Payroll Clerk

How to Become a Payroll Clerk
Job Duties of Payroll Clerks
Skills and Qualities of a Payroll Clerk
Payroll Clerk Salary
Influential Professional Payroll Clerks
Leading Organizations for Payroll Clerks
Top Cities for Payroll Clerk Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Payroll Clerk

While most payroll clerks train on the job, employers still require a high school diploma or GED prior to hiring. Once hired, workers learn by observing other workers and by receiving on-the-job training from their supervisors and colleagues. In some cases, there may also be some additional training done outside of the office. Completion of a high school business program enhances a basic high school degree and makes an applicant seem especially qualified for the position. However, there are some employers who look specifically for those who have graduated from a two year business school.

The American Payroll Association has a formal certification program with two levels of certification: Fundamental Payroll Certification and the Certified Payroll Professional. The latter more advanced certificate requires at least three years work in the professional world.

What does a Payroll Clerk do?

A payroll clerk ensures the timeliness and accuracy of wages for all employees. They also monitor the number of hours clocked in by employees. This responsibility involves not only the paycheck to the worker but all the deductions for taxes, health insurance, and garnishment, among other categories. In addition, payroll clerks maintain correct addresses for all workers and mail out tax records for filing income tax returns. While most offices have become thoroughly automated, there are a few offices where clerks still calculate payroll by hand.

Similar to payroll clerks, timekeeping clerks distribute and review timesheets. For those companies that bill clients by the hour, timekeeping clerks monitor the billable hours to ensure their accuracy. These clerks also have the responsibility to disseminate information about changes in payroll policies. In smaller offices, the same person may perform both payroll and timekeeping clerk roles.

Payroll clerks examine timesheets for errors. They compute deductions for taxes, health insurance, retirement and so forth. In an automated office, either the computer will notify the payroll clerk of the error or the payroll clerk will search through printouts for errors.

Payroll clerks work in every industry but an increasing number work as temporary employees; temporary workers generally lack benefits. However, those who are not temporary workers are usually employed by tax preparation and bookkeeping firms. Some companies have outsourced payroll to companies that specialize in payroll. In 2006, about 16% of all payroll clerks worked less than a 40 hour week.

Generally, payroll clerks work 35-40 hour weeks, and they work from desks. Payroll clerks have to obtain information from other workers, databases, and external sources. Like other office workers, payroll clerks spend a good deal of time interacting with computers, but payroll clerks also have to interact with other workers, and this requires great interpersonal skills. These skills become particularly important when a paycheck has an error. Payroll clerks must evaluate information for compliance to standards.

Payroll clerks use calculators, desktop computers and dumb terminals, a mainframe interface. They use such software as databases, spreadsheets, and word processing programs, as well as special time accounting software.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Payroll Clerk?

As with most contemporary office work, management places great value on computer and interpersonal skills. Payroll clerks must show patience, tact, and social grace because they deal with people and their money. Payroll clerks should have a keen sense of discretion and understand the value of confidentiality.

Payroll clerks utilize the following skills: time management, active listening, active learning, critical thinking, learning strategies, information ordering, problem sensitivity, and mathematical reasoning.

How much does a Payroll Clerk make?

If the annual salaries of all payroll clerks were arranged from the lowest to the highest, the median would be that point at which 50% of the salaries were lower and 50% were higher. However, most salaries differ somewhat from the median. The best estimate of a potential salary lies in the range between the 25th percentile and the 75th percentile, known as the middle 50% of salaries. The 25th percentile is the point at which 25% of salaries are below. The 75th percentile is the point at which 75% of all salaries are below.

Salary ranges widely by region, by size of company and by specialization of payroll clerk. The median national annual salary for payroll clerks in May 2007 was $33,810 per year. The middle 50% of salaries ranged between $27,570 and $40,730 per year.

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Michael O'Toole, the government relations senior director of American Payroll Association serves as chief editor of American Payroll Association's educational materials. He also wrote The Payroll Source, a leading text in the field of payroll management. He also sits on the bench as a municipal court judge.

Vicki M. Lambert, C.C.P (Certified Payroll Professional) wrote Payroll. A Guide to Running an Efficient Department. Known throughout the United States for her lectures on payroll administration and compliance, she has developed teaching materials for several universities.

Leonard A. Haug, CPP wrote The History of Payroll in the U.S, a Chronicle of the Development of Payroll From Colonial Times to the Present. In 1994, he was awarded the American Payroll Association's Man of the Year award.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

The American Payroll Association represents payroll managers, primarily from the United States but with a growing international presence. Its website features publications, conferences, certifications, a career center and government news.

The WorldatWork represents human resources and knowledge workers. This organization focuses on the development and retention of a talented workforce. It has 30,000 members in 75 countries. WorldatWork has an emphasis on work-life balance as a business strategy. Its website features certification, career center, and course and seminars.

What are the top cities for Payroll Clerk jobs?

While computers and office automation reduce drudgery, they have also reduced the need for certain types of jobs such as payroll clerks.

The growth rate for payroll clerks lags below average. Certification and computer skills may provide a critical advantage. The companies that specialize in payroll will be the site of most future growth. Some payroll clerks may specialize in the 401(k) programs or investment plans.

As of September 2008, the top three cities for payroll clerk jobs are located in New York, Houston, Texas and Charlotte, North Carolina.

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