If you aspire to work for a company’s payroll department, you are not alone. This industry has various positions that typically provide a comfortable income, benefits and opportunities for career advancement. Some people start out as payroll clerks and later advance into payroll management positions. Depending on your education level, you may even be eligible to start in management immediately or in specialized sectors. After all, the higher your education, the more marketable you are for positions in this field.

High School Classes

High school classes provide students with a great head start toward their academic and career goals. The American Payroll Association states that entry-level employees must post changes in pay and tax statuses, audit time cards and be fluent in data entry. To meet the minimum qualifications for payroll duties you should take as many math classes as possible to build your skills. You would also be wise to take a class in economics to help you better understand payroll and tax laws.

College Classes

Various undergraduate and graduate-level degree programs can prepare you for a career in payroll. A degree in accounting, human resource management or business administration would provide you with core classes that can make you an efficient payroll professional. Schools such as San Jacinto College offer specific payroll courses that teach procedures, taxing entities, local state reporting requirements, federal taxes in manual and computerized environments and basic accounting principles. These courses also prepare students to pass the Fundamental Payroll Certification exam.


Payroll certificates provide students with the knowledge and skill set to tackle nonstandard transactions and more complex issues that can surface in the job's environment. In addition to offering degree programs, several universities will also offer specialized certificate programs. The University of California - Los Angeles offers the Advanced Payroll Processing Certificate that teaches greater preparing proficiency than a basic processing course would. It also offers the Personnel/Payroll Processing for Alien Employees Certificate that gives advanced knowledge to those preparing and processing payments to non-U.S. citizens.

Information Technology Classes

Having an advanced knowledge of computer systems and skills like coding, writing and data entry can make you eligible for a number of specialized payroll positions. These jobs include data processing operator, lead operator, systems analyst and systems coordinator. Having the skills to work with both data processing and payroll departments to ensure requirements and standards are being met is a vital role and strong asset to any company. Information technology classes can train you to implement and maintain in-house systems that run proficiency checks to ensure operations are running as effectively as possible.

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