In many things, the road to success is anything but a straight path — there exist a multitude of trails, all leading toward the same goal at the end, and just because one individual is successful in taking a specific path doesn’t mean another person won’t accomplish the same results by taking another — success isn’t binary in that regard. So, when it comes to obtaining and maintaining a professional designation, such as a Fundamental Payroll Certificate (FPC) or Certified Payroll Professional (CPP), there should be no expectation that any singular path will work out the same for multiple individuals. Myriad factors go into determining whether a specific road will be helpful in leading an individual to success, factors like time and money, so it is important for each licensee to recognize and understand the various options available for recertification — especially since the choice can immensely simplify or consternate the license renewal process.
5 Steps to Payroll Recertification
Step 1. Choose Your Route: RCH or Exam
Momentarily continuing to liken the FPC and/or CPP license recertification process to a long, winding road with various offshoots, it should be noted that there are two main thoroughfares — that is, two primary methods for completing the renewal process. Payroll professionals can opt to maintain their certification by means of:
- Continuing professional education
- By taking and passing the FPC or CPP exam
For licensees who choose continuing professional education, there is a minimum number of hours that must be met in order to qualify for license renewal, the details of which are discussed below.
Maintaining FPC Certification
The Fundamental Payroll Certification is a designation awarded and regulated through the American Payroll Association (APA), designed primarily for those who have at least a baseline competency of issues related to payroll. Though this professional designation and the correlated exam are designed to be amiable to entry-level payroll professionals, both sales professionals or consultants and systems analysts or engineers who support payroll systems or serve within the industry can benefit from licensure.
Option 1: Recertification by Continuing Education
FPC-licensed members of the American Payroll Association who decide to pursue license renewal by means of continuing professional education have a limited timeline of three years to complete their recertification requirements, within which they must accrue at least 60 recertification credit hours (RCHs). These hours can be garnered from a variety of sources, including self-study courses, online webinars and professional conferences. In most instances, licensees are responsible for funding their own continuing professional education endeavors, including the actual license renewal fee, which is submitted to the APA alongside their completed RCH reporting for. The Recertification Program Log is available for download online, which is necessary for documenting and verifying participation in qualifying continuing professional education opportunities. This document should be kept in case of random audit, which various members are selected for on a regular basis.
Option 2: Recertification by Exam
Members of the APA who want to bypass the continuing professional education requirement for license renewal may do so by taking and passing the Fundamental Payroll Certification Examination, which must be done by the certification expiration date during the year the license is set to lapse. Full examination information is available in the Fundamental Payroll Certification Candidate Handbook, which can be downloaded from the American Payroll Association website.
Maintaining CPP Certification
It is important that members of the APA recognize that FPC licensees who subsequently obtain the CPP designation must use and recertify only the CPP license each recertification cycle, and once the certification has been obtained, a new period begins and is governed by CPP regulations. Understanding the requirement differences between the two designations is paramount to successfully completing the license renewal process.
Option 1: Recertification by Continuing Education
Unlike members of the APA who hold the FPC designation, licensed CPPs must obtain 120 RCHs, though they have five years within which to accomplish this task. Like FPC designees, though, Certified Payroll Professionals must pay the appropriate fees for license renewal, to be submitted alongside the necessary documentation by the end of their renewal cycle. Hours of continuing professional education must be accounted for in the Recertification Program Log, which can be found online, and should be kept in the event of selection for random audit.
Option 2: Recertification by Exam
Certified Payroll Professionals can alternatively choose to complete their recertification objectives by taking and completing the Certified Payroll Professional Examination by the expiration date of their license. They may refer to the Certified Payroll Professional Candidate Handbook for further certification information. However, unlike individuals who hold the CPP designation, FPCs must have completed one of the criteria listed here in order to pre-qualify for the examination.
Step 2. Check Your Deadlines
Almost as important as knowing what is required in order to secure license renewal is understanding when the license must be renewed. Void of the appropriate information, licensees could unknowingly allow their status to lapse, which could result in further penalties and consequences.
Continuing Education Deadlines
Members of the American Payroll Association who opt to renew their license through continuing professional education must have earned all RCHs by December 31 of the year in which their license is set to expire. However, there is an extended period within which licensees may submit their Recertification Log and fees, generally ending February 14 of the year following the recertification period.
- For example, a Fundamental Payroll Certification designee whose license expires December 31 of 2021 has until February 14 of 2022 to submit their Recertification Log, with completed RCH hours, and all appropriate fees. After this date, they will incur late penalties.
- For example, a Certified Payroll Professional whose date of license expiration is December 21, 2022 has until February 14, 2023 to submit the required RCH hours on their Recertification Log, alongside the necessary fees for license renewal. Submitting the materials past the specified date will result in late penalties.
Any member of the APA who chooses to recertify through reexamination must do so within the year their certification is due for renewal.
- For example, if a licensed FPC’s certification is set to lapse as of December 31, 2021, they must have successfully taken and passed the FPC examination prior to that date.
- For example, if a Certified Payroll Professional has a license expiration date of December 31, 2022, they must have taken and successfully passed the CPP examination before that date.
Step 3. Select a Qualifying Program
Not all content, whether online, in-person or which is provided through some alternative medium, is qualified for RCH credit, and it is up to individual licensees to ensure the material they choose to consume for credit will actually deliver. All programs which qualify for RCH credit must cover material within the FPC or CPP exam’s outline or within areas appropriately defined as the “payroll industry.” Additionally, the content of these programs must be adequate to increase an applicant’s knowledge or skills in the practice of payroll. Herein, the payroll industry can best be defined as: production, reporting, accounting, systems, taxation, administration and/or education and consulting.
The types of qualifying programs are as follows:
- Vendors or third-party programs which are offered by APA-approved providers, such as VTR Learning
- National American Payroll Association events
- APA local chapter meetings, which must be approved for RCH credit
- Regional or statewide APA conferences
- College or university courses which meet the requirement threshold
Step 4. Log Your Recertification Credit Hours
In order to access the Recertification Log, which must be submitted by February 14th of the year following the license expiration date to keep from incurring late penalties, members of the APA can log in online and begin recording their RCH programs. Here, the necessary information includes which qualifying continuing professional education program was attended or taken through self-study methods, the appropriate payroll content area, the date of completion and type of documentation to be provided as proof of completion. Courses, seminars and conferences which are sponsored and approved by the American Payroll Association will automatically populate on the Recertification Log.
It should be noted that members who remain in good standing will be awarded three RCHs per year, at the end of the licensee’s membership year based on anniversary date, applied in full to the year in which they were awarded. Any length of membership which falls below one calendar year will not be awarded partial credit, and RCHs will not be awarded to any members who currently hold neither the FPC or CPP designation.
Members who have accrued more than 60 credits for the FPC designation during their recertification period or who have obtained above 120 RCHs in pursuit of CPP recertification will not be allowed to carry excess hours over to the next reporting period.
Step 5. Claim Your Badge
Once a licensee’s Recertification Log has been approved by the APA and their renewal fees have been submitted, they will receive a confirmation email, which will tell the subsequent date of license renewal (either three or five years from the last date, depending on the type of certification). 48 hours after this confirmation email has been received, members can claim their digital badge through Acclaim Platform, and they should receive a follow-up email with instructions on how to do so. Hard copies of certificates are also available to order online.
Get Started with Online Courses
If you’re a member of the American Payroll Association searching for quality, self-study RCHs, look no further — VTR has you covered. Check out these 5 APA Professional Development Courses You Can Take Anywhere!
Article written by Braden Norwood