Payroll Clerk Education Requirements and Career Information

Sep 11, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a payroll clerk. Get a quick view of the requirements - such as job duties, degree programs and certification - to find out if this is the right career for you.

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Payroll clerks are the individuals responsible for ensuring that everyone gets paid. They keep accurate records ensuring that all employees receive the correct paychecks. While only a high school diploma or equivalent is essential, many businesses prefer that payroll clerks have some post-secondary education and are certified in bookkeeping and with the American Payroll Association. Those interested in pursuing this career should be aware that current demand is dwindling, as many payroll clerks are being replaced by automated systems.

Essential Information

Payroll clerks are responsible for distributing employee paychecks. They must keep accurate records and files reflecting that all employees have received their paychecks and that the correct amounts have been paid. Payroll clerking is an entry-level position requiring keyboarding and filing skills, which may be obtained via completion of administrative technology certificate programs. Payroll clerk certificates, associate's degrees and professional certifications are also available.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent, though post-secondary education preferred
Certification Options Fundamental Payroll Certification or Certified Payroll Professional
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* -3% for payroll clerks
Median Salary (2018)* $44,050 for payroll and timekeeping clerks

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Clerk Education Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that payroll clerks are not subject to any formal education requirements beyond a high school diploma or GED ( However, certain computer skills, such as typing, data entry and filing, are required for employment as a payroll clerk. Individuals lacking these skills but interested in becoming payroll clerks can pursue administrative technology certificate or associate's degree programs, which teach relevant general office skills like word processing and database management. Certificate programs in bookkeeping and payroll administration are also available. Students enrolled in these programs learn about computer accounting, payroll time reporting, benefits deductions and more.

Payroll clerks may also advance their careers and industry knowledge by becoming certified payroll clerks. Certification is available through the American Payroll Association (APA), an industry-wide professional association specializing in the education of payroll clerks, administrators and managers ( Payroll clerks can take written proficiency examinations leading to official designation as a Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) or a Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC). The FPC examination is intended for entry-level payroll clerks and carries no registration prerequisites. In order to earn a CPP designation, payroll clerks must have at least 18 months of experience as a payroll clerk and attend several courses in payroll practices and concepts. All of these are offered by the APA.

Career Information

Payroll clerks oversee the distribution of employee paychecks and make sure all employees are receiving the correct amount of pay. They enter employee and paycheck information into computers or other record-keeping systems and file that information away. Payroll clerks employed by companies that pay employees on an hourly basis may also keep manual or computerized records of employee hours. According to the APA, those working as payroll clerks are considered entry-level employees and are generally under the supervision of senior-level payroll professionals ( Typing and filing are the two primary skills required for employment.

According to the BLS, demand for payroll clerks is dwindling as manual payroll departments are increasingly being replaced by automated systems. However, among the APA's many continuing education offerings are courses in web-based payroll systems, which indicates that some payroll clerks may be responsible for the administration of computerized payroll systems or software (

Payroll clerks are the individuals who ensure that everyone within a business is paid, and that they have received the correct salary. They do this through the use of record-keeping digital systems. Typically, only a high school diploma or GED is necessary; however many businesses look for candidates with either an associate's or bachelor's degree and bookkeeping certification through the APA. The current demand for payroll clerks is dwindling as many employees are being replaced by automated systems.

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