Payroll Administrator: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for payroll administrators. Get the facts about education and certification requirements, job duties, and salary information to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Accounting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Payroll Administrator?

Payroll administrators help employees receive the pay to which they are entitled. They may track the hours that employees work and tracking attendance for payroll. These professionals must also calculate things like taxes and benefits that need to be removed from employees' payment. Payroll administrators are also usually responsible for issuing W-2 forms every year prior to tax season. Depending on their place of work, some administrators may also handle new hire reports, vacation and sick time reporting and flexible spending accounts. The following chart gives you an overview about entering this field.

Degree Required College degree not required, but helpful
Certification Optional to obtain Certified Payroll Professional (CPP)
Job Duties Prepare tax documents, handle legal issues, compile statistics and reports, supervise clerks
Job Growth (2014-2024) -4% (for all financial clerks)*
Median Salary (2017) $57,172**

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

What Are the Job Duties of a Payroll Administrator?

The distribution of employee pay is complex, and a payroll administrator is responsible for making sure these transactions are accurate and adherent to legal requirements. In this position, you will prepare tax documents, coordinate and execute tax and benefit withholdings, and handle legal issues such as garnishments. You'll be responsible for compiling statistics and other data and creating reports for upper levels of management. You might also supervise clerks during the printing and distribution of paychecks.

What Education and Skills Do I Need?

Many payroll administrators are able to find jobs without a college degree. However, enrolling in an accredited associate degree program in business could be beneficial. Coursework in math, statistics, accounting, computer programs, human resources and business law will prepare you to accurately organize payroll records and understand the legal issues of tax preparation. You can earn an associate degree in two years, and many colleges offer online course options.

Payroll administrators perform much of their work on computers, so you should know how to use various software programs, spreadsheets and accounting databases. If you do not choose to enroll in a college degree program, you can take these computer courses at a business or vocational school. Many employers will require potential payroll administrators to have 3-5 years of experience. Working as an entry-level payroll practitioner may provide you with the necessary knowledge to qualify for an administrator position. You also need to possess strong written and verbal communication skills and be detail-oriented.

How Do I Get Certified?

Payroll administrators who want to demonstrate a high level of proficiency and skill in their career field can obtain the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) certification from the American Payroll Association (www. In order to qualify, this organization requires you to pass an exam and have at least three years of relevant work experience or a combination of experience and completed coursework. The certification needs to be renewed every five years, and this can be accomplished by retaking the CPP exam.

What Is the Salary for this Profession?

According to 2017 estimates from, the median compensation for a payroll administrator is $57,172. Workers in the bottom 10% are making around $44,610 while the top 10% are earning more than $69,906. Your salary may be based on your level of education and the work experience you gained in an entry-level payroll processing job.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks, as well as financial clerks are a few related positions that generally require a high school diploma and maybe some college education. Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks handle all of the financial records for various organizations. They may use software and/or databases to track records, as well as check them for accuracy. Financial clerks also help keep records for an organization, but also handle some financial transactions. They also perform various administrative tasks.

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