Payroll Clerk: Job Duties, Employment Outlook, and Training Requirements

Research what it takes to become a payroll clerk. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Accounting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Payroll Clerk?

As a payroll clerk, your overall responsibility will be to monitor and manage employee time and payment records. This may include adjusting pay for overtime as needed. As part of the job, you often want to check records for accuracy and report any differences you find. The following chart gives you an overview about a career as a payroll clerk.

Degree Required High school diploma or postsecondary certificate
Training On-the-job training may be available
Education Field of Study Payroll or accounting
Certification Voluntary professional certification is available
Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024) -3%* (for all payroll and timekeeping clerks)
Median Salary (2015) $41,000* (for all payroll and timekeeping clerks)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will My Job Duties Be as a Payroll Clerk?

Duties directly related to wage and salary payment include compiling each employee's work time from time sheets; verifying hours worked; calculating weekly, bi-weekly or monthly payments; subtracting taxes and other deductions; making other required adjustments; and issuing paychecks. Other duties include maintaining compliance with payroll regulations, entering and removing employees from the payroll system, preparing reports on payroll trends and conducting research to resolve disputes.

How Strong Are My Job Prospects?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 166,700 people were employed as payroll clerks in 2015. Between 2014 and 2024, employment for all for all payroll and timekeeping clerks is projected to decrease 3%. Figures from the Michigan Department of Career Development show clerks were employed in the service, retail, construction, manufacturing, governmental and financial sectors.

What Education and Training Would I Need?

Typically, you only need a high school diploma or GED to be eligible for employment. The skills can be learned on-the-job and employers often provide training. However, many community colleges offer 1-year certificate programs specifically tailored to the position. Course topics might include business math, business writing, accounting fundamentals and local payroll laws. You can expect to learn about basic financial analysis, and accounting and bookkeeping functions, both manually and with software.

Is Certification Available?

Obtaining certification demonstrates your competence to handle more complex payroll issues. The American Payroll Association has two certification options. If you're an entry-level clerk, you can earn the Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC). You're eligible for the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) designation if you've worked as a payroll clerk for three of the past five years or if you've completed approved payroll courses and worked as a payroll clerk for two years.

Both the FPC and CPP certification exams test your knowledge of core payroll concepts, regulatory compliance, payroll calculation and payroll systems, but with slightly different levels of emphasis for each. The CPP exam also touches on management and administration concepts. FPC certification is valid for three years and CPP certification is valid for five years. You can renew your FPC and CPP by retaking the relevant exams or by completing 60 hours of continuing education for the FPC and 120 hours for the CPP.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

With a decline in the projected job opportunities for payroll clerks, you may want to consider other related career options. Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records for businesses and individuals. Budget analysts prepare budget reports to help businesses organize their finances. Both of these careers require a bachelor's degree, however, and accountants may need to be certified in order to provide certain services.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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