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Occupation description

Payroll officers prepare payrolls and related records for employee salaries and statutory record-keeping purposes. Specific tasks may include:

  • creating and updating files for new and existing employees to record information such as employee contact details, leave taken, overtime, promotions, transfers, tax deductions, health insurance payments and superannuation
  • preparing payroll data from time sheets and other payroll and personnel records
  • processing payment of wages and salaries and issuing and recording adjustments to employees' pay
  • interpreting industrial awards and providing information to others
  • finalising files and arrangements when employees retire, resign or transfer
  • may be involved in maintaining superannuation and other deduction and contribution records

Knowledge, skills and attributes

Payroll assistants need an aptitude for maths, strong organisational skills, the ability to work as part of a team and meet deadlines, strong communication skills and sound computer skills (e.g. business or accounting software). You need to be accurate with an eye for detail, honest, reliable, able to keep information confidential and able to work under pressure.

Working conditions

Generally, payroll clerks work in office environments and work during standard business hours. Part-time work is very common within this profession. The work of payroll clerks is usually supervised by accountants and their client contact is usually by telephone or email. In some organisations, the duties of a payroll clerk may be divided among a number of different positions. If you work for a freight company, you may find yourself in remote mining areas.

Entrance requirements and ongoing training and development

Although it is possible to work as a payroll clerk without formal qualifications, your chances of gaining employment may be improved if you have completed a certificate or diploma in business, accounting or financial services. At minimum, organisations will require completion of relevant secondary school qualifications. They may also require good maths and data entry verification.

In Australia the Certificate III in Business is widely available and teaches the skills and qualifications required to manage records and payroll processes. The Certificate III in Financial Services (Accounts Clerical) is also widely available and teaches the skills required to maintain financial records and prepare financial reports. There are similar qualifications in New Zealand.

Alternatively, there are professional associations in Australia and New Zealand which will provide training , professional development and certification. Some rail organisations may provide an opportunity to become a qualified payroll clerk through a traineeship in financial services.

The following websites will provide you with valuable information about a career as a payroll officer:

The value of a career in the rail industry

For even more details on what you might earn, the diversity of companies you could work for and the career opportunities available, visit the following careers and training websites. Careers in Rail by the Australasian Railway Association; About the Rail Industry by Rail Skills Australasia and Rail Training by the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council (TLISC).

For more information

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Career Path Flowchart

Typical career path for a payroll officer