The number of paychecks you will receive in a year is dependent on two factors. The first factor is is your employer’s pay period length. This is the duration of time between when paychecks are issued. The second factor is the number of pay periods that you work. Employees will typically not be issued paychecks for periods in which they do not work any hours.
Here are the most common pay period durations, and the number of paychecks per year under each of these systems:
- Bi-weekly: A bi-weekly paycheck is issued every other week. There are 26 bi-weekly pay periods in a typical year. However, due to a phenomenon sometimes called “payroll creep“, once every eleven years there will be a 27th bi-weekly payroll. This is because 26 periods only account for 364 days out of the year (26 * 14 days), thus, along with the extra days added due to leap years, the periods will eventually align with the calendar to add a 27th paycheck.
- Semi-monthly (or Bi-monthly): Semi-monthly paychecks are issued twice a month, often on the 1st and the 15th of the month. Thus there are 24 semi-monthly pay periods in a year. Semi-monthly periods are also often called bi-monthly periods, a more confusing term because it could also mean “every other month”.
- Weekly: Workers in some industries are paid weekly. A weekly pay period usually accounts for 52 paychecks a year. Once every 5 or 6 years there will be 53 pay periods per year.
- Monthly: Less common, some employees are paid on monthly pay cycles. A monthly pay period would amount to 12 paychecks a year.
Thus, to know the number of paychecks you will receive in a given year, first determine the length of your pay period, and then subtract the number of periods that you will not be receiving a check (perhaps zero) from the numbers of periods listed above. This is true whether you are paid by the hour or paid a yearly salary.