Within the world of certified bookkeeping, one of the most essential roles in every organization is that of the payroll clerk. Every business, government agency, and non-profit that exists has a system by which they pay the people that work for them. It is these clerks that oversee these vital functions that and turn timecards into paychecks.
How Technology Has Impacted the Role of Payroll Clerks
So how do timecards get turned into paychecks? A few short years ago, payroll clerks did much of their work by hand. Employees would punch in and out using a manual time clock, and those timecards would then be audited and the hours worked would be tabulated. Paychecks would then be issued, often by hand, after calculations were made for deductions for taxes, healthcare, etc.
Many of these functions have changed with the introduction of new technologies. Just as technology has affected how bookkeepers work, with payroll systems becoming largely automated, a payroll clerk will often wear many hats within smaller organizations and in larger companies, will now do the work that may have taken a dozen people to complete before. Yes, so many mundane and simple processes have changed with the introduction of new technologies, requiring payroll clerks to be to have skill sets that allow them to keep up.
What Payroll Clerks Do
When an employee of even the smallest organizations report to work these days, they usually punch in through an electronic timekeeping system. Companies such as ADP have been developing efficient and affordable software systems for decades. These new systems allow companies to replace inefficient functioning-by-hand systems with electronic counterparts that allow companies to easily track not just how many hours an employee has worked during a time period, but their accruing vacation, sick and personal time as well.
All of this with the ability to make easy deductions for taxes, 401k and health insurance while feeding that data into a payment system that creates traditional paychecks and direct deposits alike.
The payroll clerk is the employee that manages this system for their organization. Much of their time is spent collecting and auditing data. Typical clerking functions may include:
- Regular review of electronic time cards for complete in and out punches
- Review employee hours worked, making sure payments to be made are in accordance with state and federal labor laws
- Track employee accrued time in categories such as vacation, sick and personal time-off
- Prepare year-end tax statements for employees and assist in distribution of W-2 and 1099 forms
- Process newly hired employees, making sure state and federal requirements have been met before creating employee profiles in the payroll system
- Perform a variety of bookkeeping responsibilities for their organization
- Open and maintain various company checking and cash accounts
- Make certain paychecks are properly routed to employees, sometimes being responsible for distribution across a large geographic region
What Skill Sets Are Needed?
While good math skill and familiarity with computers and various software programs are a must, a good payroll clerk will be best served by a high attention to detail. These employees also need to be independent workers, able to poor over large swaths of data, looking for the errors and mistakes that could cost their company if not discovered.
Strong customer service skills are also a must. You will often be required to interact with employees who have disputes and errors with their pay. Needless to say these can be sensitive circumstances to deal with.
What are the Prerequisites?
The position of payroll clerk is typically an entry level position with a number of organizations. This means that a high school diploma or GED equivalent is often all that’s required and clerks can often learn on the job.
Having said that, anyone hoping to land of these positions should have the math and computer skills mention above. In this line of work like so many others, the more education and training one acquires the better off they will be. Most adult vocational and community colleges offer a number of courses in payroll and bookkeeping certification. Many of these courses can be taken online and can only enhance your resume.
What Does Typical Training Consist of?
Someone who wants to find work as a payroll clerk will be well-served by obtaining their bookkeeping certification. So many of the skills and knowledge are transferable across the two positions and often those working in one position or the other will find many of their tasks to overlap. While curriculums will vary somewhat depending on the program you choose, bookkeeping certification courses will typically prepare graduates for a number of bookkeeping related jobs including that of payroll clerk.
A bookkeeping diploma program will usually include classes in:
- General Accounting
- Spreadsheet Applications
- Records Management
- Computerized Accounting
- Business and related Subjects
Are These Positions in Demand?
The accounting field is a dynamic and fast growing one with a variety of in demand positions. Payroll clerks are a big part of this exciting growth too. According to the United States Department of Labor Statistics, this profession is expected to grow in number of available positions by more than 10% between 2010 and 2020 with a projected 65,700 job openings during that period.
How Much Do Payroll Clerks Make?
The position of payroll clerk as compared to other entry level positions not requiring a four-year college degree is a well-paying one to say the least. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, the median salary for Payroll and Timekeeping clerks in 2012 was $37,690. One way to give yourself an edge in competing for these jobs and increase your earning power is to consider completing a Bookkeeping Certification program.
How do I Get Started?
So if you think a payroll clerk is a position you could see yourself in or if you’re interested in learning more about available bookkeeping certification and accounting programs near you, getting started is easy. There are a number of online and on-campus options available. Just use the search option at the top of this page to start taking a look. Your future starts here!