What qualifications are needed to become a payroll clerk?

The payroll clerk ensures accurate and timely paychecks. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says payroll clerks usually learn their skills on the job. Employers favour high school graduates for this position; post-high-school education is not a requirement. Payroll comes with great responsibility; if paychecks are wrong, employees become concerned. Consequently, the payroll clerk should satisfy a number of qualifications.

Office Experience

Payroll clerk positions usually require six months to one year of office experience . The payroll clerk works in an office, and she should work well with others and have the ability to blend in accordingly. She should understand the importance of following office protocol, such as a dress code, and she should know how to use office equipment, such as fax machines and printers.

Computer Skills

Many employers use payroll software to process their payroll. Therefore, knowledge of payroll databases is a plus. A number of payroll programs exist; the more the payroll clerk knows, the more marketable he becomes. Furthermore, the employer may use a spreadsheet program to track employee time or to prepare payroll records. Therefore, an understanding of spreadsheet programs and word processing programs is also a plus. If the payroll clerk knows these programs, it signals to a prospective employer that she will need less training.


The payroll clerk must be highly trainable. Some employers will hire a payroll clerk if she lacks experience but demonstrates willingness to learn and has certain underlying qualities, such as solid math skills. The payroll clerk works under close supervision and must have the ability to follow instructions properly. Specifically, if he objects to being questioned by his superior several times a day regarding the progress of his work, he will not last long in this position. She must also be a fast learner, capable of grasping the company’s payroll policies and applying them quickly and accurately.


Payroll errors are unavoidable. They can occur from human error or system glitches. Regardless of the reason, the payroll clerk might be called upon to help solve them. She must understand the importance of responding to payroll inquiries efficiently. He must also stay calm during turbulent moments, such as when employees become upset about incorrect paychecks.


The payroll clerk gathers and posts payroll data, according to the BLS. But in some organisations, the payroll clerk may serve as an assistant to a payroll lead, such as the payroll supervisor or payroll manager. She may be required to process the entire payroll, which requires keen concentration. If he wants to meet, or exceed, her job expectations, he must apply the necessary focus.

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About the Author

Grace Ferguson has been writing professionally since 2009. With 10 years of experience in employee benefits and payroll administration, Ferguson has written extensively on topics relating to employment and finance. A research writer as well, she has been published in The Sage Encyclopedia and Mission Bell Media.