Updated November 2023
In the accounting field, professional certifications are an excellent way to compete for better jobs and advance your career.And the best part is that you don't necessarily need a four-year bachelor's degree to qualify.
Instead, you can earn a diploma in accounting and payroll—and get certified as a Payroll Compliance Professional (PCP).
Entry-level jobs in accounting very often include payroll responsibilities. If you get hired as an accounting clerk or assistant, chances are, you’ll be helping prepare and process payroll each month.
So what steps are involved in becoming a Payroll Compliance Professional, and is it really worth your time and effort? Here’s what you need to know.
What Exactly does “Payroll Compliance” mean?
Payroll compliance is all about understanding and following the laws that affect payroll, including how people are hired, fired, classified, and compensated. Businesses need to know the rules and follow them—or they’ll get fined.
In fact, many businesses all over the world end up paying non-compliance fines because they failed to adhere to payroll legislation.
Payroll compliance can be very complex and is constantly evolving. It impacts many aspects of payroll operations, including:
- Salary and special incentives
- Sick leave
- Employee insurance
- Employee records and personal information
Companies need payroll officers who understand the law and how to apply it. They don’t just need people who can prepare and process payroll every month—they need people who can ensure the payroll system is compliant with the latest legislation.
A Payroll Compliance Professional (PCP) has been trained in the latest legislation and is certified by the National Payroll Institute to provide that service.
how do you earn Payroll Compliance Certification?
You need a combination of training and real work experience.
To start, you must pass three payroll compliance courses delivered by the National Payroll Institute:
1. Payroll Compliance Legislation (an introduction to payroll laws)
2. Payroll Fundamentals 1 (focuses on calculating various types of individual payments and completing records of employment)
3. Payroll Fundamentals 2 (covers third-party remittances and year-end documentation)
You also need to complete an Introduction to Accounting course at a post-secondary institution. If you’re doing an accounting and payroll diploma, that course will probably be included in your program.
You can transfer the credit and apply it to your PCP certification. Just make sure the program you’re taking is accepted by the National Payroll Institute (check the list of approved colleges using this link).
Finally, you must complete one year of payroll work experience. Once you’ve done the courses and spent one year on the job, you can apply for the PCP certification.
Just remember: There is a time limit on this process. If you want to become a certified Payroll Compliance Professional, you must complete the courses and work experience within a five- to seven-year period, depending on the path you choose.
What are the benefits of becoming a PCP?
The Payroll Compliance Professional designation is considered the gold standard in payroll training. Employers trust this certification, and it’s often listed as a requirement (or an asset) for positions in payroll.
All PCPs must be members of the National Payroll Institute. Other benefits of joining the institute include:
☑️ Savings on additional training, seminars, and professional development workshops
☑️ Help understanding and applying the latest legislation (Payroll InfoLine service, compliance rates sheets, Best Practices Guidelines, publications, checklists, and tools)
☑️ Invitations to networking events and the annual payroll conference
☑️ Job Connect services to help you find employment
How do you maintain PCP certification?
To keep up your PCP certification, you must:
☑️ Remain a member in good standing of the National Payroll Institute. This involves paying an annual fee.
☑️ Follow the institute's code of conduct. The code covers things like conflicts of interest, confidentiality, and acting with integrity and objectivity.
☑️ Complete 14 hours of continuing professional education each year. This can include activities such as taking in-house training at work, participating in relevant webinars or conference events, or volunteering to help a community organization in a payroll capacity.
Is a career in payroll right for you?
If you still have questions about accounting and payroll training and want to confirm this career path is right for you, reach out to an admissions advisor at your college of choice.
Advisors are trained to match students with the right programs. They will talk with you about your strengths, goals, and learning needs.
An advisor can also answer any questions you have about the diploma program, class schedule—or how to pay for school.
Make a list of accounting schools you like. Talk with an advisor at each school to compare programs and find the training that fits you best.
Click below to explore the training and chat live with an admissions advisor. We're here to help!