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Controller vs. Auditor: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A controller is responsible for an organization’s financial statements and records, while an auditor is responsible for examining these statements and records to ensure they are accurate. Both positions require a high level of education and experience, and both are critical to the success of a business. In this article, we compare and contrast the roles of controllers and auditors, and we provide information on what you can expect from each profession.

What is a Controller?

Controllers are responsible for the financial management of a company. This includes creating financial reports, overseeing the budget, and ensuring that financial laws and regulations are followed. Controllers work with the CEO and other executive staff to make sure that the company is financially stable and to create long-term financial goals. They also work with the accounting department to make sure that all financial records are accurate and up to date.

What is an Auditor?

Auditors are responsible for examining an organization’s financial statements and ensuring that they are accurate and compliant with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). They may also be responsible for auditing an organization’s internal controls to ensure that they are effective at preventing and detecting errors or fraud. Auditors typically work for accounting firms, but they may also work for government agencies or companies in other industries.

Controller vs. Auditor

Here are the main differences between a controller and an auditor.

Job Duties

The duties of a controller and an auditor differ in their specific focus. A controller is responsible for the overall financial health of a company, so they concentrate on ensuring that all aspects of finance are functioning properly. This includes accounting, but also involves other departments like shipping and receiving and sales.

An auditor focuses specifically on one aspect of a company’s operations: accounting. Auditors perform detailed reviews of a company’s books to ensure that everything is accurate. They may suggest improvements to accounting practices to make sure records remain clear and easy to access.

Job Requirements

Controllers and auditors both need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Many employers prefer candidates who have a master’s degree, such as a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in accounting. Some controllers also become certified public accountants (CPAs). To earn this credential, you must pass the CPA exam administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Auditors might pursue additional certifications through organizations like the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) to show their commitment to the profession. The IIA offers the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) credential, which requires passing an exam and meeting experience requirements. Some auditors also choose to become certified fraud examiners (CFAs), which requires completing an accredited training program and passing an exam.

Work Environment

Controllers and auditors typically work in different environments. Auditors often travel to the locations where their clients operate, such as a manufacturing plant or retail store. They may spend long hours on site evaluating operations and procedures. Controllers usually work in an office environment with other employees of the company they audit. They may also travel to visit sites but do so less frequently than auditors.


Both controllers and auditors need to have excellent analytical skills. Controllers use these skills when they are reviewing financial statements, preparing reports and developing budgets. Auditors also need to be able to analyze data, but they typically do so to identify trends or areas of concern that may warrant further investigation.

Both controllers and auditors need to have strong communication skills. Controllers often interact with other departments within a company to explain financial concepts, provide updates on budgeting progress and offer recommendations for improving financial processes. Auditors need to be able to communicate their findings to both clients and management in a clear and concise manner.

While controllers and auditors share some skills, they also differ in some key ways. For example, controllers benefit from having strong organizational skills as they often oversee multiple projects at one time. They also need to be able to multitask and prioritize tasks effectively. Auditors, on the other hand, need to have strong research skills. This is because much of their job involves investigating financial records and identifying potential areas of fraud or error.


The average salary for a controller is $127,160 per year, while the average salary for an auditor is $66,671 per year. The salary for both positions may vary depending on the size of the company, the location of the job and the level of experience the employee has.


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