What Does a Payroll Specialist Do?

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  • Written By: L.K. Blackburn
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 12 July 2019
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A payroll specialist manages employee salaries, finances, and tax information for a company. Some payroll specialists also have human resource based responsibilities where they work with other employees to set work schedules and plan scheduled vacations and time off. Individuals can usually become payroll specialists after graduating from college with a degree in accounting, business, or management.

The work of a payroll specialist is a combination of accounting and human resources. Entry level payroll specialist jobs can sometimes be obtained after first working as a human resource assistant and earning a background in accounting, either through experience or education. Payroll specialists generally work well with both numbers and people.

Custom software programs allow a specialist to organize and monitor employee work hours, paychecks, and personal information. Data of this type is used to allow a payroll specialist to accurately track and schedule people and business resources. Experience working with human resource and payroll software is often necessary to gain a job working as a payroll specialist. One way to gain exposure to this type of software can be gained working as an administrative assistant in a human resource department.


In addition to overseeing salary disbursement and tracking working hours, payroll specialists handle the allotment of earned funds into employee retirement and health insurance accounts. Specialists usually make themselves available to answer employee questions and fix any errors that may have occurred in payment or employee benefits. Direct deposit and paycheck delivery can be managed by a payroll specialist.

Payroll data is often used by employees to verify income. Income verification may be necessary when renting or buying a place to live, and when qualifying for loans. Specialists are typically the point of contact within a company to confirm employment and earnings statements. This involves providing employee reference letters, submitting certified payroll statements, and answer employment verification questions on the behalf of an employee.

There are some situations when the government withholds income from an individual's paycheck due to wage garnishment and legal reimbursement. Payroll specialists may work with the government to track and collect these funds. Tax information is organized, managed and recorded by payroll specialists according to regional standards and regulations. Employee deductions for national and state level regional taxes need to be accurately withheld from each paycheck by payroll specialists.

Regional based payroll specialist certification may be offered by accounting and human resource professional organizations. Some employers may require an individual to have a certificate in the field prior to employment. Certification may not be regionally required by law, but it can be helpful in finding a first job as a payroll specialist.


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