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The Pros and Cons of Working As a Payroll Analyst

If you’re dependable and good with numbers, you might be considering a career within the treasury or controller departments of a major corporation. It’s a wise choice, with extensive opportunities inside many of the most prestigious companies around the world. One of the key positions within these departments is that of the payroll analyst. The payroll analyst is one of the most senior people who interacts with a company’s payroll, and he or she is integral to the long-term success of their company. The payroll analyst makes sure the company is in compliance with any regulatory commissions, and with their federal and state tax filings. The payroll analyst supports the senior management through any interactions with staff around payroll, regularly evaluates salaries to make sure they are accurate and appropriate, and coordinates with the accounting department. It sounds like an important job, but it isn’t for everyone. Here is a quick look at some of the pros and cons of working as a payroll analyst.

One definite positive of this position is that you don’t need an inordinate amount of education to get to work. You can land a job with a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting or auditing, which means you won’t necessarily start your career with a huge student loan bill. However, positions at larger firms usually do require graduate degrees in any of the above disciplines. And if you want to be a payroll analyst at a company that works internationally you may need your CPA license. So rising in the ranks within your field will depend significantly on the amount of education you receive.

If you’re looking for a career with advancement opportunities you may find this a troubling choice. On the positive side, you can move up fairly quickly, becoming a specialist or a supervisor within five years. But you can also become pigeonholed within payroll, and find other finance opportunities that provide more of an upside will be offered to other candidates before you. In addition, much of a payroll analyst’s work is beginning to be handled by computer programs. As technology becomes more and more robust, the seniority of a payroll analyst will come into question. Some companies may choose not to have a person in this position at all.

Even though you will be stuck within payroll, you can do this job for companies in a wide range of industries. That means if you are good at your job you can experience fields as diverse as healthcare, higher education, finance and government during the course of your career. Yet regardless of the industry you will run up against an earnings cap. Payroll analysts aren’t well paid. In fact, only around the top 10% of the field can make in excess of $100,000. Starting salaries or salaries at small companies can even come in at less than $25,000 a year. So if you are a junior member of a large department or if you work with mid-sized companies or smaller you might find your own financial goals difficult to reach.

One thing you can certainly count on are consistent hours. Regardless of the employee time tracking technique used you’ll find the payroll analyst often logs the most standard hours at the company. For most of the year you can set your watch by a day that basically starts at 8:30 in the morning and ends by 5:30 at night. The only time you might be required to log longer hours is at the end of reporting quarters and during tax season. But otherwise this is a steady job that you don’t have to take home with you at the end of the day.

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