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Payroll Specialist Training Programs

Payroll specialists work in a human resources department to help determine employee pay. Read about certificate and degree programs that train you to become a payroll specialist, and find out if online learning options are available. Get info about coursework and certification requirements for payroll specialists.

What Payroll Specialist Training Programs Are Available?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most payroll clerks are high school graduates who have received some on-the-job training. However, if you are interested in enrolling in an educational or training program to become a payroll specialist, some options are available to you.

You may choose to enroll in a payroll professional certificate program at a community college or university. Such programs should typically take you less than a year to complete. You may also find schools offering a pair of courses with the sole focus of preparing you for certification through the American Payroll Association (APA). These courses can take 10-12 weeks each to complete. Some schools also offer associate's degree programs in accounting that can prepare you for a role as a payroll clerk or specialist. Such programs typically take two years to complete and include general education as well as accounting courses.

Training Programs Students can earn a payroll professional certificate or an associate's in accounting with courses in payroll
Online Classes Some programs offer online classes or a mix of in-person and distance learning
Common Course Topics Payroll concepts, calculation skills, business communications, business organization and human resources
Certification Options APA offers two levels of certification: the FPC and CPP designations
Median Salary (2018) $46,110 (for all payroll and timekeeping clerks 
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 7% growth (for all Human resources specialists )    

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

Can I Take Courses Online?

You may be able to find a few programs offering online courses. Hybrid programs are more common because your program may require you to complete on-campus courses facilitated by instructors that are APA-certified payroll professionals. If you are enrolled in a program affiliated with the APA, your online portion may include supplementary, online materials and games.

What Courses Can I Expect?

If you are enrolled in an APA-affiliated program, you may be required to complete two courses: Payroll Paytrain fundamentals and mastery. These programs may cover payroll concepts, payroll calculation skills, factoring payroll taxes, accounting and incorporating fringe benefits.

Other programs may require you take courses in issuing additional payments, payroll systems, payroll accounting, business communications, business organization, human resources, records administration and benefits administration. You may also need to complete courses in I-9 processing, benefits, payroll time reporting, Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes, employee payroll action and employee classification.

Are There Are Any Certifications Available?

The APA offers the Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) and the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) designation. To be eligible for the FPC exam, you will need to hold an entry-level position demonstrating basic payroll skills. To earn the FPC designation, you will need to pass a written exam covering accounting, compliance, concepts, processes, systems and paycheck calculations. Recertification is required every three years. To qualify for renewal, you can either complete continuing education hours or pass the certification exam again.

To qualify for the CPP exam, you will need to have earned the FPC designation, completed various APA courses and worked in this field for at least three years. The CPP designation requires you to complete a written exam covering similar topics covered on the FPC exam. The major difference is that the CPP exam may include questions regarding administration and management. You can renew this certification by completing continuing education courses or retaking the exam every five years.