Payroll administrators oversee everything that is associated with paying an organization’s employees. This generally includes tracking hours worked and ensuring that employees are accurately paid for their time. It also includes calculating, deducting and processing taxes and social security withholdings, as well as other company-offered benefits.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects favorable opportunities for payroll administrators. New openings will become available as payroll and timekeeping clerks retire or transfer into other positions. Those who have completed an associate’s degree in accounting and earned industry certification demonstrating their proficiency in more complex payroll issues will have an advantage in this competitive job market.
The payroll administrator is typically the first point of contact for employees in matters of time, attendance and payroll. Depending on the size of the company, payroll administration can range from cutting biweekly checks for a few employees, to a complex system involving payment to thousands of employees and contractors.
A payroll administrator’s job duties generally involve issuing and distributing paychecks, managing direct deposits, benefits withholding, payroll deductions, garnishments and levies, flexible spending accounts, federal and state payroll tax deposits and returns, new hire reports, federal payroll summaries, W-2s, wage and hour law compliance, and paid leave, vacation and sick time reporting.
There are a number of software applications – including off-the-shelf as well as custom-built – that help manage the whole payroll administration process.
Payroll administrators often provide accounting support to a company’s other finance personnel, such as the Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Accounting and Reporting departments. Individuals in the role may also cross-train designated backup staff to administer and process time, attendance and payroll.
As a payroll administrator, you can expect a typical 40-hour work week. Whether you work in a large company or a small business, the payroll administrator position is an office job with predictable job requirements. You can either be directly employed by a corporation or business, or work for an outsourced payroll processing service that provides comprehensive payroll, accounting and tax solutions to many companies.
The BLS reports that median annual wages for payroll administrators were $36,000 in May 2009. Salaries ranged from $23,660 for the lowest 10% to $51,000 for the highest 10%, with the middle 50% earning between $29,220 and $43,400. Payroll clerks with an associate’s degree will generally earn more than those with just a high-school education, and their salaries will increase with experience.
Employers require payroll administrators to have at least a high school diploma and computer skills. But in a tight job market, preference is given to those with at least a two-year degree. The first step to a payroll administrator’s position can be an associate’s degree in accounting.
A typical accounting education program gives students the skills and knowledge to:
An AA in Accounting degree offers numerous advantages ranging from increased earnings to improved job stability. Associate’s degree holders typically earn more money, enjoy more career opportunities and are less likely to be unemployed compared to those with only a high school diploma.
Payroll administrators work in an interesting, mostly predictable and sometimes extremely busy environment. If you enjoy working with numbers and playing a key role in a company’s business operations, then payroll administration may be the career for you.