Controller Job Description and Career Overview


Controller Job Description and Career Overview

Individuals possessing a solid background in accounting, along with strong leadership skills, often make good controllers. Companies hire these professionals to oversee accounting operations and the staff members who perform such tasks. Depending on the business’s structure, controllers oftentimes report directly to the CFO or CEO.

As a high-level position requiring a good amount of experience and education, a controller stands to earn a substantial wage. reports an annual average salary of $195,911. Job prospects are likewise attractive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment of financial managers—the category under which it classifies controllers—to grow 16% between 2018 and 2028.

Might you be a good match for this accounting career? Here, we look at what’s involved in becoming a controller.

Controller Job Description

Controllers are valuable members of senior management at various types of private and nonprofit organizations. (Counterparts at governmental organizations often go by the title of “comptroller.”) Duties vary by factors such as the size and nature of the establishment, but common responsibilities for controllers include:

  • Ensuring accuracy of financial reporting and compliance with federal, state, and local laws
  • Interpreting financial data
  • Overseeing the work of accountants, auditors, and related staff
  • Supplying managers in other departments with relevant financial information
  • Directing the preparation of financial reports, taxes, summaries, forecasts, and budgets

Skills Required of Controllers

For starters, controllers need a strong foundation in Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). If you’re working for a company that’s publicly traded, knowledge of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regulations also is a must. Modern controllers should be adept at using Excel, NetSuite, and other industry software.

Since errors can have significant repercussions, controllers should be detail-oriented. Superior organizational skills and ability to juggle multiple demands aid in getting projects completed correctly and on time.

As leaders, controllers benefit from good interpersonal skills that keep team members motivated and on-task. Controllers also need to be good communicators capable of giving clear directions to staff members and explaining numbers and other financial information in ways less mathematically oriented management peers can understand.

Qualifications and Educational Background for Controllers

Aspiring controllers usually start with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or a similar field. Possessing a master’s degree in one of these disciplines or earning an MBA greatly increases marketability as it demonstrates the depth of knowledge needed for upper-level positions.

Many employers only consider applicants who are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) or on track to become one since the distinction expands the scope of tasks an accountant is legally allowed to perform.

In most states, CPAs complete 30 semester hours beyond a bachelor’s degree, and pass a rigorous national exam. To maintain professional competency, renewal involves completing Continuing Professional Education (CPE) requirements.

Another well-known distinction that can help with career advancement is a CMA (Certified Management Accountant), which also involves a mixture of specific educational and work experience, as well as passing two exams. While a CPA shows mastery of concepts relating to auditing, tax, reporting, and regulation, a CMA focuses more on management, strategy, and decision-making. Both demonstrate the type of achievement and commitment expected of a controller.

Because they will deal with money and sensitive information, candidates for controller jobs must be able to pass an extensive background check. Keeping a clean, respectable online presence is also advisable.

Look at any job posting for a controller, and you’ll quickly discover the premium placed on track record. Companies often require at least seven years of accounting experience, with calls for 10-15 years not uncommon. Demonstrating a progression of increasing responsibility grabs attention.

Finding Jobs as a Controller

While it may not be the first type of job that comes to mind when one thinks of flexible work, a search on controller in the FlexJobs database reveals quite a range of prospects. Companies realize that flexibility helps attract and retain top talent, so they increasingly tout options such as telecommuting, alternate schedules, and part-time hours.


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Beth Braccio Hering, Writer, Freelance Jobs

Beth Braccio Hering has been a freelance writer for 20 years. In addition to extensive contributions to various Encyclopaedia Britannica products, her work has been published by outlets such as CareerBuilder, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter, Walt Disney Internet Group, and…Read More >

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