Payroll Clerk Training and Certification Program Information

Certificates for payroll clerks are offered at a select number of community colleges and vocational schools. These certificate programs provide specialized training in payroll procedures and software.

Essential Information

Payroll clerks play a vital role in the smooth financial functioning of organizations of all sizes. They may perform an array of financial and bookkeeping tasks, including tracking and tabulating employee wages, collecting and reviewing employee timecards and compiling payroll spreadsheets. Training for such a position is often obtained on the job, and many clerks only hold a high school diploma. Under direct supervision of a payroll or human resources manager, trainees learn how to perform the skills and operate the software needed to carry out their duties. However, a few community colleges and vocational schools offer payroll clerk certificate programs.

  • Prerequisites: Few, if any, prerequisites are required.
  • Online Availability: Often available online.
  • Program Length: Less than a year.

Payroll Clerk Professional Certificate

While many small to mid-sized companies hire payroll clerks with nothing more than a high school diploma, other companies prefer to hire individuals who have completed a payroll clerk certificate program. Payroll clerk certificate programs usually consist of 2 to 5 courses and are offered by vocational or technical schools. Most of these programs are designed so that upon completion, certificate candidates are ready to take one of the two professional payroll certification exams offered by the American Payroll Association (APA). Courses covered in the program include:

  • General ledger accounting
  • Payroll journal entry
  • Compensations and benefits
  • Involuntary deductions
  • Regulatory compliance

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of total available payroll clerk jobs will increase 11%, about as fast as average, between 2012 and 2022. This limited growth is attributed in large measure to the increased use of automation and payroll software. The median salary for payroll clerks was $39,700 as of May 2014 (

Continuing Education Information

The APA offers two separate levels of payroll certification. The Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) is a certification exam open to all applicants and is designed for individuals with no previous payroll experience. The second certification exam is the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP). The CPP is designed for payroll professionals who have at least 18 months experience, working in a direct payroll capacity. The CPP certification is valid for five years, while the FPC is valid for three years ( While the CPP exam is a more in-depth test requiring greater payroll expertise and knowledge, both exams cover many of the same basic payroll concepts.

Exam prerequisites vary depending on the certification sought. There are no prerequisites to take the FPC exam. Anyone is eligible to take this exam, regardless of age, education level or previous work experience. As mentioned above, there are eligibility requirements for the CPP exam. Individuals who have been employed in a professional payroll capacity for at least three out of the last five years automatically qualify to take the CPP exam. Individuals with less than three years of work experience must show that they have at least 18 months work experience and must also successfully complete a limited number of payroll courses offered by the APA.

Search Degrees, Careers, or Schools