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Career profile Payroll Specialist

Also known as Accounting Technician, Human Resources Assistant (HR Assistant), Payroll Administrator, Payroll Assistant, Payroll Clerk, Payroll Coordinator, Payroll Representative, Payroll Specialist, Payroll Technician

Payroll Specialist

Also known as Accounting Technician, Human Resources Assistant (HR Assistant), Payroll Administrator

Interests Profile
  • Conventional
  • Enterprising
  • Social
Pay Range
$30,950 - $67,600 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Active Listening
  • Speaking
Knowledge Areas
  • Administrative
  • Mathematics
  • Customer and Personal Service
Core tasks
  • Process and issue employee paychecks and statements of earnings and deductions.
  • Compute wages and deductions, and enter data into computers.
  • Review time sheets, work charts, wage computation, and other information to detect and reconcile payroll discrepancies.
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What does a Payroll Specialist do?

Payroll Specialists compile and record employee time and payroll data.

In addition, Payroll Specialists

  • may compute employees' time worked, production, and commission,
  • may compute and post wages and deductions, or prepare paychecks.

What kind of tasks does a Payroll Specialist perform regularly?

Payroll Specialists are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Process and issue employee paychecks and statements of earnings and deductions.
  • Compute wages and deductions, and enter data into computers.
  • Review time sheets, work charts, wage computation, and other information to detect and reconcile payroll discrepancies.
  • Compile employee time, production, and payroll data from time sheets and other records.
  • Process paperwork for new employees and enter employee information into the payroll system.
  • Verify attendance, hours worked, and pay adjustments, and post information onto designated records.
  • Record employee information, such as exemptions, transfers, and resignations, to maintain and update payroll records.
  • Issue and record adjustments to pay related to previous errors or retroactive increases.
  • Keep track of leave time, such as vacation, personal, and sick leave, for employees.
  • Provide information to employees and managers on payroll matters, tax issues, benefit plans, and collective agreement provisions.
  • Conduct verifications of employment.

The above responsibilities are specific to Payroll Specialists. More generally, Payroll Specialists are involved in several broader types of activities:

Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Processing Information
Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
Working with Computers
Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
Documenting/Recording Information
Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Performing Administrative Activities
Performing day-to-day administrative tasks such as maintaining information files and processing paperwork.

What is a Payroll Specialist salary?

The median salary for a Payroll Specialist is $47,020, and the average salary is $48,290. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Payroll Specialist salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Payroll Specialists earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Payroll Specialists earn less than $30,950 per year, 25% earn less than $37,720, 75% earn less than $58,000, and 90% earn less than $67,600.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Payroll Specialists is expected to change by -12.8%, and there should be roughly 11,400 open positions for Payroll Specialists every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$30,950 - $67,600
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Payroll Specialists?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Payroll Specialist are usually higher in their Conventional interests.

Payroll Specialists typically have very strong Conventional interests. Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Payroll Specialist tend to value Relationships, Support, and Achievement.

Most importantly, Payroll Specialists strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Payroll Specialists moderately value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Lastly, Payroll Specialists moderately value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Payroll Specialists must consistently demonstrate qualities such as integrity, attention to detail, and dependability.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Payroll Specialists, ranked by importance:

Job requires being honest and ethical.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
Concern for Others
Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.

What education and training do Payroll Specialists need?

Working as a Payroll Specialist usually requires a high school diploma.

Payroll Specialists need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Payroll Specialists

  • 2.4% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 24.4% completed high school or secondary school
  • 32.6% completed some college coursework
  • 15.1% earned a Associate's degree
  • 21.6% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 3.4% earned a Master's degree
  • 0.6% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Payroll Specialists

Payroll Specialists may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as administrative, mathematics, or customer and personal service knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Payroll Specialists might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Knowledge of administrative and office procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and workplace terminology.
Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Personnel and Human Resources
Knowledge of principles and procedures for personnel recruitment, selection, training, compensation and benefits, labor relations and negotiation, and personnel information systems.
Computers and Electronics
Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

Important Abilities needed by Payroll Specialists

Payroll Specialists must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Payroll Specialists need abilities such as oral comprehension, near vision, and written comprehension in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Payroll Specialists, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Near Vision
The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Written Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.

Critical Skills needed by Payroll Specialists

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Payroll Specialists frequently use skills like reading comprehension, active listening, and speaking to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Payroll Specialists, ranked by their relative importance.

Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.