How to Become a

Payroll Clerk

The complete career guide to be a Payroll Clerk: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $42,130
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • -3.4%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Don't Take Work Home
    Career Attribute
  • Working With People
    Career Attribute

As a payroll clerk, you will make sure that your employer pays employees accurately and on time. Payroll clerks are responsible for maintaining time sheets and input employee-related information on a computer. Part of your job may also involve monitoring hourly wages and yearly salaries as well as overtime, vacation and sick days.

In offices that do not have automated timekeeping systems, working as a payroll clerk serves a vital function in terms of managing employee compensation and keeping workers happy.


What is a Payroll Clerk?

Duties

A payroll clerk handles a wide variety of duties pertaining to timekeeping and payroll policies, among which the following are significant:

  • Manage periodic payments to employees in a timely manner including bonuses and commissions, via checks or direct deposits.
  • Incorporate accrued vacation time and overtime according to the hours worked, for those employees working in more than one department.
  • Maintain employee and computer records with current employee information, i.e. rates, residential address, W4 status, benefit status, telephone numbers, etc.
  • Resolve any complaints and questions that arise with regard to payroll from employees and upper management
  • Maintain comparison reports upon payroll transmission, comparing current vs. prior payroll for auditing salary payments to employees.

Day in the life

On a regular basis, a payroll clerk’s responsibilities include screening timecards efficiently for any calculation or coding errors. They also serve the vital function of calculating pay for employees keeping in mind subtraction of allotments like Federal and State taxes and contributions to retirement, insurance, and savings plans, from gross earnings. There is a rising trend of using computer applications to perform these calculations and flagging errors in the data when there are inconsistencies.

Your daily schedule might also include recording any updates in employees’ addresses; keeping track of when workers retire, resign, or transfer; and providing sound advice to employees on income tax withholding and other mandatory deductions.

It is important for payroll clerks to monitor any changes in tax and deduction laws, so they are aware of the most recent revisions in policies and regulations. Another monthly routine task is preparing and mailing out earnings and tax-withholding statements for all employees to assist them with preparation of income tax returns.

Typical work schedule

Payroll clerk work tends to be office-based with the working schedule following standard business hours of at least 40 hours per week if working full-time. It is very rare that the payroll clerk need to work overtime due to the nature of the job. It is usually viewed as a completely stress-free job which makes it the perfect choice for people who are looking for life-work balance. The main task of payroll clerks is to compile and record employee time and payroll data as well as to manage all payroll processing duties. It is usually be done within a flexible time frame each month.

Projected job growth

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of payroll clerks is expected to decline by at least 4% from 2019 to 2029. This is attributed to the recent availability of different software and online tools that provides HR and payroll management tools. This will reduce the available job opportunities for payroll clerks in the coming decade as many of their clients will be able to automate most of these tasks. Additionally, many companies set the payroll and time-keeping tasks among the duties of the HR officers instead of having a dedicated employee for this task. It is expected that this rate of growth will only provide enough working opportunities for experienced payroll clerks to replace the older ones who leave their jobs. However, there is not much competition for this job and you may still be able to find an opportunity in this field.

Typical employers

Payroll clerks can actually work for any company, NGO or governmental organization as they all need to maintain their payroll and time records. This may also include accounting firms where they will provide accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services. You can also for one of the companies as Gusto, Paychex, Square Payroll, PrimePay, Intuit QuickBooks Payroll and Wagepoint that provide outsourcing services to small businesses.


How To Become a Payroll Clerk

Almost all payroll clerks are required to possess a high school diploma or, at the very least, the GED equivalent. You can also search for specialized programs in high schools, business schools, and community colleges that will arm you with the right skillset for a successful payroll clerk’s career and bring you a higher salary. Some colleges for instance, offer certificates in payroll practice and administration. Courses may cover topics like time reporting, employee benefits database management, payroll accounting, and income taxation.

As a payroll clerk, you will have to interact with varying levels of staff and be comfortable with performing multiple tasks without supervision. Therefore, having an advanced understanding of computer applications like Microsoft office Suite (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint) and strong communication or organizational skills is helpful. Since payroll clerks often handle sensitive information, you will also have to be dependable and strictly confidential in a fast-paced environment.


Payroll Clerk Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range

$33,160

Average

$42,130

High Range

$60,080

National Hourly Wage

Low Range

$16/hr

Average

$20/hr

High Range

$29/hr

How do Payroll Clerk salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Payroll Clerk's can make an average annual salary of $42,130, or $20 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $33,160 or $16 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #491 Nationally for All Careers


Highest Education Among Payroll Clerks

  • 0.2%   Doctorate
  • 2.3%   Masters
  • 18.3%   Bachelors
  • 14.3%   Associates
  • 37%   College
  • 25.7%   High School
  • 2.1%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs

172,800

2024 Est. Jobs

166,900

Job Growth Rate

-3.4%

Est. New Jobs

-5,900

How does Payroll Clerk job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of -5,900 jobs for a total of 166,900 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a -3.4% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #679 Nationally for All Careers


What Companies Employ The Most Payroll Clerks

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Management of companies and enterprises 13,100 -800 -1%
Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services 10,000 -500 -1%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 9,200 -600 -1%

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