What does a payroll specialist do?

More than ever, payroll specialists are in demand. They handle all the aspects of payroll, including ensuring that all employees are paid appropriately while keeping track of information related to paychecks. As a payroll specialist, you will:

• Monitor payroll information

• Keep track of tax withholding

• Review employee information

• Calculate fringe benefits

• Work with managers and employees

• Understand the laws and regulations regarding taxes

• Communicate effectively with coworkers, managers, and employees



What is the average salary of a payroll specialist?

Payroll specialists can make anywhere from $49,560 to $110,000 per year. Salaries tend to be higher in big cities like New York City and Chicago than in smaller ones. If you wish to earn more, you can increase your salary options by:

  • Having a bachelor's degree in business or accounting 
  • Being certified by the American Payroll Association (APA)
  • Working for a large organization, such as the government
  • Maintaining a consistent performance


payroll specialist

Working as a payroll specialist

As a payroll specialist, you will be responsible for payroll-related tasks. You may have several other responsibilities at once, such as making sure that you meet deadlines while managing multiple projects simultaneously. In fact, it is not uncommon for some employers to require you to work overtime during busy periods (such as tax season). 

What are the responsibilities of a payroll specialist?

To be a payroll specialist, you will need to know how to manage the payroll budget and keep payroll records. Other responsibilities will include:

  • Calculating payroll taxes
  • Submitting payroll tax forms
  • Filing payroll tax returns
  • Maintaining records of all payroll information
  • Calculating employee's wages and benefits
  • Creating payroll reports

What type of equipment do payroll specialists use?

As a payroll specialist, you will use various tools and equipment. These include:

  • Computers and software, particularly spreadsheet and accounting programs
  • Calculators, pencils, pens, and other office supplies
  • Other miscellaneous office equipment such as printers, copiers, and fax machines 
  • Telephones

What is the work environment of a payroll specialist?

Working as a payroll specialist is a stable and lucrative career choice. This includes typical office work where you'd stay indoors at your desk most of the time. However, some employers are more unconventional in their approach to employment and offer an ever-changing job environment that is perfect for someone who enjoys the excitement. For example, some tasks will require travel to different sites or other companies with executives they support. Some employers offer the ability to work from home for a portion of the week or participate in a hybrid type of attendance structure.

Who are your colleagues as a payroll specialist?

Payroll specialists have a wide range of co-workers, depending on their employer. Some are part of the help desk support team. Others are in the accounting department or the legal department. You'll also work with employees in other departments, such as sales and marketing or even customer service.

What is the work schedule of a payroll specialist?

Payroll specialists usually work a standard schedule of eight to 10 hours per day, five days per week. However, some employers may offer alternative schedules for those who prefer flexibility. There are also part-time jobs that offer the opportunity to earn time-and-a-half overtime pay. In these positions, you may be required to work nights or weekends hours.


What is the career outlook for a payroll specialist?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for payroll specialists will grow at a rate of around 1.3%. The increase in the number of new jobs is primarily due to a rise in small businesses. It is a long-term goal for many people to be payroll specialists because they are in high demand.

What are the advantages of working with Spherion as a payroll specialist?

As a leading staffing company, Spherion has connections with many businesses. If you're looking for the right office to fit your working style, there are plenty of opportunities. Whether you want to work in a smaller family business or a larger company, Spherion has options for you. Other advantages include:

  • A contact person you can always rely on for assistance
  • Many training opportunities
  • A variety of jobs in your area   
  • Flexible scheduling options
  • Weekly wages

What education do you need as a payroll specialist?

The education requirements for becoming a payroll specialist vary, but most employers require you to have at least a high school diploma or GED. Many payroll specialists have a bachelor's degree in accounting. Another training option available is a CPA or CMA certification. This will give you the skills and knowledge to become a payroll specialist. The CPA designation is a professional certification from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Some employers prefer candidates who have a degree in accounting and some don't, depending on their policy.

Skills & competencies

The skills and competencies needed to become a payroll specialist vary by employer. The most important skills are:

  • Accounting knowledge
  • Computer skills
  • Customer service skills
  • Excel and spreadsheet expertise, especially with formulas
  • Attention to detail and accuracy


Not all employers want candidates with experience in their industry or the payroll field. However, having at least two years of experience is especially a good idea if you want to work for a high-powered executive. You'll often find that the more experience you have, the better you'll be paid. 

Communication skills

In addition to having the right educational background, you must communicate well with people such as upper management and workers who may not be very familiar with accounting. If someone is having a problem with their pay, they may be upset, and knowing how to mitigate this situation is crucial. 

Time management and organization

If you like to work independently, a job as a payroll specialist is perfect for you. It will be up to you to set priorities and figure out how to get everything done on time without sacrificing quality or getting overwhelmed. This requires managing your time wisely and multitasking well. You should be able to work independently and meet deadlines at the same time while keeping track of all the details. 

Computer and software competencies

If you like to learn new software tools, your job as a payroll specialist will be gratifying. Depending on your industry, you'll most commonly use the following programs as a payroll specialist:

  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • QuickBooks
  • Sage Payroll
  • Xero
  • Payroll software for small business owners
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator


Payroll specialists are vital to organizations in all industries. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about this role. 

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