Life as a Payroll Clerk: Pros, Cons & Job Outlook in Canada

Updated December 2023

Considering training for a job in payroll? Wondering what it's really like to work in this field and how strong your job prospects are? You've come to the right place!

In this post, we're focusing on everything payroll-related, from training requirements to typical workplace pros and cons to the latest job market stats across Canada.

But before we begin, let's review what a  payroll clerk does.  Typical responsibilities in this role include:

  • Calculating, preparing, and distributing employee wages
  • Preparing statements of earnings for employees (showing gross and net salaries and deductions for benefits, pension plans, garnishments, etc.)
  • Processing documents for leaves, medical insurance, pension plans, etc.
  • Preparing T4 statements
  • Preparing and balancing end-of-year reports and reconciling payroll payments to bank statements


What to Expect from Payroll Training

At the college level, payroll training is usually coupled with general instruction in accounting. You can expect to learn a common accounting software package (like QuickBooks, Simply Accounting, or FreshBooks), the principles of managerial and cost accounting, and fundamental corporate accounting principles and practices.

On the payroll side, coursework covers everything students must know to secure entry-level positions as payroll clerks. You can expect to learn:

  • How the entire payroll process works
  • How to calculate deductions and benefits
  • How to handle leaves, terminations, and Workers' Compensation
  • How to process hours of work, EI premiums, income tax, and records of employment
  • How pension plans work
  • Payroll accounting principles and processes

A diploma in payroll can usually be completed in under one year, and typically includes an internship so students can gain real-world experience before graduating. Many colleges offer online payroll training options for students who live far from campus or have busy work/home commitments.  


Typical Pros & Cons of Working in Payroll

It's always important to research both the benefits and drawbacks of the career path you're considering. No job is perfect all the time, and before committing to a training program, it's wise to get as complete a picture as possible—and see if your natural aptitudes and interests are a good match for the demands of the position.


  • Challenging work and a variety of tasks
  • Regular working hours (no weekends or shift work required)
  • A wide variety of potential employers across various industries (finance, manufacturing, government, business services, real estate, healthcare, retail, etc.)
  • A strong emphasis on teamwork (this is not an "isolated" position)
  • Opportunities for advancement with additional certifications (such as the Payroll Compliance Practitioner certificate through the National Payroll Institute)


  • Prolonged periods of sitting (this is a classic desk job, without much opportunity to move around)
  • A certain degree of stress/pressure because payroll clerks and administrators handle important financial and employee payment information
  • Work is often fast-paced, with tight deadlines (payroll usually goes out twice a month, so clerks are often rushing to complete the cycle on time)


key skills for working in payroll

The skills that are most important for success in this field include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Being organized, responsible, and trustworthy (you'll be handling confidential employee financial information)
  • Proficiency in payroll software
  • Being comfortable performing calculations (working with math)
  • Excellent communication and customer service skills
  • Teamwork
  • Knowledge of fundamental accounting principles and processes
  • The ability to multi-task, work with deadlines, and at times, handle pressure

Sound like a good match? Read on for the latest jobs forecast for payroll clerks.


Job Outlook for Payroll Clerks

The latest data from the Government of Canada Job Bank show solid growth in payroll jobs across Canada. Manitoba, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces all get a four-out-of-five-star rating for employment prospects in this field.

In terms of salary, the Job Bank says payroll grads can expect to start at about $40,000 per year. The highest-paid clerks in the country earn about $80,000. The median wage for payroll clerks in Canada is approximately $59,000.


want to prepare for a career in payroll?

Consider Herzing's Accounting and Payroll Administration program. This diploma takes no more than 10 months to complete and includes an internship for real work experience.

Chat live with an admissions advisor to get your questions answered. Or click below for more information. We're here to help!

Explore the Online Accounting & Payroll Program


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