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How to Become a Certified Payroll Professional

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Payroll professionals help their organizations pay employees on time and follow tax reporting requirements. Junior professionals maintain payroll records, compute basic wages, overtime payments and deductions, while managers develop and implement the overall payroll strategy. The American Payroll Association, or APA, awards the Certified Payroll Professional designation to people who meet certification requirements. The CPP designation demonstrates competency in payroll management and can improve the holder’s employment and career advancement prospects.

Get the Education

The first step to becoming a CPP is to gain the knowledge that can enable you to become a payroll professional. Although you can qualify for entry-level jobs such as payroll technician, payroll practitioner and payroll system analyst with a high school diploma, an associate degree in accounting or business administration can make you a stand-out candidate. These programs include courses in tax preparation, financial accounting and payroll processing. With a bachelors’ degree in these fields, you can become payroll supervisor or manager. APA also has payroll courses that can get you started.

Gain Experience

The next step to certification is to secure a job and gain relevant work experience. The American Payroll Association only offers the CPP examination to payroll professionals with verifiable experience in payroll administration, payroll consulting, payroll reporting, payroll accounting, payroll systems or payroll production.

Understand and Meet Eligibility Requirements

The APA has three criteria for determining the eligibility of an applicant looking to take the CPP examination. With at least three years of payroll experience -- which must be earned within five years prior to the examination date -- you are eligible to take the exam. If you possess two years of experience, but not greater than three, you must first complete payroll courses offered by the association within two years to the examination date. Those with 18 months of payroll experience must first earn the Fundamental Payroll Certification and also complete APA courses within 18 months to the examination date.

Submit an Application and Take the Examination

The last step is to submit an application to the APA via email or fax. After the association verifies your eligibility, you can make examination reservations. The association provides a number of study aids, including an examination handbook, which can help you prepare for the CPP exam. You don’t need to be a member of the APA to qualify for certification.