Individuals with bachelor’s degrees in accounting often find success in pursuing corporate controller careers. Controllers are financial leaders found in many types of businesses and organizations. Executives in this role may also be known as financial managers, treasurers or finance officers.

Controllers generally direct the financial reporting of a business, including standard income statements, balance sheets, statements of future earnings and specialized audit reports. They often supervise a company’s accounting department.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of controllers and financial managers is projected to increase steadily over the coming years. Job growth will originate in an expanding economy, increasing globalization of finance and a greater need for financial expertise.

Competition for controller jobs can be extremely tough. Applicants with advanced education and certifications should be more marketable to employers, and enjoy the best controller career opportunities.

Controller Job Duties

Controllers are typically responsible for the overall creation, monitoring and maintenance of a company’s accounting and financial information. They often provide a leadership role in business planning and growth. Depending on the employer, controllers may oversee human resources, internal auditing or accounting departments.

Some controllers’ careers involve analyzing manufacturing efforts or coordinating capital projects such as property acquisition and building initiatives. Controllers usually work in corporate headquarter offices, banks or government buildings. Travel is sometimes required to visit additional offices or partner firms. Due to the nature of this high-level occupation, controller careers often require long working hours and ongoing education to stay current on financial standards and regulations.

Controller Salary Potential

The BLS reports that in May 2009, financial managers earned a median salary of $101,190, with the middle 50% bringing in between $73,530 and $138,010 annually. While the lowest 10% made about $54,760, the highest 10% earned in excess of $165,000 per year. Recent bachelor’s graduates will generally start out in entry- or intermediate-level accounting or finance positions before transitioning into a controller career. The top controller salaries generally go to those with the most experience, certifications and advanced education.

Education and Training

To be successful in their careers, controllers must have extensive knowledge of accounting and finance, cost and budget analysis, and the industry in which they work. Most controller jobs require a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Accountants aspiring to a controller career often choose to pursue professional certification or a master’s degree in accounting in order to boost their chances of advancement. Certification is offered by the Institute of Management Accountants and the Association for Financial Professionals.

The first step to a controller career is typically a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Program coursework includes subjects such as statistics, economics, finance and public administration.

Employers can be confident that graduates of an accounting education program are able to:

  • Accurately apply accounting fundamentals to various business situations.
  • Adhere to financial rules and regulations.
  • Use computers and specialized software to analyze budgets and expenditures.
  • Investigate financial records and identify instances of fraud and waste.
  • Apply knowledge gained from a bachelor’s program toward an advanced degree or industry certification.

Pursuing a Controller Career

An interest in lifelong learning is important for those pursuing controller careers. Candidates must also have extensive knowledge of accounting principles and the ability to analyze complex financial data. Controllers should possess excellent oral and written communication skills and proven leadership qualities. Becoming a controller requires hard work and dedication, but it can be an extremely challenging and rewarding career.

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