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Top 10 Payroll Accountant Certifications

This article gives an overview of the most popular and valuable certifications for payroll accountants, outlining their benefits and requirements.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 17 min read

Certifications are important for payroll accountants in the job market because they demonstrate a level of knowledge, skill, and proficiency in the field. A certification helps employers determine whether a candidate has the necessary qualifications to do their job effectively. Certification can also help employers distinguish between candidates with similar experience levels. Additionally, certifications can provide an edge over other job seekers when competing for positions in highly competitive markets. Finally, certifications can increase career mobility and provide access to higher-level positions.

The purpose of this article is to review and explain the benefits of payroll accountant certifications and how they can enhance a payroll accountant's career.

What are Payroll Accountant Certifications?

Payroll accountant certification is a type of professional certification that demonstrates an individual’s expertise in payroll accounting and related topics. It is designed to help professionals demonstrate their knowledge and proficiency in payroll processes, techniques, technology, and laws.

The certification process typically involves taking a comprehensive exam covering various aspects of payroll accounting, such as payroll taxes, wage calculations, employee benefits, and reporting requirements. Upon passing the exam, candidates receive a certificate indicating their successful completion of the coursework and demonstrating their expertise in the field. This can be beneficial for those seeking to advance their careers or move into higher-level positions within the industry.

Having a payroll accountant certification can also help employers make informed decisions when hiring new personnel or promoting existing staff members into more responsible roles. The qualification serves as an assurance that the person has mastered the necessary skills necessary for accurate and efficient payroll processing. In addition to this, it provides employers with peace of mind knowing their financial obligations are being handled by someone who understands all relevant regulations and laws.

Pro Tip: Obtaining a payroll accountant certification can help you stand out from other applicants and demonstrate your knowledge of the payroll field. Additionally, many organizations require certification for their payroll accountants, so having this credential is essential for any professional looking to work in the field.

Related: What does a Payroll Accountant do?

Top 10 Payroll Accountant Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Payroll Accountants today.

1. Certified Payroll Professional (CPP)

Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) is a certification program offered by the American Payroll Association (APA). It is designed to recognize individuals who have demonstrated excellence in payroll knowledge and professional practice. The CPP designation is the highest level of certification that can be obtained in the payroll field.

It typically takes two to three months to complete the CPP program, depending on how quickly you can study and take the exam. To become certified, you must pass a comprehensive examination that tests your knowledge and understanding of payroll principles, laws, regulations, and practices.

To get started with the CPP program, you must first join the APA as an individual member or through your employer. This will give you access to all of their resources including study materials and practice exams. Once you're ready to take the exam, you'll need to register for it online and pay a fee of $295 USD.

The CPP exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions covering topics such as federal tax withholding, state taxes, garnishments, fringe benefits, recordkeeping requirements, labor laws, and more. You will have four hours to complete the exam at one of their testing centers located throughout the United States. If you pass the exam with a score of 70% or higher, you will receive your official CPP certificate from APA within 6-8 weeks after taking the test.

2. Certified Payroll Administrator (CPA)

A Certified Payroll Administrator (CPA) is a professional who specializes in payroll management. CPAs are responsible for managing the payroll process, including calculating and distributing wages, preparing tax documents, and ensuring compliance with local and federal laws. They also provide advice on employee benefits and other related topics.

The CPA certification is offered by the American Payroll Association (APA). To become certified, applicants must pass an exam that tests their knowledge of payroll administration. The exam covers topics such as payroll taxes, wage and hour laws, garnishments, deductions, and record keeping.

The exam takes approximately three hours to complete and costs $295 for APA members or $395 for non-members. Applicants may also be required to take additional courses or attend seminars in order to become certified. Once certified, CPAs must renew their certification every two years by taking continuing education courses or attending seminars.

3. Certified Payroll Manager (CPM)

Certified Payroll Manager (CPM) is a professional designation for individuals who specialize in managing payroll processes. The CPM designation is awarded by the American Payroll Association (APA), a non-profit organization that provides education and certification programs to payroll professionals.

To become a CPM, you must have at least three years of full-time payroll experience and pass an exam administered by the APA. The exam covers topics such as payroll laws, regulations, and compliance; payroll processing; payroll systems; and payroll reporting. Once you’ve passed the exam, you will receive your CPM designation.

The cost of becoming a CPM varies depending on the type of membership you select with the APA. Standard membership costs $99 per year and includes access to online training materials and discounts on other products and services offered by the APA. Premium membership costs $199 per year and includes access to additional resources such as webinars, conferences, and educational courses.

It typically takes about six months to prepare for the CPM exam, but this can vary depending on how much time you are able to devote to studying each week. Once you have passed the exam, it usually takes about two weeks for your official certificate to arrive in the mail from the APA.

4. Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM)

Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) is a professional certification program for government financial managers. It is offered by the Association of Government Accountants (AGA). The CGFM designation recognizes the competency of government financial professionals in accounting, financial reporting, budgeting/resource allocation, auditing, and financial management.

To obtain the CGFM designation, applicants must pass three examinations: Governmental Environment, Governmental Accounting and Financial Reporting, and Governmental Budgeting and Fiscal Management. Each exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions that must be completed within three hours.

The cost to take the exams varies depending on your membership status with AGA. For non-members, each exam costs $175; for members, each exam costs $125. Additionally, there is an annual fee of $50 to maintain your CGFM certification status.

In total it may take up to six months or longer to complete all three exams depending on how quickly you can study and prepare for them.

5. Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a professional designation given to an accountant who has passed the Uniform CPA Examination and met all other requirements established by their state board of accountancy. The CPA designation is the highest standard of competence in the field of accounting, and CPAs are held to rigorous ethical standards.

In order to become a CPA, you must meet certain educational, experience, and examination requirements set by each individual state board of accountancy. Generally, this includes completing 150 hours of college coursework with a concentration in accounting, passing the four-part Uniform CPA Exam, and completing one year of work experience in public accounting. The exact requirements vary from state to state.

The cost for becoming a CPA varies depending on your state's requirements and fees. Fees may include application fees, exam fees (which can range from $200-$800 per section), review course fees (which can range from $500-$2,000), and licensing fees (which can range from $100-$400).

It typically takes between two to three years to become a Certified Public Accountant. This timeline includes completing the required coursework and passing all four parts of the Uniform CPA Exam within 18 months or less. It also includes obtaining one year of work experience in public accounting after passing the exam.

6. American Payroll Association’s Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC)

The American Payroll Association’s Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) is a nationally recognized certification program for payroll professionals. The FPC demonstrates mastery of the core competencies required to perform payroll functions accurately and efficiently. It is designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of the principles, laws, regulations, and practices that govern payroll processing in the United States.

The FPC typically takes about four months to complete. It consists of two components: a self-study course and an online exam. The self-study course covers topics such as federal tax withholding, garnishments, child support orders, payroll accounting principles, and more. After completing the coursework, candidates must pass an online exam with a score of 70% or higher in order to receive their certification.

The cost of obtaining the FPC varies depending on whether you are an APA member or non-member. For members, the cost is $299; for non-members it is $399. Additionally, there is an annual renewal fee of $50 for members and $75 for non-members.

In summary, the American Payroll Association’s Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) is a nationally recognized certification program for payroll professionals that typically takes about four months to complete and costs between $299-$399 depending on membership status.

7. International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS)

The Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS) is a professional certification program offered by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP). The CEBS program was established in 1985 to recognize individuals who have demonstrated a high level of knowledge and expertise in employee benefits.

The CEBS program consists of five courses that cover the fundamentals of employee benefits, retirement plans, health and welfare plans, executive compensation, and investment management. Each course is designed to provide an in-depth understanding of the subject matter. Upon completion of all five courses, candidates must pass an exam to become certified.

The entire CEBS program takes between one and two years to complete depending on how much time an individual has available for study. Candidates must complete all five courses within three years from the start date of their first course.

To get started with the CEBS program, individuals must register with IFEBP and pay a registration fee. After registering, they will receive access to online course materials as well as guidance from IFEBP’s staff members throughout their studies.

The cost for the entire CEBS program varies depending on whether or not you are a member of IFEBP. For non-members, the cost is $3,600 USD plus applicable taxes. For members, the cost is $2,400 USD plus applicable taxes.

8. Institute of Management Accountants’ Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is a professional certification offered by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). It is designed to demonstrate a mastery of financial planning, analysis, control, decision support, and professional ethics. The CMA credential is recognized and respected worldwide as a mark of excellence in management accounting.

To become a CMA, you must pass two exams and meet certain educational requirements. The exams cover topics such as strategic financial management, financial statement analysis, corporate finance, cost management, internal controls and decision support systems. The exams are administered by the IMA and are offered twice per year in June and December.

In order to qualify for the CMA exam, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with at least two years of professional experience in management accounting or related fields. Alternatively, you can have one year of experience if you also have an advanced degree such as an MBA or other master’s degree.

The cost for taking the CMA exam varies depending on where you take it and whether you are an IMA member or not. Generally speaking, the cost ranges from $400-$600 USD for both parts of the exam combined. Additionally, there may be additional fees associated with applying for the exam and becoming certified once you pass it.

Overall, obtaining your CMA certification can take anywhere from six months to two years depending on how quickly you study for the exams and complete any required coursework or experience requirements.

9. QuickBooks ProAdvisor Certification

QuickBooks ProAdvisor Certification is a professional certification program offered by Intuit, the makers of QuickBooks accounting software. The certification program is designed to help professionals learn the features and functions of QuickBooks and become certified in their use.

The certification process takes approximately 8 hours to complete, depending on the individual's experience with QuickBooks. It consists of an online course that covers topics such as setting up a company file, managing customer accounts, creating reports, and more. Once the course is completed, individuals must then take an online exam to demonstrate their knowledge and earn their certification.

To get certified, individuals must first sign up for the ProAdvisor Program through Intuit's website. This requires a one-time fee of $299 USD for access to all courses and exams. After signing up, individuals can begin taking courses and preparing for the exam.

Once an individual passes the exam, they will receive their official ProAdvisor Certificate from Intuit. This certificate serves as proof that they have been certified in using QuickBooks software and provides them with access to additional resources such as discounts on products and services related to QuickBooks.

10. Xero Accounting Software Certification

Xero Accounting Software Certification is a certification program offered by Xero, an online accounting software provider. It is designed to help users become proficient in using the Xero software and demonstrate their knowledge of the product.

How long does it take to get it?

The Xero Accounting Software Certification consists of two levels: Foundation and Advanced. The Foundation level typically takes around 8-10 hours to complete, while the Advanced level can take up to 16 hours.

How to get it?

To obtain the certification, you must first register for an account on the Xero website and then purchase a course package that includes both levels of certification. After purchasing the course, you will be able to access online tutorials and resources that will help you prepare for each level of certification. Once you have completed all required tasks and passed all exams, you will receive your official certificate from Xero.

How much does it cost?

The cost of obtaining the Xero Accounting Software Certification varies depending on which package you choose. The Foundation Level costs $99 USD, while the Advanced Level costs $199 USD.

Do You Really Need a Payroll Accountant Certificate?

Yes, a payroll accountant certificate is an important credential that can prove beneficial for those wanting to pursue a career in the field of accounting. A payroll accountant certificate is typically offered by colleges and universities or from specialized training providers. This type of certification provides individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the job duties associated with payroll accounting.

The primary responsibility of a payroll accountant is to ensure accurate and timely payment of employee wages and salaries. They must also be able to manage employee records, keep track of deductions, calculate taxes, and prepare reports on all financial transactions related to payroll. To do this effectively, it is important that they have a thorough understanding of accounting principles, as well as an in-depth knowledge of federal and state laws governing payroll tax regulations. Having a certificate demonstrates that the individual has taken the time to gain this knowledge and can confidently manage all aspects of payroll processing.

In addition to demonstrating their proficiency in the field, having a payroll accountant certificate can open up new opportunities for individuals looking for advancement within their current position or seeking new employment opportunities elsewhere. Employers often consider certified professionals for positions that require more expertise than those without a credential possess.

A payroll accountant certificate may also be required for certain jobs that involve handling sensitive financial information such as bank accounts or other confidential information. By obtaining a certification from an accredited institution, employers can rest assured that their employees are properly trained in managing such data securely and accurately.

Finally, having a certificate can provide individuals with peace of mind knowing that they have taken the necessary steps to demonstrate their commitment to professional excellence in the field of accounting by taking courses specifically designed for those interested in pursuing careers in this area.

Related: Payroll Accountant Resume Examples

FAQs About Payroll Accountant Certifications

Q1. What is a payroll accountant certification?

A1. A payroll accountant certification is a credential that shows employers and other stakeholders that an individual has the knowledge and skills necessary to manage payroll effectively. It typically involves taking classes or completing other educational requirements, passing an exam, and maintaining the certification as required by the certifying organization.

Q2. Who should consider getting a payroll accountant certification?

A2. Anyone who works in or wants to work in the field of payroll accounting should consider getting certified. This includes individuals who are already employed in the finance industry but need additional training and credentials to advance their careers. It also includes those who are seeking entry-level positions in payroll accounting.

Q3. What are some of the benefits of having a payroll accountant certification?

A3. Having a payroll accountant certification can provide several benefits, including increased job security, higher wages, greater job satisfaction, and more professional respect from colleagues and employers alike. In addition, employers may be more likely to hire applicants with certifications due to the assurance that they have the necessary qualifications for the role.

Q4. How do I get certified as a payroll accountant?

A4: To become certified as a payroll accountant, you must meet certain educational requirements and pass an exam administered by one of several certifying organizations such as The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB), The National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB), or The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).

Q5: How often do I need to renew my certification?

A5: The frequency of renewal depends on the specific certifying organization but generally ranges from every two years up to five years depending on which type of credential you hold. You will receive notifications when it is time to renew your certification so that you can remain compliant with current standards set by your certifying organization.