How To Compare Employer Benefits Packages

There's more to a job than the salary

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Employer benefits packages are often overlooked by job searchers. Once you have found your dream job or your dream salary, the questions pretty much stop there. But if you are considering more than one job offer, or deciding whether to leave your current job for a lateral move, employer benefits may factor heavily in your decision.

Great benefits can help increase job satisfaction and help you make or save more money over time. Here’s what to pay attention to when comparing employer benefits.

Benefits packages—including health insurance, retirement plans, vacation and sick leave, and life and disability insurance—can represent up to 30% of your compensation.

Key Takeaways

  • At a minimum, you should research your prospective employer's retirement plan, health, dental, and vision insurance, and PTO policies.
  • Commuter benefits, work-from-home flexibility, and life insurance and disability benefits are other important considerations.
  • Work-life balance is a difficult-to-quantify but important benefit to factor into your decision when deciding between two jobs.

Retirement Plan

There are different types of retirement plans, and companies may offer a combination that includes more than one. You can start to evaluate them by defining your terms.

Some companies offer what is known as defined benefit plans, which most people would call traditional pensions. Employers offering defined benefit plans make regular contributions to the plan, and the plan guarantees a certain amount of monthly income for the employee in retirement.

The other common option is a defined contribution plan, which includes plans like the 401(k). In this type of plan, employees make regular contributions to the account through their pre-tax paychecks. The money is invested and may grow over time, but there is no guaranteed return, and the employee manages both the investment and the distributions.

Small companies may instead offer an individual retirement account (IRA), SEP IRA, or SIMPLE IRA. These work like a 401(k), but have different contribution limits.


When an employer offers a defined contribution plan or IRA, the employer may also match contributions, which is an added benefit. Some employers will match 50% of the amount you put into the account, up to 6% of income. The plan also may be vested, which means the amount of benefits you receive accrues over time.

Health Insurance

If you are considering a full-time job at a mid-size or large company, health insurance will likely be part of the benefits offered. 71% of full-time employees at U.S. companies with more than 100 workers have access to health insurance through work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If you have an option, look for the coverage you need, check if your current doctor is in-network, and compare how much each plan costs in terms of monthly paycheck deductions as well as deductibles, co-payments, and prescriptions.

Dental and Vision Coverage

Just 50% of Americans have dental and vision insurance, either through their employer or via private insurance. Dental and vision coverage will not likely sway your job choice, but if you are considering two offers, check to see if your providers are in-network and how much you will pay in annual premiums, co-pays, and deductibles.

If one employer doesn't offer dental or vision coverage, or there is a high deductible, you should factor that into your monthly expenses and take-home pay.

Life Insurance

Nearly two-thirds of full-time employees are offered life insurance through work, and it’s one of the most popular benefits. 98% of people participate in their company’s life insurance benefits. It’s inexpensive, often available without any physical tests, and typically pays at least a year’s worth of salary should something happen to you. Find out if the company pays for coverage, and if you as an employee can purchase additional coverage at a discounted rate.


Companies with more than 100 employees will probably offer some sort of disability insurance benefit. But most of it is short-term disability, which covers a percentage of your salary if you are out of work for a period of time that goes beyond your allotted vacation or sick time.

The less common option is long-term disability, which is offered by less than half of U.S. employers, according to LIMRA, a financial services trade association. Since an estimated one in five employees will miss work due to disability, insurance that covers months or years of missed work if you become ill or injured outside of work is a valuable benefit.

Vacation Time

Vacations are not guaranteed in the United States, but according to the BLS, the average private sector employee is awarded around 10 vacation days. The number of days you earn generally increases the longer you stay at the same company. In 2021, one-third of private industry workers with more than 10 years of service received between 14 and 19 vacation days.

A job offer that includes more than that may be worth considering if time off is important to you.


Some companies now offer “paid time off” (PTO) days that can seem very generous on the surface. Remember: PTO can include all vacation, personal, and sick days.

Work-Life Balance

Quality of life is more difficult to quantify, and it may be difficult to get a clear picture from a prospective employer of how life will be on the job. Learn about the hours you are expected to put in each week and speak with others at the company. Remember, your time has value. If your workweek is 40 hours, you are earning more per hour than if you put in 60-hour weeks.


If a company extends a degree of schedule flexibility to hard-working employees, the job may be worth more than another offering an extra few thousand extra in salary.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much PTO do most companies offer?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most private employers offer around 10 paid days off, in addition to holidays. The amount of PTO increases with years of service. For example, only 2% of workers with 1 year of service had 24 or more days off, while 28% of workers had access to 24 or more PTO days.

What is the average 401(k) match?

According to Vanguard's 2021 annual report on how Americans invest, the average value of an employer match on a 401(k) was 4.5%. That means if you earned a salary of $100,000, your company would contribute $1 for every dollar you contribute, up to $4,500, or 4.5% of your salary before taxes.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. BLS. "Employee Benefits Survey—March 2021," Page 2.

  2. CDC. "Regional Variation in Private Dental Coverage and Care Among Dentate Adults Aged 18–64 in the United States, 2014–2017."

  3. BLS. "Employee Benefits in the United States—March 2021," Page 15.

  4. BLS. "Employee Benefits Survey."

  5. Vanguard. "How America Saves 2021," Page 21.

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