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Certified Payroll Administrator: Job Description and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a payroll administrator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and optional certification to find out if this is the career for you.

A payroll administrator handles all duties relating to payroll in a company or organization, including employees being paid on time and implementing company policies about pay. While formal education is not necessary, there are options for postsecondary training or certification.

Essential Information

Payroll administrators are responsible for ensuring that employees are paid on time and that their paychecks are accurate. They need to be aware of tax laws regarding withholding as well as company compensation policies. A high school diploma may be sufficient, but employers may want someone with postsecondary training. Professional certification may be needed for career advancement. Certification requires experience and passing a competency exam that must be retaken every five years.

Required Education High school diploma; some employers may require an associate's degree in accounting, payroll administration or related field
Certification Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) credential is optional
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% decline for payroll and timekeeping clerks
Median Salary (2015)* $41,000 for payroll and timekeeping clerks

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Payroll Administrator Job Description

A payroll administrator is the individual in charge of processing, preparing and distributing employee paychecks. Payroll administrators may work alone in a small company or may supervise other payroll employees in a larger company. The job of payroll administrator includes filing tax and voluntary deduction reports, updating and recording company payroll procedures and completing additional accounting tasks assigned by management.

Payroll Administrator Requirements

Required Education

Payroll administrators must have a minimum of a high school diploma. Employers may require an associate's degree or higher in a related field, such as finance, accounting or payroll administration. However, jobseekers may find that a certificate or diploma in payroll accounting or payroll administration provides enough basic knowledge of payroll procedures and methods, including basic accounting and tax reporting, to qualify for a payroll administrator position.

Payroll administrators who want to advance to become lead or supervisory payroll administrators may be required to hold a bachelor's degree in business or accounting. It may also be helpful to earn a Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) credential offered by the American Payroll Association. To be eligible for the CPP exam, payroll administrators must have worked in payroll systems for a minimum of 18 months. To maintain a CPP credential, recertification exams must be taken every five years.

Required Skills

Payroll administrators typically work with weekly, biweekly or monthly deadlines and thus should have strong time management and organizational skills. Good accounting and mathematical reasoning skills are important in calculating deductions and in problem solving. Payroll systems are often computerized and so administrators must be proficient with computer software packages, particularly spreadsheet and database programs.

Career Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the decline in job opportunities for payroll and timekeeping clerks was expected to be about 3% between 2014 and 2024. As of 2015, these payroll professionals earned a median salary of $41,000, the BLS reported.

Payroll administrators must have good time management skills, as they have to process and distribute pay on a schedule. While a high school diploma may be sufficient for employment, job options may be better with an associate's degree in a relevant field. A certified payroll administrator must have experience and pass an exam.


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