What does a Payroll Officer do?

Payroll officers undertake various tasks which include crunching numbers and collecting information about employees. They check whether employees are being paid correctly, maintain accurate payroll records and ensure workers are paid on time. Aside from ensuring workers are paid correctly, payroll officers set up new employee records including; name, address, contact number, salary, benefits, job history and superannuation account details.

Payroll officers work closely with Human Resources (HR) managers to ensure compliance with federal and state laws and regulations. They can also help prepare annual reports, ensuring companies comply with government regulations.

Payroll officers can play a role in the company’s financial reporting, putting together annual, quarterly and monthly payroll statements.

A payroll officer can work in a wide variety of industries such as retail and consultancy companies or even in technical sectors such as manufacturing, mining and construction.  

What formal qualifications do you need to work in payroll?

Whilst a Diploma in Payroll Services is not absolutely necessary to work as a payroll clerk, it does help prove to employers you have the knowledge required.

A stepping stone to this qualification can be the Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping.

Payroll clerks deal with people’s money and ensure that everything is paid correctly. They process wages, salaries, pensions, allowances, deductions, insurance premiums, and taxes. Payroll clerks must keep accurate records of employees’ hours worked, earnings, tax payments, sick pay, holiday entitlements, and much more.

The role requires good communication skills and attention to detail. You will need to understand how companies operate, including payroll software systems and regulations relating to employment law. You will also need to know about government legislation and taxation rules.

You will need to be able to use spreadsheets and databases, and some knowledge of Microsoft Office applications is useful. Payroll clerks may be asked to complete forms electronically and print reports. Some roles require working shifts, so flexibility is important.

What skills do you need to be a payroll officer?

Soft Skills

Verbal communication skills are important as you must be able to communicate effectively with clients. You’ll need to be able to explain complex concepts clearly and concisely, as well as communicate effectively with different types of people that work in all areas from employees and management to contractors. Answering employee questions is a common part of the job. 

Basic Mathematical Skills

Basic mathematical skills are required to be a successful payroll officer. These include the ability to work with numbers, understand simple math calculations and use spreadsheets in order to produce accurate results.

Accounting Skills

You’ll also need to understand basic accounting principles and how to calculate superannuation, taxes and deductions.

Software Skills

You’ll need to know how to use spreadsheets and accounting and tax software effectively. A good understanding of spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets will help.

Knowledge of commonly used computer accounting programs such as Xero or QuickBooks is expected.

Is Payroll a good career?

There aren’t high entry requirements to working in Payroll and you don’t need a degree. If you like working with numbers and helping people you might find it’s a good fit for you. 


The median full-time earnings are $75,556 per annum (approximately $39 per hour).

With about 66% of payroll officers working full-time hours across all their jobs.


Full-time workers work an average of 41 hour per week which is less than the average for all workers at 44 hours per week.

Working from home

It’s common for people working in this industry to work from home especially with the move to cloud based accounting software. 

Job Growth Outlook

According to the National Skills Commission, the number of jobs in Payroll will increase by 4.9% by 2026. With current numbers at 42,100 expected to grow to 44,200 in 2026.

Ongoing Payroll Training and Continuing Professional Education (CPE)

One of the requirements of working in Payroll is to keep up to date with new legislation, so ongoing training is required.

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