Career Development

What Does a Cost Controller Do?

Find out what a cost controller does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a cost controller.

Cost controllers are responsible for managing the costs of producing goods and services. They work with a variety of different departments to ensure that production is happening as efficiently as possible, while also ensuring that quality standards are being met.

Cost controllers may be involved in many aspects of the production process, from sourcing raw materials to overseeing manufacturing or assembly line processes. Their goal is to make sure that products can be produced at a reasonable cost while maintaining a high level of quality.

Cost Controller Job Duties

Cost controllers have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Monitoring and updating cost estimates for projects to ensure that costs are within expected ranges
  • Reviewing expense reports to ensure that expenses are reasonable and appropriate for the circumstances
  • Coordinating with other departments such as human resources, payroll, accounting, and finance to ensure that all costs are accurately tracked
  • Conducting cost analyses to identify areas where costs can be reduced or eliminated altogether
  • Monitoring budgets to ensure that spending does not exceed approved levels
  • Collecting cost data from suppliers or subcontractors to track material costs
  • Preparing reports to management regarding costs and expenses
  • Preparing bid estimates for new projects or bids on existing projects
  • Managing supplier relationships to ensure that the company is receiving quality products at competitive prices

Cost Controller Salary & Outlook

Cost controllers’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the size and industry of the company. They may also earn additional compensation in the form of bonuses.

  • Median Annual Salary: $105,000 ($50.48/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $148,000 ($71.15/hour)

The employment of cost controllers is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

Demand for cost control will continue to be strong because businesses want to keep costs down and remain competitive. Cost controllers will be needed to help companies find ways to reduce expenses and increase efficiency.

Related: Cost Controller Interview Questions and Answers

Cost Controller Job Requirements

There are a number of qualifications required to obtain a position as a cost controller. They include:

Education: Cost controllers are typically required to have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or another closely related field. Some employers prefer candidates who have a master’s degree in business administration (MBA). An MBA is useful for cost controllers who want to advance their careers and increase their earning potential.

Training & Experience: Cost controllers typically receive on-the-job training after being hired. This training may last for a few months and may include shadowing current cost controllers and performing duties under supervision until they are comfortable enough to work independently.

Certifications & Licenses: While certifications are not required for a cost controller role, they can help you impress potential employers while also increasing your earning potential.

Cost Controller Skills

Cost controllers need the following skills in order to be successful:

Financial analysis: Financial analysis is the ability to interpret financial data and make predictions about the future. As a cost estimator, you use financial analysis to determine the costs of a project and how to reduce them. You use financial analysis to make decisions about which materials to use and how to complete a project in the most cost-effective way.

Budgeting: Budgeting is the process of estimating the costs of a project or task. As a cost controller, you may be responsible for creating budgets for projects. This can include researching the costs of materials, labor and other factors that may affect the budget. You may also be responsible for monitoring the budget throughout the project to ensure it stays within the original parameters.

Data analysis: Data analysis is the ability to interpret information and draw conclusions from it. As a cost estimator, you use data analysis to determine the cost of a project. You may use data analysis to compare the cost of materials from one supplier to another, for example, to determine which supplier offers the best value.

Problem-solving: Problem-solving skills allow cost estimators to find solutions to unexpected challenges. For example, if a supplier’s prices change or a project takes longer than expected, a cost estimator with strong problem-solving skills can find solutions to these issues. They may be able to find alternative suppliers or solutions that allow them to complete the project on time and within budget.

Communication: As a cost estimator, you need to communicate with a variety of people, including clients, managers, suppliers and other cost estimators. You need to be able to clearly explain your work and answer questions about it. You also need to be able to communicate effectively with suppliers and clients to ensure you understand their needs and they understand your work.

Cost Controller Work Environment

Cost controllers work in a variety of settings, including corporate offices, manufacturing plants, and construction sites. They typically work regular business hours, although they may occasionally work overtime to meet deadlines. Cost controllers need to be able to work well under pressure and handle multiple tasks simultaneously. They must be able to pay close attention to detail and have excellent analytical and problem-solving skills.

Cost Controller Trends

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

The Use of AI and Machine Learning

As artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning become more popular, businesses are starting to use these technologies to automate tasks that were once done by humans. This is leading to an increased demand for cost controllers who have experience with these technologies.

Cost controllers can utilize AI and machine learning to automate tasks such as data entry, accounting, and auditing. This will allow them to focus on more important tasks, such as monitoring costs and ensuring that the company is getting the best deal possible.

The Emergence of Supply Chain Analytics

The emergence of supply chain analytics is a trend that is quickly gaining popularity among businesses. This trend involves using data analysis to make better decisions about how to manage supply chains.

Cost controllers can take advantage of this trend by becoming experts in supply chain analytics. They can then use their knowledge to help businesses make better decisions about where to source materials, how to manage inventory, and other aspects of supply chain management.

More Focus on Cost Reduction

As businesses strive to become more efficient, they are placing a greater emphasis on cost reduction. This means that cost controllers will be in high demand, as they are responsible for finding ways to reduce costs without sacrificing quality.

In order to be successful in this field, cost controllers will need to be able to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions that meet the needs of the business while also being cost-effective. Additionally, they will need to be able to communicate effectively with other members of the team in order to get buy-in for their ideas.

How to Become a Cost Controller

A career as a cost controller can be rewarding in many ways. It offers the opportunity to work with a variety of people and industries, learn new things every day, and make a positive impact on the bottom line.

To be successful in this role, you need to have a strong understanding of business operations and accounting principles. You also need to be able to think critically and creatively about how to reduce costs and increase profits.

If you want to become a cost controller, start by gaining experience in an accounting or finance role. Then take courses in cost accounting and management so that you have the knowledge and skills needed for this job.

Advancement Prospects

Cost controllers typically advance to positions of greater responsibility within their organization. Some may become supervisors, managers, or directors. Many cost controllers eventually become financial managers.

In order to advance, cost controllers should keep up with new developments in accounting and computer technology. They should also consider pursuing a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation.

Cost controllers who are interested in management may want to pursue a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting or finance. MBA programs typically take two years to complete and often require applicants to have several years of work experience.

Cost Controller Job Description Example

As a cost controller at [CompanyX], you will be responsible for ensuring that the company’s costs are controlled and within the budget. You will work with the accounting and finance team to develop and implement cost control policies and procedures. You will also be responsible for preparing cost reports and analyzing cost variances. The ideal candidate will have experience in cost accounting and cost control, as well as strong analytical and problem-solving skills.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Develop and maintain cost control systems and procedures
  • Monitor project expenditures to ensure that they are within the approved budget
  • Prepare periodic reports detailing project costs and cost-to-complete estimates
  • Identify potential cost overruns and recommend corrective action
  • Assist in the development of project budgets
  • Review change orders to determine their impact on the project budget
  • Monitor project schedule and revise cost estimates accordingly
  • Interface with project managers, engineers, and other personnel to obtain information necessary for cost control purposes
  • Attend project meetings and provide input on financial matters
  • Maintain accurate records of project costs
  • Perform earned value analysis
  • Prepare final project cost report

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in business, accounting, finance, or related field
  • 5+ years experience in cost accounting or financial analysis
  • Proven ability to develop and implement cost-saving initiatives
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Advanced proficiency in Microsoft Excel
  • Excellent communication, presentation, and interpersonal skills

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • MBA or other advanced degree
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation
  • Cost Accounting Standards Board (CASB) certification
  • Experience with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems
  • Working knowledge of statistical analysis software, such as SAS or SPSS


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