Payroll Clerk Course Curriculum Details

Penn Foster’s online payroll clerk course includes three sections that can help prepare you for a career as a payroll clerk. Courses will cover topics including employee classification, the payroll outsourcing process, and how payroll interacts with the accounting system.

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

To prepare graduates for an entry-level career as a payroll clerk.

Upon completion of the program, students should be able to...

  • Properly classify workers, differentiating employees and private contractors based on the common law rule.
  • Track employee time and differentiate between types of employee compensation.
  • Identify, track, and account for all required employee deductions associated with benefits and all required wage taxes.
  • Explain how payroll interacts with the accounting system and the associated record keeping, controls, and measurements.
  • Understand the payroll outsourcing process and the pros and cons of outsourcing payroll.

In this course, you’ll develop the foundational skills to help you gain success in the program. You’ll learn how you can improve your study skills, so you’re able to use a number of tools that will help you to enter the professional world.


  • Identify skills needed to be a confident and independent online learner.

In this course, you’ll learn the traditional payroll process and the methods used to manage data entry functions to improve operational efficiency. You’ll learn the importance of accurate time tracking and the varieties of technical applications used to track time on the job. This course also discusses the types of employees and contractors and the importance of confidentiality in the payroll processing function.

You’ll study the importance of accurate time tracking and the varieties of technical applications used to track time on the job. This course explains the distinction between wages and salaries and how to calculate compensation for different kinds of wage plans, as well as supplemental wages including overtime, commissions, and sick and vacation pay.

You’ll be introduced to a wide range of employee benefits and the wage implications and taxability of each type of benefit.


  • Recognize the qualities and skills required of a successful entrepreneur
  • Describe the procedures and practices associated with traditional payroll management
  • Summarize the basic methods used to track employee hours and compensation
  • Identify issues related to a variety of employee benefits

You’ll learn how to execute the actual deduction process for benefits and special situations like garnishments. This course also reviews the process of calculating and withholding employee and employer payroll taxes.

This course provides instruction on how and when federal, state, and local payroll taxes are actually paid to the appropriate tax agency and on the rules and processes associated with different deposit schedules. You’ll also learn about the common types of manual and electronic methods for the distribution of employee compensation.


  • Explain how to process deductions and calculate taxes
  • Describe how to perform calculations and file forms associated with payroll taxes and distribute employee compensation

This course will help you understand the payroll accounting process, including specific journal entries, the creation of financial statements, the uses of a payroll register, and the preparation of internal and external reports. You’ll learn the proper applications of W-2, W-3, and 1099-MISC forms.

This course describes the procedures used for the creation and maintenance of payroll data and records necessary for company and IRS compliance. You’ll learn the processes for adding employees to the payroll system and the application of documents or systems required for capturing and documenting work time and generating payment/withholding records. This course also covers the types of controls that are used to identify and prevent fraud associated with the payroll process.

You’ll learn the calculations and measurements used to monitor and improve the payroll process and to supply critical data used to manage human capital. The course also provides an overview of payroll outsourcing and the business activities required to institute and manage outsourced payroll activities.


  • Summarize procedures, equipment, and forms used in the payroll accounting process
  • Describe documents vital to the payroll function and how to use and maintain them
  • Recognize various payroll measurements and issues associated with payroll outsourcing

Additional Details

  • Licensing and/or certification requirements for jobs in this field are not the same in every state and may include educational, testing, and/or experiential requirements beyond those offered in the Penn Foster Program. Prospective students should contact the state professional licensing board or similar regulatory body in the state(s) where they plan to work to determine their requirements before enrolling in this Program. Click here for contact information for state licensing/regulatory boards and certain industry licensing information.

Penn Foster College Accreditation & Licensing Details

Penn Foster College has been nationally accredited for over 40 years, and has met the high standards of integrity and performance set by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) in Washington, D.C. Penn Foster College has been thoroughly reviewed and has earned several important accreditations and licensing. We also participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements.

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A Committed Support System

While you can study independently, you’re not alone! With a dedicated Student Services department, the Student Community, and instructors just a call away, you’ll have access to the support you need.

Progress Tracking and Goal Setting Tools

Our customizable goal-setting tools will help you create a schedule and stick to it. Need some extra time to complete a lesson? Not a problem — you can adjust your study plan at any time to set a pace that works for you.

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Student Community

Looking to connect with other Penn Foster students? Our Student Community is the perfect place for you to interact with your peers — as well as Penn Foster faculty and staff — to discuss your online learning experience, congratulate fellow students, and share your Penn Foster experience.

Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need access to high-speed internet to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 10® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running macOS® or later, access to a word processing program to complete written assignments, and an email account to complete this program with Penn Foster.
We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
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Apple, Mac, and macOS are trademarks of Apple, Inc. registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.