A good friend of mine that I have known for over 30 years joined the thousands of grads this year by getting her Master’s Degree. She had a BA but decided to get her Master’s. This happy event got me to thinking maybe I should go back and get my Master’s or even a Ph.D. I have always wanted to be known as Doctor Vicki. But then the same old roadblock comes up. What would I get the degree in? When I first started out in payroll in 1977 or so I was still attending college as an undergrad. When I realized what I wanted to do with my life (I live for payroll, of course!) I encountered the fact that there were no under graduate or graduate degrees in either personnel or payroll at that time just accounting.
Well 10 years later I was able to finally get my undergraduate degree but it was in Business Administration with an emphasis in Personnel Management. And I had to go to National University to get it. I was living in San Diego at the time and San Diego State didn’t offer it. But neither school had anything that related to payroll. Now, of course, 25 years later I can go back and get a Master’s degree in Human Resources Management from Penn State or even Rutgers or San Diego State if I wanted to. I can even get a Ph.D in Human Resources from Temple University or UCLA. But where the f%$@ is my Ph.D in payroll!
Google it sometime and you will see. You can take payroll accounting courses, human resources courses, labor law courses but nothing that prepares you for payroll itself. Yet, as a payroll professional I am required to know all of the wage and hour laws not only on the federal level, but for every state in which I have one employee located. How many attorneys can say they know wage and hour law in 47 states well enough to actually pay an employee? I’ll be the answer is zippo! But there are thousands of payroll professionals who must know this information on a daily basis and do.
Payroll professionals must know all the Internal Revenue Codes that relate to paying employees including taxation of fringe benefits, withholding tax and deposit/reporting requirements. If they make a mistake—fines and penalties. Not only do they need to know it for the IRC but for every state they are located in. And not just income tax, but FUTA, and the state’s SUI plus local taxes. How many CPAs can claim they can rattle of the taxation requirements for SUI for 50 different states and the District of Columbia and are able to do the 941 in Spanish for Puerto Rico?
So where do we have to learn this? Where do the 214,000 payroll professionals working in the United States (as of 2004) learn it all? By hook or by crook. By reading IRS publications, begging for funds to take a training course or two, taking my on-line courses, attending free seminars given by the IRS or State agencies or by learning from each other.
This is no way for the number one collector of taxes and child support in the nation to be trained. Why can’t I as a payroll professional attend college, learn all about everything I need to know, take that into the real world, find out it is useless and then learn it all on the job just like all other professions such as lawyers, human resource professionals and accountants! Where is my Ph.d in Payroll!
What about you? What did you end of getting your degree in or have you not bothered since it doesn’t matter in payroll? Let’s hear from you.