How to Become a Payroll Supervisor

How to Become a Payroll Supervisor: Career Path Guide

A career as a payroll supervisor could be a great fit for you if you have an interest in payroll and business administration, you enjoy leading and motivating a team, and you’re willing to take accountability for your team’s work.


This field can offer a chance to work independently but as part of a team, a consistent work schedule, excellent pay, and plenty of room for career advancement.


So, if you'd like to know more about the ins and outs of this field then read on; we’ll fill you in on what you would be doing for a living, how much you could earn, and what you’ll need to break into this profession!



Education and Experience Needed

Most employers require payroll supervisors to have related post-secondary education or work experience, or a combination of both (a combination of both is ideal).


Related post-secondary education typically includes a diploma or degree in accounting, payroll*, business administration, commerce, human resources, industrial relations or similar fields.


Relevant work experience typically includes either experience that makes you familiar with payroll functions, or experience that gives you the chance to supervise and manage employees.


*Stand-alone programs in Payroll are relatively rare.




Payroll Supervisor: General Job Description

As a payroll supervisor, it would be your responsibility to direct the work activities of payroll clerks and administrators, who are involved in processing the paychecks of an organization’s employees.


You would also be accountable for ensuring that the employees are following policy, procedures and tax law when paying a company’s employees.



General Job Duties

Although your duties could vary from one job to the next, the following are some examples of the typical duties that payroll supervisors perform:


• Supervise the daily activities of the payroll department

• Oversee processing of paychecks including related deductions

• Ensure timely reporting and payment of the employers’ and employees’ payroll taxes and other withholdings

• Oversees the maintenance of payroll records and all related documentation

• Enforce company and government payroll policy and procedures

• Prepares quarterly and yearly taxation documents for all matters related to payroll

• Liaise with other department heads regarding policy changes and other such matters



Certification Needed

Canada: Many employers will require that you have earned the Payroll Compliance Practitioner (PCP) designation, or the Certified Payroll Manager (CPM) Certification, or that you are working towards one of these designations. Other employers may not have a certification requirement, accepting related education/experience instead.


United States: Some employers may require that you have completed, or are at least pursuing, Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) or Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) training. Many employers however, will accept relevant work experience in place of certification.



Skills Needed to Become a Payroll Supervisor

In order to succeed as a payroll supervisor you will need a certain set of technical and management skills. These skills may be gained while you’re a student, during your years working in other supervisory or management roles, or while working in payroll or related positions. These skills include:


• Extensive knowledge of payroll rules and regulations

• Extensive knowledge of payroll processing procedures, rules and regulations

• Strong knowledge of payroll practices for a full cycle payroll for both hourly and salary employees

• Familiarity with your local provincial/state employment standards

• Proficiency with MS Office software, specifically Excel

• Knowledge of workers compensation payment procedures

• Proficiency with certain types of payroll software

• Knowledge of Multi-Jurisdictional issues related to payroll

• Knowledge of multi-rate, union and prevailing wage payroll procedures

• Proven ability to work under pressure in a multi-task environment to meet strict deadlines

• Able to lead, coach and motivate employees




Is This Career Right for You?

In order to survive the ups and downs of this field (and enjoy yourself along the way!), you’ll need to have certain qualities, including:


• Tact when dealing with others

• The ability to work under pressure

• Accountability for the performance of your team is something you can accept

• A strong interest in leading and motivating a team

• An interest in planning, organizing and implementing complex projects

• Working in an office setting, with a regular work schedule appeals to you



Who Employs Payroll Supervisors?

As an aspiring payroll supervisor, your list of potential employers include all types of public and private sector organizations, as well as payroll service providers that contract their services to organizations that do not have payroll departments.



Career Advancement as a Payroll Supervisor

Displaying competence and a good work ethic in this role can afford you plenty of career advancement options, including:


• Earning a higher wage or salary

• Moving into a departmental or executive management role

• Becoming a partner or owner of the organization you work for

• Moving into other areas within your organization, such as Human Resources

• Moving into other specialized areas, such as becoming an accountant (with additional education)



Payroll Supervisor Average Salary Level

The salary level you could earn as a payroll supervisor can vary, depending on the following factors:


• Your level of experience

• Your level of education

• Any certification you have

• The region in which you work

• The scope of your job duties


Payroll Administrator Salary - Alberta: According to the 2013 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Supervisors, Finance and Insurance Clerks occupational group earn an average salary of $66,071 per year.


Payroll Administrator Salary - Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of Canadians working in the Supervisors, Finance and Insurance Clerks occupational group is $56,600 per year.


Payroll Administrator Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the First-Line Supervisors of Office and Administrative Support Workers occupational group is $54,400 per year.



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Working Conditions for Payroll Supervisors

Work Setting: Your work would take place in an office setting. Aside from your daily commute, your work would likely involve little travel.


Working Hours: You would most likely work normal, weekday business hours. Your schedule could vary to include evenings and weekends, depending on whether or not you need to complete time-sensitive tasks and projects. 


Working Conditions: Your time would be split between working independently in front of a computer, attending meetings with your subordinates, supervisors, and colleagues.



Careers Similar to ‘Payroll Supervisor’

Listed below are occupations in our database that have similar responsibilities, and/or require similar skills, or be in the same sector of industry, as Payroll Supervisor:


• Administrative Officer

• Benefits Officer

• Controller

• Office Manager

• Payroll Administrator




Salary information for this career guide, as well as other information, was retrieved from the reputable, government administrated websites listed below. Some information has also been compiled from actual job postings from various organizations.


Wages & Salaries in Alberta:Supervisors, finance and insurance office workers.” (March 17, 2016). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 7, 2020.

Occupational Employment and Wages:First-Line Supervisors of Office and Administrative Support Workers.” (March 29, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 7, 2020.

National Occupational Classification: Supervisors, finance and insurance office workers.” (n.d.). Statistics Canada website. Retrieved January 7, 2020.


Please Note: Some of the information for this career guide was gathered from actual job postings, which due to the brief nature of their online presence, are not listed here as sources.



Scholarships for Becoming a Payroll Supervisor

The Applicable Majors section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a payroll supervisor. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our Accounting Scholarships and Finance Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Payroll Supervisor: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the college/university majors listed below can be helpful (or are necessary) for becoming a payroll supervisor. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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