How to Become a Payroll Clerk


The payroll clerk occupation is forecasted to grow steadily through the year 2016. Currently there are over 214,000 payroll clerks in the nation, most working for corporations, bookkeeping and accounting firms. Those who are interested in this type of work need to pursue on-the-job training or an Associate's degree in accounting from an accredited educational institution. And once you receive accreditation from the American Payroll Association, you are more marketable and have the potential to demand a higher payroll clerk salary.

Complete your Associate’s degree in accounting. Although it’s not required, many employers prefer to hire individuals that have completed an Associate’s degree. You can complete this degree at your local community college or opt for an online program offered by colleges like University of Maryland, Northwest Technical College or Ashworth College. This program will take about 2 years to complete.

Apply for a payroll assistant position. Although having an Associate's degree is desirable, you can also become a payroll clerk by on-the-job training. To get this experience, apply for a payroll assistant position at a local accounting firm or corporation. You can locate listings for these jobs at and

Check out programs in your high school. If you haven’t graduated yet, programs offered in your high school may qualify you for entry-level positions. Seek training in accounting and payroll operations. Some high schools even offer vocational training specific to the accounting industry.

Seek certification with the American Payroll Association. Once you have 3 years of experience under your belt, you can apply for a Payroll Professional Certification by successfully passing an exam.

Invest time in revamping your resume. Once you gain the required experience, refresh your resume to include your education and relevant experience. Best Sample Resumes is a company that provides resume samples for Payroll Clerks (see Resources). Use the sample as a template, and fill in information specific to your qualifications.

Tips & Warnings

  • Prepare yourself for promotion opportunities. If you haven't pursued your Associate's degree in accounting, ask your employer about employee education assistance. Most promotional opportunities require you to have a degree.
  • Understand the pay scale. When negotiating your first payroll clerk position, it's important to know the salary range. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the pay range for these professionals is $21,000 to $46,000.

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