Updated February 2023
If you have solid math skills, are comfortable around computers, and like the idea of working in a business environment, you could be a natural fit for accounting and payroll training.
But it takes more than these basic skills to really succeed in a college program and land a position with a great company. How do you know if this career path is right for you?
One way to find out is by looking at what employers really want most in new accounting and payroll hires. What specific combination of skills are most in demand? What will you need to learn during training to compete for top jobs? And would you be comfortable digging into those topics and building those new skills?
Find out by exploring our list of must-have accounting and payroll competencies. By the end of this post, you'll have a much better idea if this career is right for you—and what steps to take next.
Accounting & Payroll Skill #1: Microsoft Office
If you want a career in payroll and accounting, knowing your way around the Microsoft Office suite is key. That means knowing much more than how to format a basic Word document or put together a simple PowerPoint presentation.
We're talking about being totally comfortable working with Excel, Word, Outlook, and Access. You'll need to know how to use these programs to create spreadsheets and reports, schedule appointments, manage databases, and analyze data.
If you're considering accounting and payroll training, expect your courses to focus heavily on building solid Microsoft Office skills. This is considered a baseline, foundational skill for anyone pursuing a career in this field.
Accounting & Payroll Skill #2: Accounting Software
This is a fairly obvious, but nonetheless essential, skill for accounting and payroll professionals. There are many different software packages out there—QuickBooks, FreshBooks, Sage, Simply Accounting—and the more you know, the better!
Every company has its own preference, so training programs usually focus on teaching one or two of the most popular tools. It's fairly easy to transfer those skills to another program once you've gained some experience.
In order to get hired after accounting and payroll training, you must be ready to hit the ground running with this kind of software.
Accounting & Payroll Skill #3: Legislation & Compliance
Payroll legislation is always changing. Rules about things like the minimum wage, tax filings, and how to classify workers as part time or full time depend on government actions.
For example, on Oct. 1, 2022, Ontario and Manitoba both raised their provincial minimum wages. And Manitoba is set for another increase in April 2023.
Plus, Ontario employers are obliged to give employees up to three days of paid time off if they must miss work for a COVID-19-related reason. This policy was set to expire in July 2022 but has been extended to March 2023.
These are some of the labour laws that have changed that will directly impact accounting and payroll professionals.
If companies do not comply with these new rules, and follow every other law that impacts payroll, they can get into serious legal trouble (fines, penalties, and even lawsuits).
To get hired in this field, you must understand and keep up with changing legislation. You'll need this information to correctly calculate holiday pay, sick leaves, overtime, income tax, employee benefits, bonuses, and pensions.
Your accounting and payroll courses will provide a detailed breakdown of federal and provincial employment standards related to payroll. You'll study the legislation that impacts accounting and payroll procedures for the province you live in, so you'll know exactly which rules to follow at work.
Accounting & Payroll Skill #4: Communication & Teamwork
Succeeding in accounting and payroll isn't just about mastering computer skills and keeping up with labour laws.
There's also an important social aspect to this work. In fact, you won't find a payroll and accounting skills list that doesn't include communication, interpersonal, and teamwork skills. Why? Because accounting and payroll clerks have to interact with employees in other departments all the time. They also deal directly with clients, which demands excellent customer service skills.
When you interview for accounting and payroll positions, the hiring manager will be evaluating how articulate, friendly, and cooperative you seem. They'll be looking to see if you'd be a good fit with the team and represent the company well with clients.
Accounting & Payroll Skill #5: Problem solving
If the accounts don't balance at the end of the month, it will be your job to figure out why and resolve the issue. And if you calculate an employee's wages incorrectly, you'll definitely need to track down where your numbers went wrong, and rectify the situation—quickly.
Everyone makes mistakes sometimes—even very experienced accounting and payroll professionals. What's key is your ability to analyze information, figure out where the problem is, and find a solution.
Employers are looking for new recruits who can handle a challenge calmly, work through problems methodically, and learn from their mistakes. Don't worry: you'll get plenty of practice in training!
Accounting & Payroll Skill #6: Organization & Attention to Detail
What's more important in accounting and payroll than being well-organized? This is an absolutely essential skill for anyone starting out in this field. You'll need to keep track of payroll schedules, new legislation, accounting receipts, cash flow, tax deadlines, and a host of other information.
Each day, week, and month, you'll need to carefully organize your time so you stay on schedule and get tasks done on time. But don't forget, an eye for small details is also crucial to ensure that while you're rushing to meet those deadlines, you're not making errors.
This is why many "top skills lists" for accounting and payroll focus on the ability to work under pressure without compromising quality. Successful people in this field are calm, focused, and natural planners.
And there you have it: six of the most important skills you'll need to start a career in accounting and payroll. Think you have the perfect combination of technical skills and personal traits needed to excel in this field?
Want to learn more about Accounting and Payroll training?
Herzing College offers a diploma program in accounting and payroll through our Ottawa, Toronto, and Winnipeg campuses. If you're interested in this training, your next step is to speak with admissions. An admissions advisor will explain costs, courses, careers, and how to get started.
Chat live with an advisor right now. Or click below to explore the Accounting and Payroll Administration program. We're here to help!