What Degree Do You Need to Be a Payroll Specialist?

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What Degree Do You Need to Be a Payroll Specialist?

If you want to work as a payroll expert, you don’t need to go to college; nevertheless, having an associate’s degree and the necessary abilities will undoubtedly help you get the job. To work as a payroll professional, you must have a high school diploma or a general equivalency diploma (GED) certificate. Smaller businesses are more likely to have openings for someone with this level of education. You’ll need additional schooling if you want to work full-time at a large corporation and have access to benefits.

Some companies require payroll specialists to have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a similar subject and prior payroll experience. Computer accounting, bookkeeping, payroll time reporting/processing, and benefits deduction should all be equivalent on your transcript. Being promoted from a position as a payroll clerk is one way to get into this position.

What Is a Payroll Specialist?

You would work as a payroll specialist with payroll data that pertains to every employee and manager in your organization. You’ll be able to keep track of staff attendance and confirm whether or not they were at work. You’ll change their salaries and calculate their benefit allocations and payroll deductions using financial information.

A payroll expert, also known as a payroll clerk, is responsible for ensuring all of a company’s employees are paid appropriately and on schedule. A payroll expert is usually a finance team member, but they may also have a background in human resources or work across departments.

Financial training is frequently required because a payroll specialist is responsible for processing all payroll information, including making adjustments, providing benefits, and preparing tax information. Payroll specialists will continue to be in demand, despite the automation of some duties.
The profession of payroll expert necessitates a bachelor’s degree or a similar degree. The average compensation for this position is $43,500. However, it varies from job to job and industry to industry. Many people are confused about what degree they need to work as a payroll specialist, but there are a few universal criteria. A high school diploma is the first step, followed by an associate or bachelor’s degree, and finally a master’s degree. This is the most common criterion for advancing in a company’s executive ranks.

A bachelor’s degree is the standard educational qualification for this career, regardless of educational background. Those who want to work as a payroll specialists should be competent at arithmetic and have a solid grasp of accounting. Although a certificate in bookkeeping or a degree in accounting would boost your work prospects, a degree in accounting is not required. There are, however, a variety of options for people interested in pursuing this career.

What Does a Payroll Specialist Do?

The payroll expert is in charge of processing their employer’s payroll and keeping the company’s tax information up to date; in other words, they are in charge of payroll administration. If they utilize special software to track their hours or request sick days, these employees may also offer training for new employees on timekeeping software. These people might expect to work in a small or large company’s human resource department, and some work for companies that give freelancing services to other businesses.

You can be in charge of recording time and attendance into specialized timekeeping software and then transferring those hours to payroll software. It’s critical to have strong problem-solving abilities to spot technological or human faults made by employees and management. You’ll be held accountable for correcting these errors so that everyone is paid correctly.

You should be able to communicate well and perform well in math and organize yourself. These abilities can be honed in high school, community college, or a university setting.

You may have ambitions to advance in your position, pursuing a career in payroll or human resources. To do this, you may need to return to school to obtain a higher-level degree, such as a master’s degree in human resource management. Earning qualifications like the American Payroll Association’s Certified Human Resource Management certificate can also help you in your attempt.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Payroll Specialist?

For a job in payroll, a bachelor’s degree in accounting or business administration is an excellent choice. This position necessitates excellent communication abilities as well as a passion for numbers. Although a high school diploma is sufficient for employment, many businesses prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree. Computer accounting benefits deduction and payroll time reporting are among the abilities you’ll need to succeed in this position.

You may not need a college degree to work as a payroll specialist, depending on your work experience. A few organizations prefer candidates with at least five years of experience. It would be best if you considered earning a qualification or accreditation to work as a payroll professional. Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) and Fundamental Payroll Certification are two of the most popular certificates, and these will help you stand out from the crowd.

You could start by enrolling in a community or technical college to get an accounting associate degree or a training certificate that will prepare you for an accounting and payroll specialist career. This certificate program teaches you how to effectively handle your employer’s daily activities, such as inventory tracking, sales, and bill payments.

This curriculum will prepare you to work as an entry-level employee in an accounting or human resources department, where you will be responsible for accounting and payroll activities. Business math, accounting fundamentals, payroll preparation fundamentals, QuickBooks, introduction to Excel, managing computer files, and other courses are possible options.

You will be qualified to work as a bookkeeper or a payroll professional once you have received your certificate.

What Are the Payroll Specialist Requirements?


A high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) certificate is required for payroll experts. Many organizations look for applicants with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting or a similar discipline. Computer payroll time reporting and processing, bookkeeping, accounting, and benefits deduction are relevant courses.


Payroll specialists are frequently promoted from payroll clerk positions or hired as entry-level after completing a bachelor’s degree program. Additional on-the-job training tailored to their function and the firm is typical for payroll professionals. This additional training is frequently included in their new role’s onboarding process. On-job training can run anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on the employer and the role.


Payroll professionals may want to look into a variety of certification programs. Certifications enable you to demonstrate your qualifications and talents to current and potential employers. Certifications are also available for payroll professionals who want to learn more about their responsibilities and develop their careers. The following are some of the most popular certifications for payroll specialists:

Certification in Payroll Fundamentals

The Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) program is offered by the American Payroll Association (APA), which allows entry-level payroll specialist applicants to demonstrate their knowledge and skill in payroll principles.

Payroll Professional Certification

The APA also offers the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) certification to payroll experts who have completed multiple payrolls practices and concepts courses and have at least 18 months of experience working in a payroll job.

Bookkeeper With a Certification

Individuals with at least two years of professional experience in accounting, bookkeeping, accounts payable, or a similar sector can earn the Certified Bookkeeper credential from the American Institute of Bookkeepers.

Certifications in Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office offers several certifications that attest to a person’s ability to use one or more of the five primary Office applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook.

What Are Some Skills Required to Become a Payroll Specialist?

A payroll specialist position requires a solid mathematical background and knowledge of accounting, regardless of the degree you take. While a bachelor’s degree isn’t required to work as a payroll specialist, you should gain some experience first. Even if you have no prior work experience in this industry, you may be able to find part-time employment as a freelancer. You will usually be paid more than a salaried employee, and you will have more opportunities to advance.

It is not necessary to have a bachelor’s degree to work as a payroll specialist. While a bachelor’s degree isn’t required for this employment, it is preferred by some employers. Some of these jobs may be in-house and require a bachelor’s degree. If you are skilled in the subject, these jobs might be a terrific way to make a living. A bachelor’s degree in accounting is a fantastic choice if you want to work in the field.

It’s crucial to think about your existing work title before enrolling in a payroll specialist program. To work in this sector, you must have a bachelor’s degree in accounting. A payroll specialist’s income varies by location, although it is usually rather high. In general, annual earnings range from $22,000 to $125,000. Your compensation will increase as your pay rises.

You should have a background in math and accounting if you want to work as a payroll specialist. A bachelor’s degree in accounting is not required. However, it will be beneficial. You should be able to work with numbers as well. New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are excellent places to look for work. You don’t need any formal schooling to work as a payroll specialist. Working for a company in the field can help you learn the job.

You must have experience in addition to a bachelor’s degree. You must have prior payroll expertise to work as a payroll specialist. If you have a high school diploma in accounting, it will help you. It’s beneficial to have a certification. You should have a computer science and maths background, and it will assist you in your work. Then you could look for on-the-job training or optional certification from the American Payroll Association.

What Are Some Payroll Specialist Careers and Outlooks?

You’ll work as a payroll specialist at an office typically part of the human resources department. You can work for big or small companies, but larger companies have more vital human resources and payroll departments, and they are frequently integrated into one smaller business. You may also work for a government agency, where you would handle payroll and perform other payroll-related duties.

You must communicate effectively and troubleshoot problems with payroll as you enter it into the computer in any scenario. You’ll also need arithmetic abilities to input figures and perform computations accurately; hone your payroll procedures to ensure that your work is accurate. As of 2020, the average hourly wage for payroll experts is $22.79 per hour. Payroll experts in their first year make an average of $14.58 per hour. Their mid-career earnings are around $22.70, and their late-career earnings are around $31.83.

Payroll accountants are employed by many, if not nearly all, businesses, accounting for 1.35 percent of total sector employment. Between 2019 and 2029, employment for payroll specialists and certified payroll professionals is expected to grow by 8%, and this is a significantly higher growth rate than the national average for all jobs.

Companies will continue to hire compensation and payroll specialists who can examine the benefits policies they must use, choose the one that is most suited to their organization, and update those policies. Payroll professionals may also develop competitive compensation packages for businesses to attract the best employees.


It would help if you had a good sense of what a payroll specialist works daily by now. According to a job description, you assemble data on each employee’s hours worked for the pay period and calculate the correct amount to pay, including overtime, bonuses, and deductions.

You’ll find a variety of information about the role, credentials, and criteria in a job post for a payroll specialist. If you get a job offer, this will tell you what prospective employers expect you to know and your daily responsibilities. Here are some job openings and the required requirements.

You might not be able to get an associate degree in accounting payroll from a state institution or community college. That’s all right, and it isn’t necessary to have a community college or university diploma. Furthermore, even if you have no prior expertise with payroll, you may still be able to find work as a payroll specialist.

A GED or high school graduation is the minimal qualification, and new hires can receive on-the-job training. In summary, if you have administrative, bookkeeping, or human resources expertise and a diploma or GED, you should be able to get the job you want with ease.

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