Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC)

The FPC helps to ensure that your payroll professionals are up to date with all applicable payroll laws and have a basic knowledge of payroll functions.

Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC)

If you opt to keep payroll in-house, you may wish to require your payroll staff to carry a Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) or to obtain the certification if you already have specialists in place that aren’t certified. The FPC helps to ensure that your payroll professionals are up to date with all applicable payroll laws and have a basic knowledge of payroll functions, including the ability to work with payroll software.

What is the FPC?

The FPC is a certification awarded by the American Payroll Association. Anyone can obtain the certification, no special memberships or degrees are required, but participants must pass an examination.

There are two windows per year for taking the examination, one in the fall and one in the spring. Participants must first apply for the exam and then register to take the exam upon approval. The fee to take the exam is $450.

What Does the Exam Cover?

The FPC examination contains seven content areas:

  • Compliance
  • Core payroll
  • Paycheck calculation
  • Payroll administration
  • Audits
  • Accounting
  • Payroll processes and supporting systems

Since laws are continuously changing, compliance questions and topics are limited to a specific, stated date. Laws that have been established or changed mid-year are not reflected on the examination.

Preparation for the Exam

There are many resources that can help with exam preparation. The American Payroll Association offers web-based training, webinars, classes, books, online materials, and study groups. Several websites offer practice tests, flash cards, and study guides. Participants are encouraged to use multiple resources to study for the exam.

Participants should allow themselves about 12 weeks to study for the FPC exam. This means that participants should begin studying for the examination before submitting an application or registering to ensure success.

Taking the Exam

Three hours is the allotted time for taking the FPC exam. Test takers are asked to arrive about 30 minutes early for check-in and to bring an approved calculator. Test takers can find out immediately following the examination if they passed, or can find out exactly which areas they did poorly on if they did not pass.

FPC Recertification

Since laws change quickly, the FPC is finite. In some cases, individuals that are certified can become recertified through continuing education. If continuing education doesn’t meet APA criteria, however, certificate holders must retake the FPC exam before their current certification expires to keep continuous certification.

Receiving Certification

After passing the examination, the FPC certification and lapel pin can be ordered. Individuals can obtain their APA identification and password by emailing APA customer service or by calling 210-224-6406. After verifying the name that will be printed on the certificate, a confirmation email will be sent and the certificate and pin will be sent by mail within about four to six weeks.

Requiring Fundamental Payroll Certification can help to ensure that payroll staff has the ability to keep up with payroll processing and compliance needs. However, payroll software can still help to prevent day-to-day errors and speed up payroll processing. Visit our HR software matching page to find out how we can help you select your perfect payroll software solution.


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