2 payroll certifications boost careers: CPA

PCP and CPM show practitioners' commitment
By Steven Van Alstine
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/25/2011

The Canadian Payroll Association (CPA) offers two professional certifications — Payroll Compliance Practitioner (PCP) and Certified Payroll Manager (CPM). These prepare payroll practitioners to manage the compliance requirements of an annual payroll cycle, deliver clear and reliable payroll information and contribute a payroll perspective to organizational policy and strategy discussions.

Payroll constitutes one of the largest financial obligations for many organizations. Non-compliance can cause employers to incur significant penalties and costs. Certified payroll practitioners understand what it means to practise professionally and have the knowledge required to be compliant.

Payroll practitioners are also the primary point of communication with employees regarding pay, benefits and related information. Both employers and employees deserve assurance they will practise ethically and with the required level of payroll knowledge.

2 levels of certification

The PCP is the first level of certification. It’s the foundation of a practitioner’s career in payroll, providing the compliance knowledge required to process an annual payroll cycle, effectively communicate payroll information to stakeholders and understand the accounting function as it relates to payroll.

Increasingly, employers recognize the PCP certification as an important requirement for payroll positions in Canada. It is designed, primarily, for payroll administrators, co-ordinators, supervisors and managers. This certification may also be useful for accounting, finance and HR managers and other business professionals with a functional responsibility for payroll.

The CPM is the second level of certification and builds on the PCP compliance knowledge by developing payroll management skills. It’s designed for payroll supervisors and managers, and senior payroll administrators and co-ordinators who are looking to advance their careers by developing their management skills. These individuals must have completed the PCP certification and have two years of payroll work experience.

The certification process

PCP certification: PCP certification consists of three core payroll courses (Payroll Compliance Legislation, Payroll Fundamentals 1 and Payroll Fundamentals 2) which are offered online and in the classroom at more than 60 public and private colleges and universities across the country. There is also one mandatory non-payroll course (Introduction to Accounting) that must be taken at a post-secondary institution.

CPM certification: Before beginning the CPM certification, practitioners must hold the PCP certification and have two years of payroll work experience. It consists of two core payroll courses (Payroll Management Processes and Payroll Management Practices) and three mandatory non-payroll courses (Organizational Behaviour Management, Managerial Accounting and Compensation and Benefits Management).

All certified individuals must comply with the following three requirements to maintain their certification:

Maintain a membership with the CPA: Whether through a professional or organization membership of their employer, all certified payroll practitioners must be CPA members.

Adhere to the CPA’s code of professional conduct. All certified professionals are required to adhere to a professional code of conduct that embodies the rules, policies and systems by which a professional should act or behave to maintain the integrity of the profession.

Meet the Continuing Professional Education (CPE) requirements. CPE is the hallmark of a profession. As such, CPA’s certification programs require professionals to enhance their knowledge by participating in CPE throughout their career.

How can certification help a payroll practitioner’s career?

The benefits of certification are numerous:

Individual professionalism: Certification represents a practitioner’s commitment to a national standard of excellence and continuous learning.

Greater opportunities and rewards: Certification positions practitioners as leaders, increasing their earning potential. Certified practitioners may receive starting salaries up to 10 per cent above the market average, according to Robert Half’s Guide to Certifications. It also creates more opportunity for career advancement.

Peer recognition: CPA membership provides networking opportunities with colleagues across the country and ongoing professional development.

Portability: The certifications are recognized by employers across Canada and are included in Guide to Certifications — a national publication that lists the professional designations and certifications in the accounting, finance and operations management industries.

Steven Van Alstine is vice-president of education at the Canadian Payroll Association and can be reached at Steven.VanAlstine@payroll.ca. For more information on the CPA’s certification programs, visit www.payroll.ca or email certification@payroll.ca.

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