Career Spotlight: Controller

How to Become a Controller

Have you always liked numbers? Are you excited at the prospect of overseeing a business’s finances? Well, a career as a controller might be for you.

A controller, or financial controller, is responsible for handling a business’ day-to-day financial operations. They take care of the books and records. This is usually a high-level manager position that reports to the CFO of a company. Sometimes, however, the CFO and controller can be the same person in smaller companies and businesses.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the employment of financial managers like controllers is projected to grow 17 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. According to the BLS, the 2021 median pay for controllers was $131,710.

Let’s take a closer look at this career to see if it is right for you.

What Does a Controller Do?

Controllers oversee a business’s or organization’s day-to-day finances, including accounting, payroll, and accounts payable. Their daily tasks vary from place to place and industry to industry, but their primary function is to take care of a business’ books in an accurate and efficient way.

Here are some other common tasks of controllers:

  • Preparing financial reports and statements
  • Maintaining accounting records, including payroll and taxes
  • Developing financial strategy
  • Ensuring compliance with local law and financial regulations
  • Providing financial reporting and analysis
  • Coordinating audits
  • Managing budgets
  • Communicating regularly with the CFO
  • Overseeing accounts payable and receivable departments
  • Ensuring invoices are properly approved and coded
  • Monitoring and balancing cash flows
  • Setting up bank accounts and managing banking relationships
  • In addition, a controller may also oversee other staff in the accounting department.

    Qualifications for a Controller

    Successful controllers are detail-oriented people with a knack for numbers. They must be strategic thinkers and have a strong sense for business relationships.

    In addition, here are some other key skills employers look for:

  • Knowledge of accounting software and financial analysis
  • The ability to multitask
  • Knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Managerial abilities
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Integrity
  • Requirements to Become a Controller

    For those looking to become a controller, you should have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in accounting or business, but preferably an MBA. Excelsior’s Bachelor of Science in Business will help you gain skills in areas including accounting, business strategy, communication, computer skills, economics, business ethics, finance, global business, leadership, management, marketing, data analysis, teamwork, and cultural diversity. Excelsior’s MBA with a concentration in finance and accounting can help deepen your knowledge and grow your career so you are ready to become a controller.

    While there is no regulatory requirement to obtain a Certified Public Accountant license to become a controller, it is often looked at favorably. You can find out more about the CPA exam via the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants website.

    In addition, employers prefer candidates who have 7–10 years of experience in the field of accounting.

    Does this sound like the kind of career you’d like to pursue? If so, consider contacting an Excelsior admissions counselor to enroll in a business program.