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What Is a Controller? How to Become One, Salary, Skills.

A controller manages teams of accountants and other finance professionals. Some work for financial firms, but many are employed by companies to keep the organization on solid financial ground. Here’s what to know about a controller’s salary, needed skills and how to become one.


What Is a Controller?

A controller is an experienced finance professional whose job largely revolves around evaluating large amounts of financial data to determine a company’s financial health. This position is for someone who possesses financial, business, analytical and technological savvy.


What Do Controllers Do?

Controllers can be asked to make budgets, review transactions, process tax returns, manage financial risk and process payroll, among other important duties.

Controller Responsibilities

  • Manage accounting and financial operations.
  • Oversee preparation of budgets and financial statements.
  • Monitor financial documentation for accuracy and compliance.
  • Establish and oversee processes for maintaining documentation.
  • Ensure compliance with financial regulations. 

Day-to-Day Responsibilities of Controllers

  • Oversee payroll processes.
  • Supervise invoices and transactions.
  • Support audit and tax preparations.
  • Ensure employees comply with internal policies.
  • Draft, verify and organize financial reports.

Controllers Within a Company

The controller is a management position within a company’s finance department. They oversee the work of accountants and other finance employees, and they commonly operate under the direction of the company’s chief financial officer.

Importance of Controllers

Controllers play a crucial role in making sure an organization’s financial operations and documentation processes are compliant with internal policies as well as with applicable local, state and federal regulations. Their analysis skills and attention to detail are critical to catching any discrepancies and guaranteeing that key financial documents are correct..

A Month in the Life of a Controller | Video: The Financial Controller


What Skills Are Needed to Be a Controller?

Qualifications to Be a Controller

  • Knowledge of finance and accounting best practices.
  • Understanding of relevant laws and regulations.
  • Management experience.
  • Strong analytical skills.
  • Familiarity with applicable tools and software.

Controller Prerequisites

  • A bachelor’s degree and likely a master’s degree as well.
  • Accounting and financial management certifications.

Controller Hard Skills

  • Accounting and financial expertise.
  • Knowledge of laws and regulations.
  • Data and document analysis.
  • Preparing and maintaining finance and tax documents.
  • Using relevant tools and software.

Controller Soft Skills

  • Analytical mindset.
  • Organized and detail oriented.
  • Balancing multiple tasks.
  • Adhering to deadlines.

Tools and Programs Controllers Use

  • Xero
  • FreshBooks
  • Sage
  • Expensify
  • NetSuite
  • PlanGuru
  • QuickBooks
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How to Become a Controller

Controller Education and Experience

Becoming a controller generally requires a bachelor’s degree and, in many cases, a master’s degree as well. Students interested in becoming a controller typically study in an area such as accounting, finance, business or economics. They must acquire a minimum of five years of relevant professional experience, and some controller jobs can require upwards of 10 years of experience. Controllers also typically hold certifications that prove their accounting and financial management skills.

Controller Certificates and Courses

Controller Career Path

A controller’s career often starts with multiple years spent in various accounting positions before moving up to become an assistant controller. Their time working as an assistant controller helps them develop the necessary managerial skills and experience to serve as a controller. The next stage in the career path could be stepping into the role of finance director or chief financial officer.


Controller Salary and Job Outlook

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates employment for financial specialists is projected to grow by 6 percent from 2021 through 2031.

The full compensation package for a controller depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to the candidate’s experience and geographic location. See below for detailed information on the average controller salary.


Expand Your Controller Career Opportunities

Become an even more valuable contributor by strengthening your finance skills with Udemy’s online courses.


This course will cover the use of risk assessment tools as they relate to capital budgeting and investment decisions and how to use them.

We will include many example problems, both in the format of presentations and Excel worksheet…


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