How can young benefits advisers quickly establish their credibility when they are just starting out? One of the fastest and most effective ways is to obtain professional designations.

There’s nothing like a few letters after your name to affirm that you know exactly what you’re talking about. I started pursuing my Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS) designation while I was still attending school as a way to differentiate myself. A joint venture by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the CEBS requires 8 two-hour exams, each consisting of 100 questions, and offers a base understanding of group benefits, retirement plans and compensation, while also permitting the applicant to specialize in one or more of those areas as well.

While almost anyone can study for and pass a 100-question exam, there has to be a strong motivation to do so. In my case, it was recognizing that obtaining a designation was a great way to distance myself from the pack — to prove that I was here to work, to learn and to excel.

As a student in the rigorous Risk Management and Insurance program at Temple University, I was engrained with the drive to pursue professional certifications. Yet as I settle into the day-in and day-out of work life, I need to continually remind myself of their value: Those letters appended after your name can make the difference between a client taking your suggestion or not.

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"Those letters appended after your name can make the difference between a client taking your suggestion or not."

At this point, I’ve passed three exams and will sit for my fourth one next month. Trying to incorporate all the study required for these exams into the busy bustle of day-to-day life can be exhausting, but in the end I’ll know that I’ve done something for my career that will help set me apart.

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Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy

Murphy is a risk management analyst in the human capital practice at Willis Towers Watson.