What You Need to Know to Get That Payroll Specialist Salary

By Robert Half May 21, 2018 at 10:30am

We have good news for anyone interested in payroll clerk jobs or working your way up to payroll manager or supervisor: Companies are bumping up compensation, and you might find a job with a payroll specialist salary above market rates.

What's more, payroll is such an important role that it's in demand in most locations.

If payroll is your field — or you'd like it to be — you may be interested in knowing the importance of hard and soft skills for payroll professionals. Along with those essential skills come the duties, expectations and experience that come into play when considering a payroll specialist salary.

But first, let's look at what you can expect to make when you work in payroll.

Salary benchmarks for payroll jobs

According to the 2019 Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals, the starting salary midpoint for a payroll manager/supervisor is $72,750. Payroll coordinators/administrators can expect $46,000 at midpoint. The midpoint for a payroll clerk salary is $39,000.

At the midpoint, candidates have average experience with the necessary skills to meet the job requirements, and the role may be in an industry where competition for talent is moderate.

Payroll salaries vary widely from city to city. In Duluth, Minn., for instance, the estimated midpoint salary for a payroll clerk is $31,000, while in Chicago, it's $48,000.

Payroll manager is listed as one of the hot positions and the CPP (certified payroll professional) one of the in-demand certifications.

Visit our Salary Center, where you can use the Salary Calculator to adjust the payroll specialist salary for your city.

Duties and expectations

What will you do in these roles? In payroll clerk jobs, you’ll spend your time carrying out data entry tasks, reconciling time cards, and distributing paychecks and statements to department managers. You'll also be expected to respond to employee and vendor inquiries.

For payroll managers/supervisors, policy and compliance are vital responsibilities. You’ll be entrusted with maintaining compliance with current regulations, preparing government reporting, planning and implementing payroll policies, preparing accruals and reconciling ledgers, as well as recruiting, training and supervising payroll staff.

Learn more about the duties and job descriptions of various payroll roles — and look for a job.

Professional experience and skills

Though many hiring managers prefer candidates with payroll experience, entry-level payroll clerk jobs are also available. You’ll need at least a high-school level of education and proficiency in Microsoft Office to be considered a good entry-level candidate.

To work in payroll, you should have strong mathematical skills and the ability to multitask and work quickly under pressure. Hiring managers typically expect experienced payroll clerks to know their way around automated payment processing systems.

Then there are personality traits to consider. Payroll clerks need strong communication, clerical, organizational and customer service skills to get the job done, no matter what your workplace.

For payroll managers/supervisors, those abilities are even more important, as are interpersonal skills. Your level of experience and expertise is expected to be far greater, and you’ll generally need at least five years’ experience in payroll, as well as relevant qualifications.

A payroll manager normally holds a bachelor’s degree in an accounting or finance discipline and a payroll certification, such as the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP). You’ll also need to be proficient with a range of payroll software, including enterprise resource planning (ERP) and automated payment processing systems, in addition to Microsoft Office applications.

Many people in business don't know much about payroll; however, everyone wants to be paid! Now that you know more about the payroll specialist salary, along with what it will take to get one, may you find the rewards of providing this vital service as a payroll professional.

This post has been updated to reflect more current information.

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