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Controller vs. Finance Manager: What Are the Differences?

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

A controller and finance manager are both responsible for financial planning and analysis within a company. However, there are several key differences between the two positions. The controller is typically responsible for all accounting functions, while the finance manager focuses on financial planning and forecasting. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between controllers and finance managers, and we provide tips for pursuing a career in either field.

What is a Controller?

Controllers are responsible for the financial planning and management of an organization. They produce financial reports, direct investment activities, and develop strategies to ensure the long-term financial health of the company. Controllers work closely with other members of senior management to make sure that the organization is meeting its financial goals. They also work with auditors to ensure that the company’s financial statements are accurate. In large organizations, the controller may be responsible for supervising a team of accountants and financial analysts.

What is a Finance Manager?

Finance Managers are responsible for overseeing the financial operations of a company. They produce financial reports, monitor spending, and develop strategies to increase revenue and decrease costs. Finance Managers also work with other departments to ensure that all financial goals are met. They typically report to the Chief Financial Officer or another senior executive. Finance Managers may also be responsible for managing a team of financial analysts and accountants.

Controller vs. Finance Manager

Here are the main differences between a controller and a finance manager.

Job Duties

The job duties of a finance manager vary based on the company and its needs. In general, though, these professionals handle financial matters for their organization. They may create budgets, set financial goals and monitor spending to ensure that the company meets its financial obligations. Finance managers often work with other departments, such as sales and accounting, to understand how the company spends its money and where it can improve.

The daily job duties of a controller depend on the size and type of business. Controllers typically oversee the entire financial system of a company, including bookkeeping and reporting. They also advise other managers in the company on financial decisions. While controllers perform some of the same tasks as finance managers, they usually focus more on analysis than implementation.

Job Requirements

To become a controller or finance manager, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting, business administration or another related field. Some employers prefer candidates to have a master’s degree as well, but it is not required for entry-level positions. Additionally, many controllers and finance managers pursue certifications through the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) or the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). These organizations offer training programs that teach professionals how to use financial software and other tools they might need on the job.

Work Environment

Finance managers and controllers typically work in different environments. A controller usually works in an office setting, while a finance manager may work in the field to ensure that their company is operating efficiently. For example, a controller might work at a manufacturing plant to monitor production and make sure that employees are following all safety protocols.

A finance manager often travels to visit clients or attend trade shows to promote their business. They also spend time on the road visiting customers and attending conferences.


Both controllers and finance managers use financial skills to perform their jobs. This includes understanding financial statements, cash flow analysis and budgeting. They also both need to have strong analytical skills to be able to identify trends and issues within an organization’s finances.

Controllers tend to focus more on the accuracy of an organization’s financial reporting and compliance with regulations. As a result, they often benefit from having strong attention to detail and being highly organized. They may also use their interpersonal skills when working with other departments within an organization to ensure that everyone is following the same financial procedures.

Finance managers typically have a more strategic role within an organization. They use their analytical skills to develop long-term plans for an organization’s financial growth. They also use their communication skills to present their findings and recommendations to upper management. Finance managers may also benefit from having project management skills to oversee the implementation of new financial initiatives.


The average salary for a controller is $127,160 per year, while the average salary for a finance manager is $107,233 per year. Both of these salaries can 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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