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How to Become a Payroll Officer

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Although payroll functions are increasingly being automated as new technology and software are developed, companies and outsourced payroll firms will always need payroll professionals to deal with problems that computer programs can't predict or cope with. You don't necessarily need any specialist training to secure your first job in a payroll environment, but you can increase your chances of success by making sure you're as prepared for a career in the industry as possible.

Graduate from high school with good marks in math, statistics an information technology.

Go to college and study a math-related discipline. Although a degree-level education is not a prerequisite of securing a job as a payroll officer, studying a math-related subject will make you a more attractive proposition to prospective employers. If you can't afford to study full-time or are keen to get moving with your career after graduating from high school, consider signing up for an evening course in accountancy.

Brush up on your IT skills. You'll need to be conversant with spreadsheet software and other popular office applications. The ability to quickly get to grips with and interpret complex statistical data will also stand you in good stead. Although training is often provided on the job, the ability to use popular accounting and payroll software could well give you a head start over other candidates applying for entry-level payroll jobs. You can sign up for short courses on a range of packages at colleges or online.

Familiarize yourself with employment and labor law and how it relates to pay. An understanding of local and federal income tax laws and Social Security deductions would also be beneficial. You can buy books on these subjects from online book retailers and larger bookstores.

Put together a resume and cover letter that highlight your relevant skills and desire to begin a career in payroll. Mention your training to date and any experience you've picked up in other roles that would be useful while working in payroll. Employers looking to expand their payroll department will be seeking advanced problem-solving abilities, customer service and communication skills, attention to detail and an ability to learn new processes and software packages.

Look for entry-level payroll clerk roles on general job boards and in your local job listings. You should also sign up with specialist accountancy and finance employment agencies and approach outsourced payroll firms directly on a speculative basis. Submit your resume and cover letter and follow up with a phone call after a week if you haven't heard anything back.

Undertake any training offered once you've secured your first payroll job and always look out for opportunities to expand your knowledge. Ask your employer if it offers funding for college courses and stay abreast of payroll best practices.

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About the Author

Michael Roennevig has been a journalist since 2003. He has written on politics, the arts, travel and society for publications such as "The Big Issue" and "Which?" Roennevig holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the Surrey Institute and a postgraduate diploma from the National Council for the Training of Journalists at City College, Brighton.

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