To determine which payroll training options are best for you, you must first evaluate what you need to learn. As a business owner, if you run payroll for employees, you can spend little to no money learning with online resources. If you’re a payroll clerk who wants to be promoted, an advanced payroll program might be more appropriate. There are also plenty of online course platforms that offer a low-cost payroll curriculum created by payroll experts.
Here are 7 ways to get the best training for payroll:
1. Search for Free Online Payroll Content
I recommend starting your payroll training by searching for free resources online. For instance, we provide a how to do payroll e-book that you can download for free plus robust articles on how to do payroll, payroll laws and regulations, payroll tax rates, and so on . Together, they help you establish a firm payroll foundation before diving into more complex topics.
And if you want to learn how to do payroll with some of the most common small business software, check out the articles below for a step-by-step tutorial:
2. Sign up for a Payroll Certification Program
Starting a career in payroll doesn’t require a college degree, but completing a certification program could help you stand out from the crowd. It can cost anywhere from $100 up to thousands per program, but it demonstrates your understanding of concepts like federal labor laws and state regulations. Obtaining a certificate is also a surefire way to show companies you’re up-to-date on industry rules and that you’re serious about your career.
Udemy is a massive open online course (MOOC) that caters to millions of students worldwide. It has 155,000 courses and three of these courses are about payroll—effective bookkeeping and payroll, financial accounting-payroll, and payroll management. Aside from instructional videos, many of the courses will give you access to downloadable resources (PDF and Excel formats), full lifetime access, and a certification of completion. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with them.
If you’re a payroll beginner, I would suggest the course Effective Bookkeeping and Payroll; you can purchase it for $21.99 (at the time of publishing this article). Aside from a 4.5 rating, it is aimed toward new graduates and entry-level bookkeepers who want to learn how to create an effective and reliable bookkeeping system that includes payroll management.
For experienced bookkeepers wanting to add payroll to their list of service options, I would suggest Udemy’s Financial Accounting-Payroll course; it costs $17.99 (at the time of publishing this article). This course covers payroll legislation, generation of payroll registers and earning reports, calculation of payroll tax withholding like federal income tax (FIT), Social Security, and Medicare, payroll journal entries, and payroll tax forms like Forms 941, 940, W-2, or W-4.
American Payroll Association
The American Payroll Association provides education, training, and resources for payroll professionals. It offers educational opportunities like webinars, interactive virtual sessions, online training, in-person seminars and events, and custom in-house training programs. Its courses and webinars cover a wide range of payroll topics, from basic payroll calculations to federal and state rules and regulations.
APA offers membership for $262 per year, plus a $35 enrollment fee for new members. Its members receive significant discounts on all payroll training, conferences, webinars, web-based programs, online training, and publications.
Aside from training and seminars, APA also offers self-guided study programs to prepare you for its certification exams and paid publications you can purchase to use as references in your payroll career. It also has two certification programs: Fundamental Payroll Certification (best for entry-level payroll professionals) and Certified Payroll Professional (best for practicing payroll professionals not less than three years). The FPC and CPP exams are offered twice each calendar year in the US and Canada, but internationally, it is available year-round.
Intuit QuickBooks Certification Program and Training
If your company is using QuickBooks Online, consider adding QuickBooks Payroll to your plan. By including it in your existing subscription, you will have access to the same system you use to manage your business’ books. Check out our tutorial to see how to do payroll using QuickBooks.
You can also sign up for QuickBooks training (live classes and self-paced training) and webinars, as well as to be part of a community to get answers to QuickBooks questions and tips from experts. These resources provide training for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Payroll. The QuickBooks Certification program allows you to master the basics up to the more advanced tools that will make you a reliable QuickBooks resource.
ADP Certified Payroll Program
If you are working for a company that uses ADP or are trying to switch careers, consider ADP’s certification and training. Although it’s ADP-specific, you’ll learn about creating manual checks, using payroll reports, entering pay data, and reviewing payroll results for accuracy in the optional refresher courses. This provides a good foundation for payroll training.
More than learning how to do payroll using ADP, its Professional Certification Program’s goal is to validate your knowledge and proficiency using ADP solutions, including confirming your level of payroll competency and skill. You can become certified in ADP’s payroll, time and attendance, and/or human resource solutions. The exams range from $295 to $495. Many of the best payroll services don’t offer certification for their products, so ADP’s program is a good opportunity to boost your credentials.
If you own or are working for a mid to large-sized business that’s in the market for new payroll software, consider ADP Workforce Now. It’s an online platform that combines payroll, benefits, time and attendance, and human resources under one umbrella. Call today for a free quote.
3. Improve Your Excel Skills
Familiarizing yourself with the payroll process, including federal and state labor laws, is not the only skill you should learn well. When it comes to doing payroll, your math aptitude also counts since you’ll need to translate hours worked into dollars, calculate payroll taxes on gross pay, and so on. To do payroll efficiently, being adept with Microsoft Excel provides you with good leverage whenever you do calculations. You can utilize formulas, such as SUM and SUMIF, to add different amounts quickly; it’s akin to using a calculator.
You can also set up a payroll template with multiple tabs and use a VLookup function to link them together for more advanced calculations. Pivot tables, charts, and conditional formatting are also good analytical tools. You can find many online videos, webinars, and articles that teach you these skills for free.
For a free tutorial and Excel payroll template, check out our guide on how to do payroll in Excel.
4. Find a Payroll Mentor
Reaching out to your supervisor and communicating what your goals are is one inexpensive way to secure yourself a mentor. Payroll managers are some of the best resources for figuring out what you need to do to be promoted within the company. Aside from their extensive experience, they know what your strengths and weaknesses are as well as the needs of the company.
Your manager can also recommend you for a promotion when a new position becomes available. If they don’t have time to mentor you, ask for referrals regarding those who might. You can also check around yourself by building relationships with your team members. People are usually more open to mentoring those they have connected to and worked with in the past.
5. Ask to Job Shadow
If you’re working in a department other than payroll but are interested in building a payroll career, consider starting with your current employer if payroll is handled in-house. Often, managers will let their employees job shadow other positions they’re interested in. Of course, this is usually only if you’re excelling in your current position; some might consider it if it’s obvious that payroll is a better fit for your skillset or personality.
6. Learn Payroll Online
Online learning is one of the best ways to get more information about news, free webinars, and training when it comes to learning a new skill. You can find information online about almost anything these days, including payroll. The trick is to use the right search keywords or phrases like “How to do payroll,” and “Employer payroll taxes” to receive numerous results, including videos in case you find watching videos more engaging than reading articles.
A word of caution, however, not everything you read online is reliable. Hence, it’s best to double-check the source websites to ensure they’re reputable before taking any information at face value. A better alternative would be to scout for payroll services that allow you to read, watch, and even listen (podcasts) to payroll updates—like Paychex.
7. Watch YouTube Videos
If videos are your preference, you can skip Google altogether and go directly to the YouTube website. This ensures that all of the information you receive is in video format. You can see when the video was initially published, along with the number of views it has. Again, keep in mind to check the sources and confirm they are reputable and up to date.
One factor we consider when deciding which videos are worth watching, aside from who the publisher is, is the number of views received. Typically, although not always, informative videos that have a large number of views are more reputable. You can always look at the comments below the video for instant insight into what other viewers think about the video content.
Also, once you select a video to watch, you can click on the publisher’s logo, and YouTube will take you to the publisher’s main page. You’ll be able to see how many users are subscribed to the channel, links to other videos the publisher uploaded, and, if available, a link to the publisher’s website. You can also set the filter based on upload date, view count, and ratings.
8. Familiarize Yourself With Payroll and Labor Laws
When you think of payroll, it’s easy to visualize paychecks and tax calculations, but it encompasses much more than that. Even once you learn how to calculate an employee’s check properly, you’ll still be responsible for complying with labor laws set by the DOL and state agencies. For instance, the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulates the minimum amount you can pay employees, how to pay overtime, and the number of hours that minors are allowed to work.
Who Needs Payroll Training?
Payroll is a specific niche that involves tasks such as paying employees, filing payroll taxes, and managing benefit deductions.
Here’s who may need training for payroll:
- Small business owners: Some businesses are a one-person show, especially small startups, which means the owner wears many hats. When a business owner becomes a new employer, learning about payroll rules and regulations is important to run payroll correctly.
- Entry-level payroll professionals: Entry-level positions, like a payroll clerk or specialist, provide good opportunities for newbies to get their feet wet in the payroll industry, but there may come a time when they want a higher position. This could require more advanced training.
- Individuals without payroll experience: Sometimes, people want a career change. Switching to a career in payroll requires training on basic payroll concepts and regulations.
Depending on your goals, the best payroll training for you might be as simple as watching free YouTube videos on payroll processing or as challenging as enrolling in an advanced payroll certification course. Training for a promotion to payroll manager would be different from training to do payroll for your small business. It’s important to weigh your options and choose a path that aligns with your goals.