Certified Payroll Professional Training and Certification Programs

Individuals interested in gaining training in order to become professionally certified may want to consider enrolling in a payroll certificate program. Get information on the type of topics addressed, as well as optional certifications and average hourly wages.

Essential Information

Professional payroll processors handle employee payment transactions for small and large businesses in nearly every industry. While training and certification in this field is not always required, it is preferred by many employers. Payroll certificate programs are often offered through community colleges, vocational schools, and the continuing education or extension departments of 4-year universities. These programs are designed to provide students with a basic understanding of payroll systems, software and procedures.

Students enrolled in certificate programs learn many valuable skills in the payroll processes of business, such as how to enter new hires into employee databases, monitor payroll time reporting, calculate payroll transactions, distribute wages and handle employee benefit programs. Graduates may pursue payroll certification. There are also advanced certificate programs that offer training in specialized areas, such as payroll processing for non-citizen employees.

Education Prerequisites

Prerequisites for admission into payroll certificate programs vary according to program. Some programs require students to have basic computer knowledge, keyboarding and word processing experience and English language and grammar skills. Advanced certificate programs may require students to have previous coursework in basic payroll procedures.

Program Coursework

Payroll certificate programs often focus on offering practical courses that provide students with the exact training and knowledge that they will need to gain an entry-level position after graduation. Courses can include:

  • Overview of payroll systems
  • Payroll system inquiry functions
  • Payroll time reporting
  • Updating employee databases
  • Leave usage and leave accrual
  • FICA tax workshop
  • Hiring practices
  • Workers' compensation and benefits policies

Employment Outlook and Career Info

Businesses, public schools and local government entities in the United States employed about 172,740 payroll and timekeeping clerks in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS expected the growth rate for payroll and timekeeping clerks to increase by 15% from 2010-2020, which is about on par with the average for all occupations. In 2012, payroll professionals earned $18.69 per hour, on average.

Certification Options

Following graduation from a certificate program, payroll specialists often opt to gain certification from professional organizations such as the American Payroll Association. The association offers two levels of certification to qualified individuals: Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) and Certified Payroll Professional (CPP). Those applying for CPP certification must have previous work experience in payroll processing, while FPC certification is for individuals who are just entering the field. To earn certification in either category, individuals must pass a skills assessment examination, demonstrating proficiency in payroll processing systems and practices (

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