Why Certification Makes Sense for Payroll Professionals


The payroll profession is so complex that those in the industry, to help maximize value for employers and themselves, should try to gain as much payroll knowledge as possible and also achieve certification.

I wrote this blog post from Nashville, Tenn., at the site of the American Payroll Association’s 2016 Annual Congress. So many folks among the more than 2,100 payroll professionals there achieved at least one of the two primary payroll certifications offered by the APA, which is the main payroll education organization in the U.S.

To achieve Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC), the APA’s basic payroll knowledge credential, you have to know a lot of stuff. To become a Certified Payroll Professional (CPP), you have to know even more stuff and have a bunch of experience in the payroll profession, generally for at least three years. 

Each of these certifications is earned upon successful completion of an examination regarding payroll knowledge and processing capability. These are big-league exams, so those seeking to earn the certifications generally devote a lot of study time to increase their payroll knowledge.

Teachable Moments

Payroll professionals who strive to achieve these certifications will learn so much about processing and related laws and regulations that they indubitably will become more efficient in their work and have far more knowledge about compliance and how to reduce costs. They also would benefit from the significant respect that members of the payroll community have for those who achieved certification.

I earned the FPC credential in 2011 and was even more proud to become a CPP in 2014. I learned so much in studying for the exams, and I cherish the knowledge.

Most folks use their FPC or CPP knowledge to develop stronger payroll processing operations. As I am a member of the payroll information services community, I’ve been able to use CPP knowledge to significantly augment the value of payroll news and reference content that I provide to Bloomberg BNA’s clients. I also can much more knowledgeably consult clients who have compliance questions. There are myriad aspects of the payroll industry, and whatever your focus, you can enhance your performance with the FPC or CPP credentials.

I studied about 30 hours for the FPC exam and about 50 hours for the CPP exam. Some folks have studied less and succeeded; others have studied more and not succeeded. To improve the likelihood of your own efforts being successful, you should develop and implement a high-energy study strategy that involves proactivity and meticulousness.

Bloomberg BNA is proud that in the APA’s handbooks for the FPC and CPP exams, our Payroll Administration Guide is listed first on the APA’s list of recommended resources other than those of the APA itself for studying for the exams.

Keep Up the Good Work

After earning  the FPC or CPP credentials, you need to maintain your payroll knowledge through the recertification process, or get to have the amazing fun of studying for and taking the exams again.

To recertify for the FPC credential, payroll professionals need to complete 60 hours of recertification credit hours (RCHs) within three years, although after completing the FPC exam for the first time, the clock starts ticking Jan. 1 of the year after the exam. Recertifying for the CPP credential involves completing 120 RCHs within five years, although as with the FPC recertification process, the five-year period for new CPPs starts Jan. 1 of the year after completing the CPP exam.

At this year’s APA Congress, as with many other APA conferences, there were tons of workshops and educational events for which payroll professionals could earn recertification credit hours by attentively attending. In fact, I attended a workshop on mobile payroll and earned 1.5 RCHs shortly after I wrote this blog post. I’ll soon write about that session.  

Take a free trial to Bloomberg BNA’s Payroll Decision Support Network, your one-stop resource for reliable, up-to-date guidance and analysis in every area of payroll administration and compliance.

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