Career Development

Controller Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

Controllers manage a company's finances, including its cash flow and company-wide financial policies. They work with managers to keep track of what's going on with the company's money so they can make decisions based on accurate information.

Controllers manage a company’s finances, including its cash flow and company-wide financial policies. They work with managers to keep track of what’s going on with the company’s money so they can make decisions based on accurate information.

A controller’s work may focus on a specific area of finance, such as accounts receivable or treasury management. Controllers may also oversee the development of financial policies and procedures for the company.

A controller also monitors the progress of a company’s financial goals, such as increasing revenue or reducing costs. Controllers work with other managers to make decisions about the company’s overall financial strategy.

Controller Job Duties

Controllers have a wide range of duties including:

  • Preparing financial reports and other accounting records for companies as required by federal and state laws
  • Verifying the accuracy of financial transactions to ensure that funds are being applied correctly and expenditures are being made in accordance with set policies
  • Reviewing data to identify trends or changes that may affect company operations or profitability
  • Calculating payroll deductions or contributions to savings programs such as 401(k) plans and health care benefits
  • Preparing budgets, including capital budgets for purchases of new equipment and facility expansions
  • Providing financial analysis and projections to help management make informed decisions about business proposals
  • Researching market conditions and identifying opportunities to increase revenue via new products or service offerings such as leases or financing arrangements
  • Tracking information such as cash flow, inventory levels, accounts receivable, and accounts payable for large corporations with multiple locations
  • Working with external auditing firms to conduct regular audits of the company’s finances; overseeing the completion of internal audits; analyzing audit results; and recommending any necessary corrective action to management

Controller Salary & Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics reports that, as of May 2020, the median annual wage for controllers is $134,180. The top 10% of earners are making more than $208,000, while the bottom 10% are making less than $70,830.

The amount of controllers is expected to grow 17% between 2020-2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. The increased demand for financial managers will be driven by the need to manage the growing amount of money being held by companies.

Controller Job Requirements

Controllers have a variety of responsibilities, including financial reporting, forecasting, and strategic planning.

Education: A bachelor’s degree in accounting is the most common educational requirement for a controller. Many companies, however, require candidates to have a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting. This degree can help an aspiring controller gain knowledge of business operations and management.

Training: Most controllers receive training as part of their job as they progress through their career. This training can be formal or informal and comes from a supervisor or another employee. Formal training consists of courses that take place outside of normal working hours. These courses teach accounting principles and explain the controllers role within the organization. Informal training occurs during the course of daily work and may include mentoring and shadowing.

Certifications: Certifications are not required to become a controller, but they can increase an analyst’s marketability and earning potential. Popular certifications for controllers include Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Management Accountant (CMA).

Controller Skills

The following skills are required for this job:

Analytical skills: This job requires a high level of analytical skills. You must be able to determine whether the numbers you’re looking at make sense and how they compare with previous figures.

Knowledge of accounting software: Most companies use accounting software packages to keep track of their finances. Knowing how to use these programs will help you perform your job more efficiently.

Interpersonal skills: Because you’ll be working closely with others, including subordinates, it’s important that you get along well with people. It’s also essential that you can work effectively as part of a team.

Financial knowledge: A strong financial background will help you understand the business environment in which you work.

Analytical skills: You’ll have to look at the big picture while also being detail-oriented. An ability to multitask is also important because controllers often juggle multiple projects at once.

Controller Work Environment

Controllers typically work in an office setting, spending much of their time sitting at a desk. However, occasional travel for conferences may be required due to the senior nature of the position. The position requires good interpersonal skills as controllers must interact with board members, auditors, investors, bankers, and accounting staff. Controllers must be individuals who can carry a high level of responsibility and accountability without becoming unnecessarily stressed.

Controller Career Advancement

A controller is a profession that might have multiple career paths. It’s possible to advance to the position of Chief Financial Officer, for example, or even move into banking or another field.

Other controllers may enjoy more flexibility within their roles, choosing to focus on specific aspects of their job over others. Perhaps they want to concentrate on taxes or on auditing, for example. If this sounds appealing to you, you should express that interest to your employer. You can also look into starting your own accounting firm with the help of your network and existing contacts.

Controller Trends

Here are three trends influencing how Controllers work. Controllers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Increased Importance of Cloud-Based Accounting Software

Cloud-based accounting software is increasingly becoming a popular choice for accountants and small businesses, largely due to the benefits that it can have on data security.

In fact, a recent study found that 63% of small business owners feel that cloud-based solutions offer greater data security than traditional accounting software because it is not stored locally on a computer.

Furthermore, cloud-based accounting software allows users to access their financial information from anywhere at any time via the internet, making it ideal for professionals who travel frequently or work remotely.

Management of Big Data

Data analysis is a rapidly growing area in the business world, largely due to the growing availability of big data. As a result, more companies are hiring controllers who have a background in data analytics or business intelligence so that they can be sure to capture all of their key metrics.

This trend is likely to continue into the future as businesses seek out professionals who can manage big data for an increasing number of purposes. 

The Emergence of the Chief Financial Officer

The position of CFO has emerged as a new executive role in many organizations and has become increasingly popular as companies look to improve financial management, develop growth strategies, and gain competitive advantages over other businesses.

CFOs work with leaders at all levels of an organization to ensure that financial information is accurate and timely, often acting as a liaison between internal stakeholders and external partners such as investors. This emerging trend is likely to continue into the future as more businesses look for ways to streamline operations and improve profits.

How to Become a Controller

1. Planning Your Career Path

Controllers keep the books for companies. The position is ideal for those who like to be busy and organized, as controllers must be able to manage multiple projects at once while maintaining meticulous records.

A background in accounting is an asset for those interested in becoming a controller, but it’s not a requirement; those with other strengths such as leadership or public speaking may find that their skills translate well into this role. Controllers also need to be detail-oriented and extremely organized; someone who can stay on top of deadlines and make quick decisions will fare well in this career.

2. Writing a Resume

The duties of a controller are incredibly diverse, so a resume for a controller position should be tailored to the job description in question. It’s essential that you understand what kind of skills are required for the role, and then emphasize your experience in that area. This includes work experience, certifications, or educational credentials that demonstrate your knowledge of accounting principles and practices. It is also helpful to include any leadership experience you have, especially if it relates to budgeting or finance.

Once you have finished doing that, it’s important to be sure that all of your information is clear and concise. Remember that the employer will be reviewing hundreds of resumes, so you want to make sure that yours stands out.

3. Applying for Jobs

There are a number of different routes you can take to find a job as a controller. We recommend starting by doing some research on what companies in your area are looking for and what skills they value most. You can use LinkedIn to search for employers and review their career pages. You can also join organizations like the Association of Accounting Technicians or the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, which will provide you with networking opportunities and job leads.

Job seekers should leverage their personal network by reaching out to old clients or anyone they know who works in the industry. Another great place to look is within your own company — if there are openings or people who leave, it’s an opportunity for someone else to fill the role.  You can also look for recruiters at your local chapter meetings and ask them if they have any opportunities. 

It’s also important to stay updated on industry news and trends.

4. Ace the Interview

It is important to be well-prepared for an interview as a controller candidate. Make sure you have the most up-to-date financial knowledge, including auditing, reporting, budgeting, forecasting, and so on. Learn about the company’s goals and objectives, as well as its organizational structure. Remember to do your research on the interviewer beforehand!

During the interview, be professional and dress appropriately. Make sure you come prepared with plenty of questions and make sure to answer questions thoughtfully. Remember to maintain eye contact and to use gestures (nods, smiles, etc.) instead of relying on verbal responses alone.

If you are asked why you would like to work for the company, you should show genuine interest in the company’s mission and vision. If you can, provide specific examples of how you have contributed to the success of other companies in the past.


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