How Do You Get a Job as a Payroll Clerk?

payroll clerk job

Anyone interested in finance who doesn’t necessarily want to invest in a college degree could get a job as a payroll clerk. Also called timekeeping clerks, payroll clerks are responsible for compiling employee data to ensure paychecks are filed accurately. Payroll clerks may hold an entry-level administrative role, but their work is essential to keep employees happily paid on time. Payroll clerks hold approximately 166,400 jobs in the United States. They can work for private corporations, school districts, accounting firms, government agencies, employment services, manufacturing companies, healthcare providers, banks, and more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that payroll clerks earn an average yearly salary of $40,910, or $19.67 per hour. Below is a suggested step-to-step guide for successfully becoming a payroll clerk.

Earn a High School Diploma

Payroll clerks must hold at least a high school diploma or the General Education Development (GED) equivalent. Around 47 percent of U.S. payroll clerks have no more than a high school education. Having a diploma ensures you’ll have the basic knowledge to process and record employees’ time sheets for calculating compensation. Aspiring payroll clerks should heavily focus their high school curriculum in mathematics, computer science, and business. Applicants with only a diploma must complete on-the-job training with a more experienced payroll clerk.

Consider Post-Secondary Education

Employers are increasingly preferring job candidates with post-secondary training from an accredited two- or four-year college. Payroll clerks could better compete for job openings by earning an associate degree or certificate. Most payroll clerks with a college education have studied finance, business administration, math, statistics, or economics. Some colleges offer certificates in payroll practice and administration. Specialize your courses in time reporting, payroll accounting, employee benefits, database management, and income taxation. If possible, complete an applied internship to jumpstart the next step.

Gain Payroll Processing Experience

Having experience with today’s web-based payroll systems is crucial to get a job as a payroll clerk. Employers in the competitive job market look for payroll clerks with experience entering, filing, and reviewing employee information in record-keeping databases. Having great math, analytical, communication, problem-solving, and organizational skills is essential. New payroll clerks may work as bookkeepers or accounting clerks before being promoted. Others will only need formal on-the-job training to advance into payroll clerk jobs. One to two years of full-time work experience is typically preferred.

Acquire Professional Certification

Although it’s voluntary, certification can help payroll clerks find a job, earn a higher salary, and discover room for career advancement. The American Payroll Association offers two distinct certifications. The entry-level Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) is granted to anyone who passes a competency exam. There’s also a Certified Payroll Professional (CPC) credential offered to clerks with at least 24 months of experience. Along with passing an exam, CPC candidates must take the Payroll Administration Certificate Program.

Overall, payroll clerks direct, organize, and monitor the timekeeping systems that allow employee paychecks to be distributed in correct dollar amounts. There are few educational requirements placed on payroll clerks, but the job outlook is slightly bleak. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment of payroll clerks will decline by 3 percent. Automated payroll software could eliminate up to 5,900 jobs through 2024. Having an associate degree or some college education could significantly help you compete and get a job as a payroll clerk.

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