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What does a Payroll Administrator do?

As a payroll administrator, you will be in charge of very important paperwork. As the name implies, you will ensure employees are paid. Specifically, your job will involve managing everything to do with payments, withholdings and time-off reporting. For instance, you will oversee some of the following:
  • Direct deposits
  • Benefits withholding
  • Payroll deduction, garnishments and levies
  • Flexible spending accounts
  • W-2s
Yes, a lot of paperwork. But thankfully, for you and the forests, much of this "paperwork" is being shifted to electronic files and systems. So you will spend a lot of work time on your computer. Therefore, it helps if you are computer proficient. If not, earning a certificate or degree in the field can help get you onboard.

Payroll administrator: sometimes sticky business

Mostly, you will be dealing with rather cut-and-dry matters as a payroll administrator, right? You need to take the hours someone worked and pay them accordingly. But while you will undoubtedly manage all duties with ease, it is not as simple as this. You will need to keep track of paid leave, vacation and sick time in your hours-for-pay calculations. And sometimes, things can get a bit sticky for payroll administrators. Consider these real-case scenarios:
  • Year 2009: Ring any bells? This was a Leap Year, a time when employees around the globe were asking their payroll administrators: "Will I get an extra paycheck?"
  • Year 2011: Bernie Madoff, of Bernard Madoff Investment Securities LLC, was caught paying phantom employees. You would not have wanted to be Bernie's payroll administrator.
  • Year Anytime: You are aware that one employee takes two hours for her one hour lunch break, while you see another employee on a televised baseball game the day he was home with "the flu". Both employees are your friends. As a payroll administrator, what do you do?
Educating the payroll administrator

The first line of business: how to take the high road (even when friends are involved). Your education program should teach you all about payroll ethics and concerns. It should also teach you about computerized accounting and bookkeeping programs and other software needed for the job.

While some payroll administrators are trained on the job, employers are increasingly seeking those with certificates or degrees. A two-year associate degree in payroll administration, accounting, bookkeeping or related field could prepare you for the job. Once you find employment, you should consider earning the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) certification. To become CPP certified, you will need to have worked in payroll for at least 18 months, successfully complete classes and pass an examination.

In addition to earning a decent salary, being a payroll administrator should earn you respect: after all, you will be the one who pays the bills.

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