How Do I Become a Payroll Manager?

D. Jeffress

Payroll managers are human resources (HR) experts who keep careful records regarding employee wages, benefits, and taxes. Managers work in many different settings, but most are employed by large corporations, retail stores, hospitals, and schools. The requirements to become a payroll manager can vary by setting and employer, but most companies prefer to hire professionals who have college degrees and several years of HR experience. In addition, pursuing voluntary certification from a respected national agency can broaden a person's opportunities to become a payroll manager.

A payroll manager should have a background in math.
A payroll manager should have a background in math.

An individual who wants to become a payroll manager can begin preparing for the career as early as high school. Courses in math, economics, communications, and computer science can provide basic skills that may pay off immensely in a future payroll career. A student may be able to obtain an entry-level position at a company as an HR or timekeeping clerk to gain practical experience in a business setting. Near graduation, he or she can start looking into community colleges and universities with strong business programs.

Payroll managers keep records regarding employee wages.
Payroll managers keep records regarding employee wages.

An associate's degree is sufficient for some payroll management jobs, but a person can significantly improve his or her skills and credentials by working toward a four-year bachelor's degree. A student who wants to become a payroll manager can choose to major in HR, accounting, business administration, or a related subject. Advanced coursework in business math and management provide a thorough understanding of common terminology, payroll techniques, and tax laws. After earning a degree, a graduate can look for job openings by browsing job search Web sites and utilizing career placement services at his or her school.

An individual may be able to become a payroll manager immediately after graduation, but most workers begin their careers in assistant positions. As a clerk or assistant, a new professional learns firsthand how to use electronic filing systems, adjust benefits packages, and prepare taxes. Gaining experience allows a worker to perfect job skills and build strong relationships with employees and bosses. With several years of experience, successful assistants are often awarded with promotions to management jobs.

Many professional organizations offer certification to new or hopeful managers to improve their chances of finding higher-paying jobs. In the United States, the American Payroll Association offers certified payroll professional credentials to workers who have at least three years of experience and pass written exams. Many other countries have similar organizations to help managers advance their careers. With the proper credentials and many years of experience, a payroll manager may eventually have the chance to become a lead HR supervisor or even an executive within his or her company.

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