Payroll Specialist Education Requirements and Career Info

Mar 31, 2021

Payroll employees who want to move up in their career may consider becoming payroll specialists. Becoming a payroll specialist usually takes experience in the field and/or completion of a certificate program. Certification is also available for payroll specialists who wish to prove their skills.

Essential Information

Payroll specialists handle payroll issues, year-end reporting and tax preparation for a company or organization. Although not always required for employment, there are a number of payroll specialist and payroll accounting certificate programs that better prepare graduates for career advancement. In addition, a general accounting degree provides a foundation for working in this career. Individuals may also seek the optional Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) credential from the American Payroll Association.

Required Education Optional completion of a payroll specialist certificate or an accounting degree
Certification Optional CPP certification
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029)* -4% (decrease) for all payroll and timekeeping clerks
Median Annual Salary (May 2019)* $46,180 for all payroll and timekeeping clerks

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Payroll Specialist Education Requirements

Payroll specialist positions commonly require experience working in a payroll department, some post-secondary education or a combination of the two. There are a number of payroll specialist, or payroll accounting specialist, certificate programs. Payroll specialist programs provide students with a broad understanding of the basics in payroll practice. Potential topics include wage and hour law, payroll accounting principles, hiring practices, privacy laws, IRS tax requirements, computerized accounting, payroll tracking and archiving rules.

Graduates should be well-versed in the classification of employees, calculation of gross pay, data management, federal tax regulations, year-end reporting procedures, payroll calculations and payroll software applications. Accounting degree programs, covering topics such as accounting information systems, financial management and business communications, also prepare graduates for a career as a payroll specialist. While certification is not mandatory, the American Payroll Association does administer a Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) examination.

Career Information

Payroll specialists oversee payroll and tax procedures for companies and organizations. They ensure company payroll and tax information complies with state and federal laws and regulations, review payroll forms to ensure accurate information, calculate salaries and resolve potential payroll problems. They also maintain payroll records, process various tax forms, handle year-end reporting and distribute paychecks.

Advancement Opportunities

Payroll specialists may be able to move up to an assistant payroll manager or payroll manager position with further experience or training. Assistant payroll managers commonly assist the payroll manager in the operations of a payroll office, train new staff and monitor tax records. Payroll managers hire and train new staff, manage the payroll office and have the final say in ensuring payroll processes are in line with government regulations.

Payroll specialists handle the payroll functions within a company, including managing payroll, taxes, and compliance with state and national regulations. Those interested in becoming a payroll specialist should first acquire payroll experience and may want to consider completing a related certificate program. More experience and more training can help a payroll specialist increase their salary and job mobility.

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