Payroll Specialist Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: August 22, 2022

Payroll Specialists, or Payroll Administrators, are administrative professionals responsible for maintaining payroll systems and processing paychecks according to schedule and in the correct amount. Their duties include consolidating timesheet information and entering data into payroll databases, calculating paycheck amounts and distributing funds to employee accounts.

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Payroll Specialist duties and responsibilities 

Payroll Specialists use excellent mathematical and data entry skills to process pay. Duties include:

  • Checking timesheets for accuracy
  • Entering data into databases and spreadsheets
  • Handling direct deposit requests and data
  • Processing paper checks for distribution
  • Acquiring all necessary signatures to distribute payroll
  • Processing wage garnishments 
  • Making adjustments in pay for raises, bonuses and commission
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Payroll Specialist Job Description Examples

What does a Payroll Specialist do? 

Payroll Specialists work as part of a company’s accounting and human resources departments to ensure that employees get paid and employers make the appropriate deductions when processing payroll. They serve in an administrative role to calculate and send out paychecks for employees with different employment classifications. They are responsible for balancing the payroll budget and documenting all transactions related to an employee’s wages, including any payments or credits for commission, bonuses, tips and hourly pay. They also record how much each employee earns and make updates when they receive raises.

Payroll Specialists produce payroll reports for management and confirm approval for overtime or paid time off. They also communicate with other employees about any discrepancies in their pay. They may use multiple systems and payroll software features to pay full-time employees, contractors and other workers.

Payroll Specialist skills and qualifications 

Below is a list of several skills and qualifications that almost any Payroll Specialist needs in order to succeed:

  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Exceptional mathematical and calculation skills
  • Verbal and written communication
  • Ability to work with a team 
  • Knowledge of different types of payroll software
  • Knowledge of payroll, garnishments and benefits distribution
  • Multitasking abilities
  • Good research and analysis skills

Payroll Specialist salary expectations 

A Payroll Specialist makes an average of $32,723 per year. Salary may depend on level of experience, education and the geographical location. 

Payroll Specialist education and training requirements 

Payroll Specialists don’t necessarily need a degree. At a minimum, they should have a high school diploma or GED. A certification or associate or bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting is required by most employers. Advanced Payroll Specialists, who process complicated tax regulations, may need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Most Payroll Specialists go through on-the-job training, allowing them to learn about the company and its unique processes. On-the-job training usually lasts at least three months. 

Payroll Specialist experience requirements

Payroll Specialists usually need at least five years of experience in a payroll or accounting role. Experience as a Payroll Coordinator, Accounts Receivable/Accounts Payable Representative or Payroll Clerk. This experience prepares them for the intricate details involved with being a Payroll Specialist. Senior roles usually require at least seven or eight years of experience. Payroll Specialists overseeing a team may also need at least seven or eight years of experience. 

Job description samples for similar positions 

If this Payroll Specialist job description template isn’t what you’re looking for, see our job descriptions for related positions:

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Frequently asked questions about Payroll Specialists


What is the difference between a Payroll Specialist and an Accountant?

Payroll Specialists and Accountants both work with a company’s finances. However, Payroll Specialists focus on managing employee pay, while Accountants maintain records on all kinds of company accounts, expenses and sources of income.

Accountants spend time examining financial records for compliance, creating reports and making suggestions about their employer’s overall financial health. In comparison, Payroll Specialists can make suggestions about payroll administration techniques, but they don’t provide input on how much money their employer spends on wages. Payroll Specialists might communicate with Accountants if they have issues processing payments or notice discrepancies in wage information and department budgets.


What are the daily duties of a Payroll Specialist?

Payroll Specialists keep track of each employee’s daily timesheet data throughout the duration of each pay period. They make adjustments to databases and use the employee’s tax forms and deduction preferences to determine the amount of money they accrue.

Payroll Specialists either prepare direct deposit details or create paper paychecks, ensuring that funds are available for employees on payday. If someone has an issue with their paycheck, the Payroll Specialist discovers the source of the problem and takes steps to correct it, carefully documenting any refunds, advances or lost checks. Payroll Specialists also close accounts for terminated employees.


What are the characteristics of a good Payroll Specialist?

Good Payroll Specialists must pay meticulous attention to detail and constantly stay organized when entering financial information into company databases. Noticing specific information is essential when onboarding new employees and collecting their wage data in order to prevent any overpayments or short checks.

Successful Payroll Specialists have a strong grasp of mathematics that they use to calculate check amounts and manage payment accounts for their employer. They also have a logical mindset that allows them to trace the source of problems with a paycheck, troubleshoot payroll software tools and determine fair solutions to paycheck discrepancies.


What should you look for on a Payroll Specialist's resume?

When hiring a Payroll Specialist, look for candidates who feature administrative and clerical experience on their resume. Applications that list familiarity with employee management software can indicate candidates who could easily learn and master the payroll processing applications your company uses. Accounting, business and human resources courses in the education section of their resume can also indicate that a candidate has the skills and knowledge to successfully manage payroll at your business.

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