Compensation and Benefits Exercise for Students

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By Ellen Ensher, Ph.D.

Walt Disney Concert Hall Exercise Compensation and Benefits for Students

In the book “Teaching Human Resource Management: An Experiential Approach” I provided a student exercise that would be useful to students as it required them to research information on compensation and benefits for a job/industry that interests them personally. This exercise requires students to improve their financial literacy by making a budget, researching entry-level compensation in jobs/industries, and considering their feelings about income, taxes, benefits, and future career plans.

This exercise can be very useful to both students preparing to apply for jobs after graduation as well as to anyone changing their career path. The exercise allows individuals to get a head start on their future, but it can also be a bit of challenge to find out where to start. Luckily, websites like Glassdoor offer access to employee reviews that give insight from employees on a variety of topics including salary and benefits. The website and app, Mint, also helps individuals manage their finances. Mint offers help tracking your bills, managing your budget and tracking your investments. It also allows you to check your credit score all on one platform. GoBankingRates is another personal financial site created to make managing your finances fun and less intimidating. GoBankingRates gives plenty of tips and advice on how to manage your finances in every way from cooking a tasty meal on a budget, traveling to a new destination, or achieving your long-term life goals of owning a house or paying off your debt.

When completing this exercise, it is important to first start by researching the base pay of a desired and reasonable first job after graduation. Next, create a budget for your anticipated expenses like rent, food, and gas. Third, create a tax break-down so that you can get an idea of what your net and gross pay will be. Websites like Paycheck City  help you make these calculation; however, be sure to conduct careful research on these numbers as tax rates can vary depending on state, region, or country. Afterwards, research a specific company or industry and determine what benefits a potential job may entail.

After learning more about the income, taxes, and benefits of your future career consider how these factors impact your perception of your future job? How does your spending align with your income? How do you feel about your pay and future as a result of this assignment?

About the Author:

Ellen A. Ensher, Ph.D is a Professor of Management at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in Los Angeles, California and in 2017 received the University award for Distinguished Teaching.  Ellen is the co-author with Susan Murphy of Power Mentoring: How Mentors and Protégés Get the Most out of Their Relationships. Dr. Ensher has published over 50 articles/book chapters in various journals including Academy of Management Executive (currently Academy of Management Perspectives), Leadership Quarterly, and the Journal of Career Development and the Journal of Vocational Behavior. She has consulted to a number of organizations both domestically and abroad such as Kraft Foods, Legg Mason, Notre Dame University, the Sisters of the Holy Cross, and United States Navy. As a 2017 Fulbright Specialist awardee, Ellen taught at the University of Vaasa in Vaasa, Finland. In 2018, Ellen was designated as one of the top 100 leadership speakers of 2018 by Inc. Ellen is a LinkedIn Learning author of three courses on mentoring and one on management fundamentals. Please visit for more on Ellen and for downloadable mentoring resources and to view her Tedx talk.