Want to Work in Accounting and Payroll? 5 Steps to Take First

Updated December 2023

What’s it really like to work in accounting and payroll? Will you feel happy in this role? What about job opportunities where you live—how hard will it be to find your first job? 

All good questions for anyone considering a career in this field. If you’re thinking about investing in accounting and payroll training, you need answers to these questions before you get started. 

That’s what this post is all about. These are the first five steps you should take and the things you should know before you start training and commit to this career path. 

Your education is the most important investment you’ll ever make. Go through each of these steps to ensure you’re on the right track. By the end of step five, you’ll know for sure if accounting and payroll is the perfect program for you. Let’s get started. 


Step #1: Understand what an accounting/payroll clerk actually does 

If you want to know if you’re a good fit for a job in accounting and payroll, you need to nail down exactly what this job involves. What will you be doing on a day-to-day basis at work? 

The first thing you should know is that sometimes these are two separate roles. You may get hired as an accounting technician/clerk. Or you could get hired as a payroll administrator/clerk. 

On the other hand, in some companies, these jobs are combined into one position. Accounting and payroll training will prepare you for both possibilities. You’ll be ready to do bookkeeping and payroll tasks for any type of organization (a business, nonprofit, school, government agency, etc.) 

What are some typical tasks for both roles? You’ll be responsible for: 

  • Calculating and preparing cheques for payroll (usually twice a month) 
  • Preparing Records of Employment 
  • Entering new employee information into the company database 
  • Assisting employees with payroll inquires  
  • Preparing invoices 
  • Preparing financial and accounting reports 
  • Updating the general ledger (information on company assets, liabilities, income, and expenses) 
  • Preparing accounts payable and receivable 
  • Following up on any unpaid client invoices  
  • Assisting with administrative duties (filing, answering phones, ordering office supplies, etc.) 

Key skills: To succeed in this position you need to be good at math, be comfortable learning computer software, enjoy analyzing data, and be a strong problem-solver. Accuracy and attention to detail are key—the company will be trusting you with very important financial transactions. 


Step #2: Talk to someone who works in accounting and payroll 

Now you know the “official” job description for accounting and payroll, but you can only learn so much by reading a list of typical tasks and responsibilities. You need to know what it’s really like to work in this role. You need to talk to someone with experience in the position. 

Reach out to any friends, family, or contacts who work in accounting and payroll. Ask them about their experiences. Talk about pros and cons, and what they like/don’t like about their career. Ask about how they got started and the kind of work they do on a daily basis. Get their advice on whether you’d be a good fit for this occupation. 

Even if you only talk with one person in the field, it will help you get a clearer picture of whether you’re right for this job. 


Step #3: Check demand for accounting and payroll jobs where you live 

Take some time to figure out the job outlook for accounting and payroll where you live. Luckily, accounting professionals are almost always in demand, but it’s important to confirm this for your city—before you invest in training. 

Check out job search sites like Indeed. Type in payroll clerk or accounting clerk and see how many listings come up.  

You can also look at the Government of Canada Job Bank. They research demand and job opportunities in hundreds of occupations, for every province and city in Canada. 


Step #4: Research Accounting and Payroll programs near you 

Many colleges offer accounting and payroll programs. There are programs of different lengths, full-time or part-time, on campus or online. Take a look at the options and review the courses included in the training. 

All accounting and payroll diplomas include a similar set of courses. Read through them carefully because these are the topics you’ll be studying. These are the exact skills you’ll be developing during your training.

There shouldn’t be any surprises after you sign up for the program!


Step #5: Meet with an Admissions Advisor  

Once you’ve narrowed it down to one or two accounting and payroll colleges, your final step is to meet with admissions advisors at each school. 

This is your chance to tour the campus and get all your questions answered. You might even be able to drop in on an accounting class and meet the instructor. 

Your meeting with admissions will help you know which school is a good fit for you. Is the advisor helpful and friendly? Do they explain the program clearly, and help you understand career options, financial aid, and how to apply? 

Every student is a little bit different—with different learning needs, scheduling issues, and career goals. Talk to the advisor about your unique situation, to make sure you choose a school that will support your success. 


Pulling it all together... 

If you follow these five steps, you’ll be fully prepared to start your accounting and payroll career. You’ll know this program is right for you, and you’ll choose a college that fits your needs.  

And if accounting isn’t your true calling? You’ll know this before you invest in training, and waste time on a career path that doesn’t match your talents.  

And when you meet with admissions, they can help guide you toward a diploma program that suits you better. Either way, you win. 

Here’s a quick recap of those five steps: 

  1. Understand the accounting and payroll job description. 
  2. Talk to someone with experience in this position.
  3. Check demand for accounting and payroll professionals in your area.
  4. Research quality accounting and payroll programs.
  5. Meet with an admissions advisor. 


Ready to get started? 

Click below to browse the accounting and payroll program at Herzing College. It’s less than 12 months long and includes an internship. Follow the link to see program details, chat live with an admissions advisor, or request free information by email. We’re here to help!

Explore the Online Accounting & Payroll Program

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