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What does a controller do?

Controllers guide accounting and financial reporting efforts by overseeing teams of accountants and other finance professionals. Crafting budgets, reviewing transactions, processing tax returns, managing financial risk and completing payroll are a few duties of the controller. While controllers may work for financial firms, they are often full-time employees who play a critical role in keeping companies on solid financial ground. 

How do you become a controller?
Answer Part 1

Aspiring controllers should secure their bachelor’s and master’s, additional certification and five to seven years of work experience.

Answer Part 2

Those pursuing careers as controllers must cultivate a thorough education. Students can complete a four-year degree in majors like finance and accounting, which cover topics like financial analysis and bookkeeping. To reinforce their knowledge, students should pursue a master’s in business administration, accounting or a related field. Some companies also require controllers to demonstrate specific certifications, such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential.  

After finishing their education, rising professionals must gain five to seven years of relevant experience before applying for controller positions. Entry-level roles like junior auditor, financial analyst and accountant are all excellent ways to break into the field and learn key finance tools and concepts. Successful professionals can then move up into a leadership position, such as senior accountant, for a couple of years to prove their comfort with managing others and taking on more responsibilities.

What is the salary of a controller?
Answer Part 1

As leaders who keep their companies’ finances organized, controllers earn an average base salary of $136,813.

Answer Part 2

According to Built In’s salary tool, controllers in the U.S. make an average base salary of $136,813. Those who effectively lead in this position can receive an additional cash compensation of $21,048, lifting their total compensation to $157,861. Controllers can supplement their experience and expertise with proven on-the-job success, earning the opportunity to secure salaries up to $300K.  

What skills does a controller need?
Answer Part 1

Controllers should possess financial and business expertise, analytical skills and technological savvy.

Answer Part 2

Financial and business acumen is an essential area that controllers must master to excel in their roles. With a strong financial background, controllers can process payroll, organize budgets and craft financial reports while accurately weighing any financial risks. Analytical thinking is also another must-have skill that controllers should display. A large part of the job involves evaluating large amounts of financial data to determine a company’s financial health. As a result, an analytical mindset and financial expertise go hand in hand. 

While controller positions demand a thorough approach, controllers must still remain efficient and complete their tasks in a timely manner. That’s why technological savvy is a major plus for aspiring controllers. Leveraging the most up-to-date tax software, controllers can streamline administrative tasks and spend more time taking steps to improve the financial state of a company. Top controllers know how to balance these abilities with communication and other soft skills, becoming well-rounded leaders for their businesses.


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