How to Become a Payroll Clerk

Payroll is an essential part of all companies and deals with wages, salaries, deductions, and bonuses. Payroll clerks are important trained professionals that make sure employees are paid on a timely basis with accurate paychecks.

What does a payroll clerk do?

Payroll clerks (also called payroll technicians) ensure all employees are being paid when and how they should. They monitor timecards for calculations, coding, and other things. They calculate pay by subtracting taxes and insurance, retirement, and savings plans contributions from the gross income. When there is an error, payroll clerks research and make corrections to records. They also monitor attendance, vacations, commissions, bonuses, and other factors that influence pay.

Payroll clerks are also responsible for making changes to employee personal and contact information, giving income tax and other required deductions advice to employees, and closing files of employees who transfer, retire, or resign. They also issue and take note of adjustments made to the pay of employees due to retroactive increases or previous errors. Sometimes, they prepare income tax statements and distribute them to employees. Payroll clerks are also responsible for union dues and when the dues are taken out of an employee’s paycheck, the payroll clerk must forward the funds to the union address.

What kind of training does a payroll clerk need?

Payroll clerks need at least a high school diploma or GED. Some payroll clerks complete training programs at community colleges or business schools and others have associate degrees. Most employers prefer candidates with computer skills. Most payroll clerks receive extensive on the job training and acquire skills from observing other employees. They are trained in payroll, personal issues, company policies, and practices of the workplace.

Some organizations such as the American Payroll Association offer certification programs for payroll clerks. Most certifications require work experience and receiving a passing score on a written examination.

What are the prospects for a career as a payroll clerk?

Employment of payroll clerks is project to grow slower than average for all professions, increasing 3% from 2006 to 2016 (1). However companies offering more complex plans such as many 401 (k), pension, and other investment plans to employees will help job growth because payroll clerks will be required to record and maintain these plans.

Job prospects are expected to be fair especially for payroll clerks with certification. Job openings will also occur from the need to replace payroll clerks who retire or leave the profession.

How much do payroll clerks make?

As of August 2009, the middle 50% of payroll clerks earned annual salaries between $29,809 and $38,167. The highest 10% earned annual salaries of more than $42,274 (2).

A career as a payroll clerk is an excellent choice for people interested in payroll practices. Payroll clerks must have good computer skills and good communication and interpersonal skills. They also need diplomacy, tactfulness, and poise, and be able to deal with confidential issues.

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