What’s a Payroll Specialist and Is It Right for You?

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PayrollSpecialistThe role of payroll specialist might not be something you’ve heard of before, but it could be the perfect job for you! Read on to find out exactly what they do, how much money they make and the skills you would need to enter this career field. From there, you’ll be ready to decide whether or not being a payroll specialist is in your future!

What Do They Do?

A payroll specialist is involved with keeping track of the time people spend working, as well as making sure they’re getting paid the right amount for those hours. They make sure the hours worked are correct and that the employees are getting paid on time.

Payroll specialists might also have to keep track of employees’ leave and vacation time, as well as their attendance records. They might also issue paychecks and arrange compensation paperwork for any new hires in the workplace.

Is Payroll Specialist the Right Position for You?

It can be hard to objectively analyze your skills, interests and strengths and apply them to a career you could excel at.

A career as a payroll specialist could be your ideal career fit if you are:

  • Good with math and numbers, preferably with some knowledge of accounting.
  • Organized, with a keen attention-to-detail to catch any mistakes that could be made with hours or pay.
  • Able to communicate well, in order to keep employees informed about their pay, vacation and work through any issues that arise.
  • Trustworthy, as you’ll be exposed to sensitive employee information, like Social Security numbers.
  • Able to multitask and work well in a high-stress environment.
  • Willing to stay up-to-date on things like current IRS regulations.
  • Able to handle clerical skills such as data entry, filing, answering phones and writing emails.
  • Familiar with computers and software, like Microsoft Office and various other programs, and are willing to learn additional skills.

If you identify with these skills and envision yourself fulfilling these tasks, then being a payroll specialist is a possibility for your future!

Important Aspects of the Job

The actual role of a payroll specialist can vary depending on the size of the company you’re working for. At a smaller company, the payroll specialist could be involved with every single aspect of payroll, along with possible other duties, such as human resources. At a larger company, a payroll specialist might focus on only one aspect of the payroll process. Juggling many different responsibilities demands mindfulness and a well-rounded skillset, including a talent for clerical work.

A payroll specialist has to have a wide knowledge base, including knowing budgetary operations, tax laws and laws involving wages and hours. They also need to know at least one form of payroll software, with the recommendation that they know more than just one. In addition to having this knowledge, they have to be extremely mathematically inclined and have a fierce attention-to-detail.

It’s important that a payroll specialist knows how to deal with people, as well. In some cases, they may have to work one-on-one with clients, and at the very least they’ll need to know how to communicate with employees about their hours and pay. Depending on the company, they may also have to write reports at the end of the quarter or year. As such, strong writing skills are also a big plus.

The job of a payroll specialist encompasses various skill sets. It’s something to consider before you apply, because it isn’t just one skill they’re focused on. You have to be well-rounded and able to meet the needs of the specific job description that you apply for, since they can vary from company to company.

Salary and Job Growth

The median salary for a payroll specialist is $44,534. Payroll specialists also have the ability to earn more from bonuses and profit sharing. Compensation mainly varies according to the firm you’re hired by, but geography can have an impact on it as well.

New York City, for instance, offers the highest compensation for payroll specialists, with 21% above the average. Seattle and Houston are also great cities for payroll specialists, paying 18% and 15% above the average, respectively. Tampa pays the lowest, coming in at 13% below the average pay. Most specialists enjoy company-sponsored medical insurance, which often includes dental and vision coverage as well.

The estimated job growth for 2012-2022 is 13%. Bookkeepers and other accounting positions perform duties similar to those of a payroll specialist, and may absorb their duties in some cases. This will vary according to the technology available and the productivity demands made on employees.

Surveyed payroll specialists rate their positions as a five out of five in job satisfaction. When their skills match, this is a job that people tend to enjoy. Experience doesn’t play a large factor in salary, either. This means entry-level payroll specialists make almost as much as ones that are very experienced. However, experience does play a factor in getting promoted to positions that do pay more. Payroll specialists most commonly get promoted to become payroll managers, with an average income of $55,000 per year.

Education and Training

While you don’t need a degree to become a payroll specialist, taking some courses in accounting and math could definitely help your chances of becoming one. If you are pursuing a college degree, it’s beneficial for this job if you have one in accounting or business. Experience as a payroll specialist combined with either one of those degrees can lead to a better potential for job advancement later on. For example, you could become a payroll accountant or payroll manager in the future.

It’s also helpful if you have or can obtain some experience using various payroll, scheduling and tax software. Knowledge of any ADP software is a big plus, as well. The more programs and software you know, the more marketable you are to employers.

The American Payroll Association also offers an optional Certified Payroll Professional certification that can help boost your employability and possibly even your salary. There’s also a certification offered through the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers.

A benefit of being a payroll specialist is that you can usually get the training you need while on the job. The position requires a high school diploma, although a college degree could be helpful if you want to advance to roles that require more responsibility.

A career as a payroll specialist can be a very rewarding job, offering opportunities for advancement and branching out into new areas of expertise. If you have the skills listed above, being a payroll specialist could be a great way to kick-start your future!

Exploring careers in business? Be sure to check out our other career exploration posts in Marketing, Accounting and Finance.

About the Author

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer, blogger, and aspiring world traveler. Sarah is also the founder of Punched Clocks, a site on which she shares advice for young professionals on navigating the work world, and finding happiness and success at work. For more on all things career follow her @SarahLandrum

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