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How to Get - and Stay - Ahead With Payroll Classes

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Whether you're fresh out of school or a payroll expert, professional development can seem like a never-ending journey. From basic PayTrain Fundamentals to global payroll operations, there are myriad courses that might have value to your career. And then there are classes to get relevant certifications — and to remain certified.

Are payroll classes really worth the time and financial investment? Can they help you progress up the corporate ladder or land higher-level positions? In a word: Yes. Absolutely. Definitely.

Here are six things you can do when you pursue continuing education at all stages of your career in this fast-moving field:

1. Expand your skill set. There's always something to learn. As a clerk, you start out with payroll calculations, making deductions and refunds, auditing the payroll register, and preparing reports. But to qualify for a job with more responsibilities, you need to deal with compliance and operational issues, oversee payroll policies and procedures, supervise a team, and submit quarterly payroll taxes. Then there are the more complex points of multistate and international payroll, virtual employees, contractors and freelancers.

In addition, many companies are blurring the boundaries between payroll, human resources and basic accounting functions. Formal training is key to learning about these and other payroll-related fields.

2. Keep your knowledge current. When it comes to payroll, learning doesn't stop once you've passed an exam. Keeping up to date with constantly changing tax laws, payroll procedures and reporting requirements is essential for businesses to remain in compliance. What's more, year-end procedures often shift, and a smooth close depends on having the latest information. You should also be versed in the latest advances in payroll technology, such as business process automation.

Whether you're learning the basics of payroll administration or taking an advanced course on artificial intelligence, continuing education courses help you keep doing your job well.

3. Earn and maintain a certificate. Payroll is one of the few well-paying professional fields where a four-year college degree is often not a requirement. But to show hiring managers you have the basic know-how to do the job, you can work toward the Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC). This credential does not require previous payroll experience. The more advanced Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) certification has more prerequisites, including a minimum of three years in payroll, but attests to the holder's extensive knowledge base.

To remain in good standing, the FPC requires at least 60 Recertification Credit Hours (RCHs) in three years, while the CPP requires at least 120 RCHs in five years.

4. Demonstrate commitment. Studying for payroll classes and attaining/maintaining a certification takes time and money, but consider what going through with all that says about you. When your boss or hiring managers see that you highly value continuing education in payroll, they realize you're serious about staying in this field and are committed to payroll best practices. And the more you demonstrate your professionalism and dedication, the more likely you are to get promoted or land new positions with more responsibilities.

5. Earn more money and respect. Certified payroll professionals don't just have the potential to earn more money; they actually do earn more money. The combination of practical experience and specialist knowledge makes them stand out from the crowd as sought-after candidates. Many employers are willing to pay more to get that level of expertise.

Whatever your level of qualification, upskilling yourself through payroll classes improves your chances of commanding a higher salary. To find out what you could earn as a payroll clerk, coordinator or supervisor, check out the Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals.

6. Meet other payroll professionals. Most payroll classes are virtual and on-demand, which is handy for busy workers. But there's also the option of enrolling in live seminars or attending conferences — which typically have a host of workshops and general sessions. These are fun and efficient ways to quickly earn a large number of RCHs or continuing professional education (CPE), and a nice break from the office.

What's more, you meet dozens of like-minded professionals and expand your network of contacts at events like these — and possibly even get leads on exciting new career opportunities.

The payroll field does not stand still, and neither should your knowledge base or career. Whether you're building skills, updating your knowledge, earning certifications, demonstrating dedication, boosting your salary or meeting others in your field, you're not wasting your time.

By pursuing continuing education and regularly taking courses, you help your organization as well as your professional future.


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 can be found on the Accountemps website.