This article is part of a larger series on How to Do Payroll.
To determine which payroll training options are best for you, it’s important that you 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 have a payroll clerk who needs to level up their skills, 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.
Read on for how to get the best training for payroll for your business:
1. Search for Free Online Payroll Content
We recommend starting your payroll training by searching for free resources online. There are tons of free articles and online content that can help you start your journey toward getting the best payroll training for your small business. For instance, Fit Small Business provides robust articles on how to do payroll, payroll security, payroll laws and regulations, payroll tax rates, payroll software integrations, and so on. Together, these will help you establish a firm payroll foundation before diving into more complex topics.
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:
- Running Payroll With QuickBooks Payroll
- How to Process Payroll With Gusto
- How to Run ADP Payroll
- How to Run Payroll With Patriot Software
- How to Do Payroll With OnPay
- How to Do Payroll With Paychex
2. Sign Up for a Payroll Certification Program
A payroll certification program can cost anywhere from $100 up to thousands of dollars per program, but it can solidify your understanding of concepts like federal labor laws and state regulations, ensuring you’re up-to-date on industry rules.
Here are the most reputable providers of payroll certification programs that you can take:
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 certificate of completion. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied.
If you’re a payroll beginner, I would suggest the course Effective Bookkeeping and Payroll—it has a 4.7 rating and can be purchased for a discounted price of $19.99 at the time of this publication, but pricing fluctuates. It is aimed toward 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 $15.99 at the time of this publication, but pricing fluctuates. 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 $275 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.
QuickBooks Certification Program & 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), attend webinars, and 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 your payroll employee to master the basics up to the more advanced tools that will make them a reliable QuickBooks resource.
ADP Certified Payroll Program
Although provider-specific, ADP’s certification and training provides instruction on 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 your midsize to large business is 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
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. 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. 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. 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.
5. Familiarize Yourself With Payroll & 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.
For more details regarding labor laws, both federal and on a state-by-state basis, check out our state payroll guides. We break down everything you need to know, specific to each state.
6. Encourage Payroll Mentors & Employee Shadowing
As a small business owner, it’s important that you encourage your newer payroll team members to seek help and guidance from more-established staff. This is a great way for them to get accustomed with your process and also learn payroll best practices from the top down. 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.
If your employees are working in a department other than payroll but are interested in building a payroll career, allow them to shadow the payroll team to gain insight. As a business owner, this can be helpful as it can help you gain more resources for your payroll department which can help when you’re short staffed or need more help immediately.
Depending on your goals, the best payroll training for your business might be as simple as watching free YouTube videos on payroll processing or as challenging as enrolling personnel in an advanced payroll certification course. It’s important to weigh your options and choose a path that aligns with your goals.