News & Resources


Salary Survey Digs Deep Into the Payroll Profession

BY: Christine L. Avery | 10/27/21

How does your salary compare to the pay of your peers? What are the trends in in-house payroll processing versus outsourcing? How quickly is electronic pay being adopted?

Answers to these questions and many other payroll metrics are now available in the 2021 Payroll Industry Report: Results of APA’s Survey of Salaries & the Payroll Profession, published as a convenient eBook. The biennial survey is a comprehensive overview of the payroll function, providing a wealth of useful statistics and discernible trends.

Conducted by an independent research firm, the 2021 survey collected data from a nationwide sample of APA members last summer. Respondents accessed the survey via email and completed and submitted the questionnaire online.

Survey topics range from payroll department staffing and salaries to payroll processes, payment practices, and systems.

Generally, the results are presented in three useful formats:

  • Overall results
  • Results cross-tabulated by the number of Forms W-2 the respondents issued for 2020
  • Key results cross-tabulated by region. The four breakout U.S. regions are Northeast, South, Midwest, and West/Pacific

Where applicable, results of the 2021 survey are compared with corresponding findings of two previous surveys, conducted in 2019 and 2017. Comparisons involving three sets of survey results can help detect industry trends.

Salary information is provided in great detail. For the various job titles, average salaries in the 2021 survey are compared with those reported in the two previous surveys. Salaries are also cross-tabulated by region for each job title. In addition, average starting base salaries are compared with the average starting base salaries of those who are Certified Payroll Professionals (CPPs). Historically, CPPs earn more on average—how much more depends on the job title.

Salary data, payroll costs, and the many other metrics in the survey provide opportunities for you to compare your payroll operations with those of your peers.

The survey results are presented as an electronic publication. The eBook is available free to APA members. Colleagues and non-members may purchase the survey eBook online.

Anyone who joins the APA also receives free access to the eBook as a benefit of membership.

Christine L. Avery is the Director of Membership Publications for the APA.