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Certified Payroll Professional (CPP)

What is a certified payroll professional (CPP)? Read on for a brief description of a CPP and what to do to become one.

What Is a Certified Payroll Professional (CPP)?

The certified payroll professional (CPP) is a certification designed for professionals who handle different functions of payroll. This certification or designation helps payroll professionals advance their career in the field of payroll and is provided by the American Payroll Association, also called APA.

How Can a Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) Help a Business?

Due to regular changes in payroll taxes and laws related to payroll, it is very important for business owners to get the things right to avoid financial loss and lawsuits which could affect the company reputation and employee turnover. To deal with these issues, the company needs CPPs to take care of the risks, changes in tax codes and laws. Benefits of having CPPs employed with your company include:
  • Better quality assurance. Payroll is a function of HR with no tolerance for error. Even minor mistakes can have major consequences on the business. Professionals with CPP certifications have in-depth knowledge of payroll and can handle all parts and any problems that arise in payroll.
  • Standardization. All payroll professionals with the CPP certificate have the same level of knowledge related to payroll compared to professionals with no certificate. A CPP certified professional knows all terms related to payroll, as well as laws which a non-certified professional may not be aware of.
  • Increased employee satisfaction. When a company hires professionals with the CPP certificate, employee satisfaction also increases, as they know they will get their paychecks on time and without errors.

The Responsibilities of a Certified Payroll Professional (CPP)

What will a CPP do for your organization? The responsibilities of most CPPs are as follows:
  • Gathering information about changes in federal and state laws, and changes in tax codes and requirements to make sure the company is in compliance.
  • Monitoring money transfers to company accounts related to wages paid or tax deductions, etc.
  • Collecting necessary documents, details and information from employees to process the payroll smoothly.
  • Taking care of payroll related issues or questions from employees, local governing bodies etc.
  • Monitoring tax payments to the federal and state governments on time and according to policies or guidelines.
  • Managing the payroll and HR teams for accounting to provide necessary training related to payroll.

Necessary Skills of a Certified Payroll Professional (CPP)

A CPP also needs a variety of skills to be successful at their job. Some necessary skills of a CPP include:


The CPP exam and certification require a lot of hard work and experience. Once a professional gets this certificate, they have in-depth knowledge about payroll, taxes, etc., which gives them an edge over professionals without the certification.

Payroll Administration

A CPP can handle payroll more efficiently than a non-certified person. A CPP has more in-depth knowledge of payroll, so they can handle payroll processing, taxes, deductions, garnishments, etc. effectively and efficiently.


Another skill a CPP needs is communication. They have to communicate regularly with government officials and employees related to payroll, so they need very good communication skills.

How to Become a Certified Payroll Professional (CPP)

If you are interested in becoming a CPP, you are making an excellent career choice. To become a CPP, you’ll have to follow the following steps:

Step 1: Become Eligible

According to Criterion, the APA requires payroll professionals to meet one of three criteria to be eligible to take the CPP examination:
  1. They have served at least three of the past five years in a payroll position.
  2. They have at least 24 months of experience and have completed one of three APA payroll studies programs.
  3. They have at least 18 months of experience, have completed the APA's FPC certification, and have completed at least one APA payroll studies program.

Step 2: Register for the Exam

Once someone fulfills the eligibility and the APA has approved the application form, they can register for the exam.

Step 3: Study for the Exam

Once registered, you will need approximately three months to prepare for the CPP exam, which involves concepts related to payroll, etc. APA also offers many study materials in different formats to study for exams.

Step 4: Take the CPP Exam

According to Indeed, to take the CPP exam, you must bring two forms of official identification, such as a driver's license and a social security card, to a testing center. It may be helpful to bring a calculator, but ensure it’s battery-operated as you're required to leave phones outside the center. The CPP exam is four hours long and contains 190 multiple-choice questions through a provided computer system. To pass the test, you need a minimum score of 300 points, and associates at the location typically reveal your results the same day you complete the exam.

Step 5: Get the certificate

Once someone passes the exam, they will receive a certificate from APA in three to four weeks. The certificate is valid for five years, and then the candidate has to recertify. To complete this process, you can get recertification credit hours (RCHs) through APA continuing education courses or another authorized resource. CPP graduates must earn 120 RCHs or more to maintain their CPP certification.
Pammi Rani

Pammi Rani

Pammi is a Human Resource Professional with around eight years experience. Pammi specializes in Human Resource field and responsible for all aspects of the HR, i.e. recruiting, employees relations, wage claims, training etc. Pammi has a very positive attitude and tireless energy, which makes her a great employee at her workplace. Pammi is inspired daily by her husband and a cute little boy. In her free time Pammi likes reading books and running.
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