Payroll Processing School and College Program Overviews

Apr 25, 2020

Essential Information

A payroll processing certificate program trains students to operate the systems that dispense pay to employees of large or small businesses. Payroll processing courses focus on payroll time reporting, personnel communications, workers' compensation rights, paycheck calculations and much more.

Payroll processing certificate programs can last between a couple of months up to two years, depending upon the frequency of the classes offered. Many payroll processing programs are offered as night programs at community colleges with continuing education departments; these are intended for individuals who are currently employed and who are looking to gain a certificate in payroll processing to advance in their careers. Payroll processing certificate programs can also be geared towards those individuals who are looking to get into the payroll, accounting or human resources field.

Payroll Processing Certificates

The prerequisites vary for many payroll processing certificate programs, but most demand that students first complete a high school education program or the equivalent GED certificate program. A working understanding of computers and an affinity for mathematics and databases are also advantageous.

Some of the courses included in a payroll processing certificate program combine hands-on training with payroll systems, as well as lectures on theoretical payroll issues. Examples include:

  • Overview of payroll and payroll system functions
  • Time reporting and bookkeeping systems
  • Employee databases
  • Benefits policies, leave usage and accrual
  • Workers' compensation policies
  • Payroll processing for foreign individuals

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were about 150,400 payroll and timekeeping clerks employed in the United States in 2018 ( The average annual salary for a payroll and timekeeping clerk in May 2019 was $47,390, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education

Payroll processors can achieve certification, although it is usually optional. The National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers offers certification for payroll processors in all 50 states. The certification can be used as a credential to advance in an organization or provide leverage for earning higher wages.

Individuals looking to begin or switch careers to payroll processing can do so by earning a certificate. Many of the programs are offered at a time that's convenient for individuals with a full-time day job or other responsibilities.

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