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10 Cities Where It Pays to Be a Payroll Manager

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"The demand for payroll professionals – especially managers – is the highest I've seen it in the better part of a decade," says Carlie Boese, branch manager for Accountemps in Greeneville, South Carolina.

And high demand for the role doesn't stop there. Her statements are echoed across the country:

"Payroll is currently one of the most in-demand skillsets in the Phoenix market," says Courtney Angelo, senior staffing executive for Accountemps in Phoenix. "Job openings for payroll managers outnumber candidates 10 to 1!"

San Francisco has similar needs, according to Scott Dicke, director of permanent placement services for Robert Half there. "Payroll manager sees some of the highest demand among the positions we place," he says. "And the scarcity of skilled candidates makes it one of the most difficult positions for us to staff."

Hop over to New York City, and you'll find a demand that Joseph Avignone describes as "very high." He adds, "We're working on several payroll manager placements right now and typically do so on a consistent basis."

Such high demand in diverse places makes sense when you consider the number of businesses around the country that need experienced payroll managers. No matter the industry or region, it's a role many companies can't do without. The job may transcend geography, but not every city pays the same for the position.

Salaries vary from city to city

Location has a large impact on your paycheck. For example, a payroll manager in San Francisco can expect a midpoint starting salary of almost $100,000 per year. The same job in El Paso, Texas, will get you $51,120 - almost 50 percent less.

The 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance and Salary Calculator reveal the 10 cities with the highest starting salaries for a payroll manager:

  1. New York – $99,755
  2. San Francisco – $99,400
  3. San Jose, Calif. – $97,625
  4. Boston – $95,140
  5. Washington, D.C. – $94,430
  6. Los Angeles – $93,010
  7. Stamford, Conn. – $93,010
  8. San Rafael, Calif. – $92,300
  9. Irvine, Calif. – $92,300
  10. Oakland, Calif. – $91,945

So, should you pack your bags and go in search of your fortune on the East or West Coast? Even if you're more than happy to relocate for a job, there's more than salary to consider.

Different cities offer different advantages, so Robert Half's Career City Index analyzed 25 major metro areas, looking at key factors to determine what makes a good place for living and working.

Payroll manager job opportunities

To be as accurate as possible, the Career City Index puts a heavy weight on an area's career prospects. This category ranks three main points: the city's unemployment rate, GDP per capita and the educational background of its workforce. These metro areas placed highest:

  1. San Francisco Bay Area
  2. Seattle
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. Boston
  5. Salt Lake City

Cost of living

A high salary can quickly get eaten up by housing costs, taxes, utilities, groceries, transportation and more. Even in a city like San Francisco, where demand and salaries are high, the area's notoriously high living expenses might make some payroll professionals think twice about setting up shop there. That's why the Career City Index weights cost of living the same as career prospects. The top five cities in the index are:

  1. Seattle
  2. Indianapolis
  3. Houston
  4. Dallas
  5. Salt Lake City

Quality of life

Overall quality of life is difficult to measure, partly because it can be very subjective. Ample green spaces might be important to some people, while others may put a heavier emphasis on weather. Factoring in the quality of education, healthcare and transportation, the index found that the following cities are tops for quality of life in the U.S.:

  1. Phoenix
  2. Boston
  3. Cincinnati
  4. New York
  5. Raleigh, N.C.

Putting it all together

Accounting for the various factors in the Career City Index, here are the overall rankings, along with the midpoint starting salary for a payroll manager or payroll supervisor in each area:

  1. Seattle – $85,910
  2. Boston – $95,140
  3. San Francisco – $99,400
  4. Washington, D.C. – $94,430
  5. Raleigh, N.C. – $73,840
  6. Dallas – $78,100
  7. Salt Lake City – $74,550
  8. Denver – $77,390
  9. Houston – $75,970
  10. Des Moines, Iowa – $71,000

Of course, these lists serve primarily as general guides, as circumstances and preferences for every person are different. But with demand for payroll managers so high in every corner of the country, now is a great time to seek the best place for your payroll career.


This article was first published on the Robert Half International blog. Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at roberthalf.com/accountemps.