Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) Exam

The Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) exam is required by the American Payroll Association (APA) for certification. Upon passing the exam and accepting the APA Code of Ethics, you will receive a certificate and lapel pin. Certification is valid for three calendar years.

What Are the Eligibility Criteria?

Before you can take the CPP exam, the APA requires that you meet one of the following criteria:

1. Practice as a payroll professional for at least three out of the five years prior to taking the exam. This includes direct or related involvement in payroll production, reporting, accounting, systems, taxation, administration, or education/consulting.

2. Employment in one of the payroll tasks listed above for at least the prior 24 months and completion within the prior 24 months of all of the courses within one of the following options offered by the APA:

  • Payroll Practice Essentials, Intermediate Payroll Concepts, Advanced Payroll Concepts, and Strategic Payroll Practices
  • Foundations of Payroll Certificate Program and the Payroll Administration Certificate Program
  • Certified Payroll Professional Boot Camp, a comprehensive virtual course offered exclusively by the APA.

3. Employment in one of the payroll tasks listed above for at least the prior 18 months, having received the fundamental payroll certification, and having completed within the prior 18 months all of the courses within at least one of these three options that the APA offers:

  • Intermediate Payroll Concepts, Advanced Payroll Concepts, and Strategic Payroll Practices
  • Payroll 201: The Payroll Administration Certificate Program
  • Certified Payroll Professional Boot Camp

How to I Register?

You must complete an application, receive approval from the APA’s certification department, and pay the exam free before you can register for the CPP exam. The application and information about registering is found in the APA’s CPP Candidate Handbook.

How Is the Exam Administered?

You will take the CPP exam electronically. There will be 190 multiple-choice questions, including 25 trial test questions that appear randomly and are not counted in your score. Each question has four possible answer choices, only one of which is correct.

You will have four hours to complete the exam. A tutorial is provided to explain how to use the exam software and the exam supplement, which contains the tables necessary to answer some questions.

What is Covered on the Exam?

The questions are designed to test your payroll knowledge and ability to apply that knowledge. The content of the CPP exam is distributed as follows:

Core Payroll Concepts (24%)
  • Worker Status
  • Fair Labor Standards Act
  • Employment Taxes
  • Employee Benefits
  • Employee / Employer Forms
  • Professional Responsibility
  • Methods and Timing of Pay
Compliance/Research and Resources (16%)
  • Escheatment
  • Legislative and Regulatory Requirements
  • Reporting
  • Record Retention
  • Penalties
  • Global
  • Multi-state Taxation / Reporting
Calculation of the Paycheck (20%)
  • Compensation/Benefits
  • Involuntary Deductions/Taxes
  • Voluntary Deductions (Pretax and Post Tax)
  • Employer Taxes and Contributions
  • Net Pay
Payroll Process and Supporting Systems and Administration (12%)
  • Maintain Master File Components
  • Concepts and Functionalities
  • Business Continuity Plan
  • Technology Evaluation
  • Upgrade/Implementation Knowledge
  • System Maintenance/Updates
  • System/Project Implementations
Payroll Administration and Management (10%)
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Management Skills and Practices
  • Customer Service and Communication
  • Staffing, Employee Development, and Core Competencies
Audits (9%)
  • Internal Controls
  • Payroll System Controls
  • Accounting System Controls
  • Third Party Controls
  • Audit Policies and Procedures
Accounting (9%)
  • Financial Reporting
  • Accounting Principles
  • Payroll Journal Entry
  • Account Reconciliation

What’s the Best Way to Prepare for the CPP?

Be prepared for the CPP! Mometrix study guides and flashcard study systems are painstakingly researched and written to help you achieve a passing score. Together, the CPP Exam Flashcards and the CPP Exam Secrets Study Guide will help you master the test-taking strategies you need and learn how best to have a successful exam day.