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What does a Payroll Clerk do?

Payroll clerks are an indispensable part of a company's accounting and human resources department. While they are often unheralded for their efforts, every company employee thinks of them the moment paychecks are delayed. That's why employers depend on payroll clerks to be sharp, efficient and dependable.

Depending on your company and role, you may be asked to perform diverse and key functions to process paychecks and statements, track workers' vacation and sick leaves, reconcile payroll discrepancies, verify hours and compute tax deductions.

You'll need to learn payroll or accounting software that companies depend upon to process employee earnings and information. Payroll clerks often have a foundational knowledge of accounting procedures, financial reports and spreadsheets.

The U.S. Labor Department reports that employers typically require payroll clerks to have strong communication skills - both verbally and by email. You'll need solid skills in mathematical reasoning, critical thinking, problem solving and the ability to maintain strong ethics when it comes to protecting employee privacy. You'll know how much everyone earns.

Career training for payroll clerks

Potential payroll clerks can attend trade or business schools or a community college. The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB) identifies key coursework in:
  • Federal and state wage and tax withholding laws
  • Compensation and overtime procedures
  • Computing unemployment taxes
  • Administering payroll forms
  • Benefits and compensation
  • Disability and sick pay
The American Payroll Association offers professional certifications for clerks to verify their skill knowledge and expertise. Certifications can help you advance in your career and are offered at the levels of the Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) and the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP). Exams are offered at more than 300 locations in the United States and Canada.

You may also choose to take post-secondary courses in bookkeeping, accounting or human resources. Payroll personnel can also train to work as payroll auditing or bookkeeping clerks. You can bolster auditing credentials after two years' experience by passing The Certified Bookkeeper (CB) examination offered by the AIPB.

Ever-emerging technology may further computerize payroll activities, resulting in a lower demand for the number of clerks serving a company or corporation. If you feel like growing your career, consider returning to college to pursue a bachelor's degree in accounting, human resources, business or finance.

Earnings for payroll clerks

States with the highest level of employment included California, Texas, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania. The District of Columbia, Connecticut, Alaska, Maryland and California offered the highest pay.

If you love numbers and solving problems--and want to play a vital role in the efficient operation of America's private companies or governmental organizations--consider becoming a payroll clerk.

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