What does it mean to work in accounting and payroll? What are the typical tasks you'll complete working for a small to mid-size company, corporate department, or government division? And most importantly, what's demand like right now for accounting and payroll graduates in the Ottawa area?
In this post, we aim to answer all three questions so students can understand what's involved in launching an accounting career in Ottawa—the skills they'll need to succeed, and the latest news on job outlook from Statistics Canada. Let's get started.
Typical Accounting/Payroll Duties, Knowledge & Skills
A reputable accounting and payroll college in Ottawa will prepare students to master entry-level requirements for both accounting clerk and payroll clerk positions. While some organizations may ask you to perform duties related to both roles, they are technically classified as two separate occupations by the Canada Job Bank.
However, since these occupations are clearly related (and taught as one diploma program), we'll list their duties together here—as well as the skills and knowledge employers expect of graduates.
1. Using computerized accounting software
Accounting clerks must understand how to use industry-standard accounting software, such as QuickBooks or Sage Simply Accounting (for small to medium-sized businesses) and ACCPAC for larger organizations.
Diploma programs teach students the fundamentals of computerized accounting for carrying out, tracking, calculating, and managing essentials tasks, including:
- setting up a general ledger (where all the accounting records are organized and stored)
- updating and reconciling accounts payable and receivable
- managing cash receipts and payments
- performing job costing (determining the overall cost of labour, materials, and overhead for a specific project)
- generating financial statements and reports
2. Analyzing financial statements
Accounting and payroll clerks should know how to interpret the financial statements they produce monthly, quarterly or yearly for employers. The three most important financial statements are the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. They reveal crucial information about the overall financial health of a business, and are used to make key management decisions.
3. Working with Excel
Virtually all accounting positions require solid knowledge of Excel. Expected skills for accounting clerks include:
- managing worksheets and workbooks
- using formulas and functions
- creating charts and graphs
- performing in-line and summation calculations
- using VBA macros to automate accounting tasks
4. Payroll processing rules and procedures
Payroll clerks in Ottawa must have a firm grasp of the federal and Ontario employment standards that relate to payroll. And of course, they must understand the fundamentals of calculating and processing payroll including:
- paid leave
- taxable benefits
- employment insurance premiums
- calculating net pay
- preparing records of employment
- preparing T4 statements
- customizing payroll software to meet the needs of individual businesses and organizations
5. Performing clerical and customer service tasks
Accounting and payroll clerks are typically responsible for tasks like word processing, scheduling appointments, and maintaining filing and records systems. They should be proficient in Microsoft Word, Outlook, and PowerPoint. Professionals in this role may also find themselves dealing directly with customers, so excellent communication and problem-solving skills are an asset.
Accounting and payroll training takes approximately 10-12 months to complete, and some diplomas include an internship, so students can gain work experience before graduating.
Employment News for Accounting & Payroll Clerks in Ottawa
The latest labour market research from Statistics Canada shows steady demand for both accounting clerks and payroll clerks in the Ottawa area. Both of these occupations received a 2/3 star-rating for employment potential from the Canada Job Bank—a rating that is expected to remain stable over the next several years (until the next research survey is conducted).
The federal government in Ottawa is a top employer of payroll clerks in particular, giving newcomers to this occupation an edge over their peers in other provinces. Bilingual (French and English) payroll clerks may find greater opportunities in the government sector, as some positions prefer applicants who are proficient in both official languages.
Challenges in the accounting and payroll field? These primarily revolve around emerging technology that can automate certain accounting functions for employers. However, the research shows that despite these options, there remains a wide range of businesses and organizations that need real humans with diverse skills (rather than just computers) to perform important bookkeeping tasks.
What can accounting and payroll clerks expect to earn in the Ottawa area?
The median wage for accounting clerks in Ottawa is $21.95 per hour.
The median wage for payroll clerks in Ottawa is $23.42 per hour.
Have more questions about pursuing an accounting career in Ottawa? Looking for a reputable diploma program, or training advice?
Take a look at Herzing College's Accounting and Payroll Administration program, delivered at the Ottawa campus. Visit the program page for a complete list of included courses, to find out where recent graduates found employment, or to chat live with a knowledgeable advisor. We're here to help!