most common benefits include insurance, remote work opportunities, and paid time off. Many benefits are only offered to full-time employees, but some companies do offer part time jobs with certain added benefits. Some benefits are free and others you’ll have to pay for at least a portion of.



Among the most common and powerful job benefits is insurance, particularly health insurance, as a very large portion of Americans rely on their employers for it. With this, employers provide one or more health plan options that qualifying employees can opt into. Employer-provided health insurance is usually available to the employee, their spouse, and their direct dependents.

Health insurance through your job is usually much cheaper than private health insurance because the cost is offset by your employer. The average cost of insurance per month is called the premium, is usually automatically taken out of your paycheck each month, but you’ll still need to pay for services according to the health insurance plan when you get care.



Understanding Health Insurance

Learn the ins and outs of how health insurance works.


It isn’t uncommon for employers to provide additional insurance options, such as…

  • Dental: coverage for routine checkups, preventative care, and larger dental procedures.
  • Vision: supplements the cost of eye exams, glasses, and contact lenses.
  • Disability: replaces part of your income if you become too sick or injured to work.
  • Life: provides a payment to your loved ones if you die.

The downside of getting insurance through your employer is that you may be forced to go through a company that doesn’t suit all your preferences or choose between the available plans, rather than selecting the specific coverage you want.



What exactly is PTO? Well, PTO grants employees access to fully compensated vacation, personal, and sick leave. And since everyone needs to take a day off of work here and there, and maybe even some time each year for a much-needed vacations, PTO ranks among the most sought-after benefits for job seekers and new hires.

The specific way that PTO works varies from company to company, but most often you’ll have a set pool of time that you can draw from when you take time off throughout the year. At some jobs, you’re granted that full pool from day one, at others you earn more PTO the longer you work there. Some companies even offer “unlimited PTO.” But beware, these policies can be deceptive as they sometimes leave workers feeling compelled to spend less, rather than more, time away from work.

Some companies offer other forms of PTO or extended leave such as maternity or paternity leave when you have a baby, a sabbatical (extended break from work for personal or professional purposes), sick leave, and more. It’s not uncommon for companies to also give their employees paid time off on holidays that doesn’t impact their PTO hours.



Many employers help their employees save toward the day they stop working by providing employer-sponsored retirement plans. These plans usually fall into one of two categories. First is a defined benefit plan, which provides retirees with a specific amount of money each month. The traditional example of a defined benefit plan is a pension. With a pension, the employer, rather than the employee, takes on the risk of investment as they handle how the funds are invested. Employees are essentially guaranteed a certain amount of money upon retirement, barring extreme circumstances. Contributions for pensions may be entirely made by the employer or shared with the employee. Pensions are less common than they used to be but still exist for some state and local government employees, teachers, public service workers, and other select companies.


person at desk with luscious greenery

Illustration: Kyle Smart


The second, and more common, type of employer-sponsored retirement plan is a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k). Under these plans, employees are not promised a set benefit at retirement, but instead, contribute to an individual account with investments they control. The account grows over the years, and then it’s up to the employee (and the rules of the account) to decide how to distribute it at retirement.

One powerful benefit offered by some companies is a contribution match up to a certain percentage. For example, let’s say a company offers a 5% match. If an employee contributes 5% of their salary to their retirement account (let’s say $1,500), the employer also contributes 5% (another $1,500), meaning the full contribution to the employee’s retirement account is 10% ($3,000). Employer matches never go above the set cap and only go as high as the employee contributes. So, if the employee contributes 6%, the employer still only contributes their match of 5%, and if the employee only contributes 3%, the employer would also contribute 3%.

There are also more complicated match formulas that won't necessarily always match the employee's contribution dollar for dollar. As an example, let's say a company matches 100% up to 3% of the employee's contribution and 50% up to the remaining 5%. So, with the same numbers from above, if the employee contributed the full 5% of $1,500, the employer would match the first 3% ($900) of that contribution dollar for dollar. The remaining 2% ($600) they match 50% ($300), meaning the employer's full contribution is $1,200, rather than $1,500. As you can see, it’s wise to always at least contribute up to your employer match, if you have one, otherwise you’re leaving free money on the table.

Some employer matches don't belong to the employee until they vest. This happens when the employee has worked at the company for a specified amount of time. If the employee leaves the company before that time, they may forfeit all or part of the money the employer matched. Vesting often happens in sections, meaning the employee will own a certain percentage once they pass predetermined milestones. As an example, an employer's match may vest 80% once the employee has worked at the company for 3 years, 90% after 5 years, and 100% after 6. This only applies to employer matches, employees always own 100% of what they contribute toward retirement.


Quality of Life

There are many employer-provided benefits that are meant to improve employee quality of life by adding small perks or simplifying stressors. These can range from a stocked snack kitchen to on-site daycare to professional development opportunities to a transportation or relocation allowance. Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic forced many jobs to adapt to new working situations, benefits related to flexibility and work-life balance moved to the top of many job-seekers’ wish lists and extended into many more industries. Remote work opportunities, for example, are now much more common than they used to be.

Quality of life benefits can be a big help to employees, but it’s important to be careful that you aren’t lured in by flashy, “perky” benefits at the expense of things like a sustainable salary or robust insurance coverage. You should consider all parts of your compensation package and decide what’s non-negotiable and what’s an added benefit, but not a necessity.


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