How to Become a

Controller

The complete career guide to be a Controller: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $134,330
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 6.8%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • High Income Potential
    Career Attribute

The controller’s job is that of an experienced financial manager, and he or she has to take charge of preparing various financial documentation, along with overseeing the performance of finance departments.


What is a Controller?

Duties

A controller has important job responsibilities that involve the following points:

  • Supporting the updating and implementation of major company objectives as linked to financial planning, accounting, payroll and budget as per federal and state law.
  • Functioning as the primary point of contact for the company’s external audit firm, to promote seamless annual financial and retirement audits.
  • Undertaking the close supervision and evaluation of staff in the finance department, which involves coordination with external vendors for service delivery and ensuring quality standards.
  • Addressing any data requests from departments such as HR, IT or Sales, or financial management pertaining to the region or field.
  • Taking care of financial reporting on a daily, monthly and weekly basis as agreed upon, and measuring overall performance.

Day In The Life

As a controller, your main job day-to-day is to ensure that your finance team is working effectively, and report their overall performance levels to your superior officer, in this case the finance director. In addition, your role extends to creating efficient internal control structures that will lessen the possibility of any miscalculations, and ensure that regulations and protocols are complied with. Depending on the size of your organization, you may also lead the annual budget process and update forecasts as required. Most organizations prefer to have a controller simply as a multi-tasker that monitors and maintains multiple financial elements at the company, like making the company taxes, optimizing profits from the annual budget, etc.

You will get the opportunity to work across departments and this will require flawless and articulate communication skills. You may have the chance to take the lead on staff development in the finance department, and ensure the smooth running of areas such as accounts and payroll. To stay on top of the game, controllers have to keep themselves updated regarding recent regulatory changes that may negatively or positively impact the organization.

Work Schedule And Typical Hours

Most of the controller’s work tends to be full-time and office-based where he often supervises a team of accountants, and report to the CFO or the CEO depending on the corporation size. Therefore, the working schedule mostly follow standard business hours of about 40 hours per week. However, this working schedule needs to be flexible enough to consider peak times and unexpected emergencies which happens as the end of the financial year and the annual taxing seasons where longer hours may be added to meet various deadlines. During these periods, controllers work overtime and on vacations.

Projected Job Growth

The employment of controllers is related to the accounting profession and is expected to increase by at least 4 % from 2019 to 2029 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is similar to the expected growth rate for other jobs. Despite recent Technological advances like the introduction of cloud computing which lead to the automation of many accounting tasks, the controller’s job remains highly crucial with a specific focus dedicated to advisory and analytical skills as well as leadership and management skills. However, the market is getting more challenging and you may need to get further education and certification as the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) or MBA (Master of Business Administration). This will help you gain more competitiveness in the job market and find your dream job in this field.

Typical Employers

Controllers can virtually in all companies that hire in-house accounting teams which includes all large companies and organizations from various fields. Employers could be in the private and public accounting firms. However, most controllers work in accounting companies that provide outsourcing services to other businesses as Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and KPMG. These companies provide intensive and diverse experience that is critically needed by fresh graduates recently joining this field. You will handle in these companies’ clients from different fields. Additionally, these accounting companies usually offer higher compensation compared to other companies or organizations. Controllers, as a management level job, cannot work remotely or as freelancers. They always need to work with teams that are found in large companies.


How To Become a Controller

At a minimum, an aspiring controller must have completed a bachelor’s degree in related fields like international business, business law, resources management, public administration or business administration. Some of the subject areas that will be covered during your coursework for a college degree are budget analysis, international business, and budget forecasting. In recent times, there are several lucrative opportunities to gain first-hand experience through externship and internship prospects. Many professionals, after completing their bachelor’s degree program, look to refine their management and leadership skills through a Master of Business Administration program.

One way to speed up your career potential is to take a certification exam, after you have gained a few years of experience, along with a degree in accounting. To become a Certified Public Accountant (CFA) ,you need to have completed a training on post-secondary education, and have to pass a detailed assignment. You may also choose to be a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA).

If you are considering becoming a controller, you need to tackle the most complex issues and come up with solutions that work best in no time. Thus, having solid analytical and problem-solving skills with the ability to work under minimum supervision is extremely beneficial. In addition, you should be confident about your personal strengths, and be a smart thinker with a logical bent of mind. Since this role is quite public-facing, you also need to hone your leadership capabilities, as you will eventually lead a bigger team.  Being organized also helps greatly to keep track of overlapping or last minute deadlines.


Controller Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range

$84,600

Average

$134,330

High Range

---

National Hourly Wage

Low Range

$41/hr

Average

$65/hr

High Range

---

How do Controller salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Controller's can make an average annual salary of $134,330, or $65 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $84,600 or $41 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #24 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally


Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Controller. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.


Highest Education Among Controllers

  • 2.5%   Doctorate
  • 18.8%   Masters
  • 40.8%   Bachelors
  • 7.1%   Associates
  • 19%   College
  • 10.7%   High School
  • 1%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs

555,900

2024 Est. Jobs

593,500

Job Growth Rate

6.8%

Est. New Jobs

37,600

How does Controller job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 37,600 jobs for a total of 593,500 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 6.8% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #330 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally


What Companies Employ The Most Controllers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Depository credit intermediation 80,100 5,100 5%
Management of companies and enterprises 64,700 3,200 3%
Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services 24,700 1,300 1%

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