Payroll Accountant Career Profile

Written By Staff

Payroll accountants and managers are responsible for managing payroll accounts and making sure they are accurately reported in the company’s accounting system. They are the liaisons between the payroll department and accounting department and make sure disbursements are recorded accurately. Payroll accountants perform internal payroll audits; prepare various accounting papers, schedules, and summaries; and advises the payroll staff about the accounting treatment of certain transactions. Other payroll staff members, like clerks and bookkeepers, may require less education but also have lower potential salaries.


Payroll accounting typically requires a bachelor's degree in accounting and at least two years of relevant experience. Candidates who have certification from the American Payroll Association (APA) are preferred by employers, according to the APA. The association offers two types of certification: the Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) and the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP). The FPC credential is for entry-level payroll professionals, systems analysts or engineers who write payroll programs, or sales professionals within the industry. Candidates for the CPC exam must have three to five years of professional experience preceding the date of the exam or they must have been employed for 24 months and have taken courses offered by the APA.

Median Salary:


For those who have little to no experience, starting salaries are around $38,500; top salaries reach to $85,500, according to the 2013 Robert Half Finance & Accounting Salary Guide. Working for a large company offers better pay opportunities than small or midsize companies, and becoming a Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) increases pay potential. Accountants received the highest pay in the District of Columbia, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland in 2012, according to theBureau of Labor Statistics(BLS).

Job Outlook:

Projected to grow 16% between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS.

As long as there are employees to be paid, payroll accountants should find lucrative opportunities in the professional world. Sometimes working in tandem with human resources managers and/or payroll managers, accountants specializing in payroll matters may find increased job prospects as businesses expand and require more complex payroll management. Payroll accountants may choose to obtain genre-specific credentials in addition to their standard CPA certification, possibly making them more desirable to potential employers. Accountants in the payroll sector contribute to the majority of professionals in this industry, among the 24% of accountants and auditors working in accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services, according to the BLS. Payroll accountants may experience an increase in job growth, even as employment laws and regulations change over the next seven years, because there will likely always be a need for experts to manage payroll and keep track of wages in all kinds of businesses.

Continuing Education:

Those looking to practice payroll accounting have several payroll-specific industry certification options. Many CPAs will choose to pursue a certified payroll professional (CPP) certification program, for instance, available through organizations like the American Payroll Association, as well as state licensure. Payroll accountants must continue to maintain their certification by completing a minimum of continuing education credits on a regular basis, dictated by individual state and occupational regulations. In addition to general accounting training, payroll-specific professionals may study strategic payroll practices, income tax compliance, calculating paychecks, and garnishments practices, among others. In fulfilling their annual payroll accounting continuing education course credits, professionals in this field may find they have gained enhanced professional skills and are eligible for top-notch jobs in accounting.