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Financial Controller Roles, Duties, Skillset, Career Path

what is a controller in accounting

As businesses continue to evolve, the role of controllers may expand to encompass new responsibilities related to financial technology, data analysis, and strategic planning. As a controller, you will develop diverse skills essential for effectively managing and overseeing an organization’s financial operations. Obtaining a degree in accounting typically requires four years of full-time study to complete the curriculum, which includes both general education and specialized accounting courses. A bachelor’s degree in accounting in addition to on-the-job training supporting various business functions. 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..

Is a controller an accountant?

They also present reports and other findings to executives and shareholders, so they must know how to explain complex financial information to those without accounting backgrounds. A controller’s role is heavily (if not exclusively) rooted in dealing with actual transactions. Overseeing both revenue and expense reporting, a controller often does not deal in theory.

what is a controller in accounting

What Is A Controller In Finance? Role And Responsibilities

I encourage students to be part of Beta Alpha Psi as it will open doors for you. The International Data Corporation projects the global value of the information technology industry to exceed $5 trillion by 2023. The fast-growing tech industry boasts many opportunities for specialized finance professionals.

what is a controller in accounting

How to Become a Financial Controller

Companies may require that a controller candidate have public accounting experience. Controller functions vary across companies owing to the size and complexity of the business and the industry. Smaller companies demand more versatility of the controller, while larger companies are able to disperse the following job responsibilities across other employees including the chief financial officer and treasurer. A controller serves as a financial steward within an organization, overseeing its accounting functions and ensuring the integrity of its financial reporting. Beyond managing day-to-day financial operations, controllers play a strategic role in guiding the organization’s financial decision-making, analyzing trends, and identifying opportunities for growth and efficiency. These professionals’ duties usually include preparing financial statements, budgeting, and financial forecasting.

Who Reports to the Controller?

Financial controllers are in charge of the past; they review historical transactions and ensure reporting is done correctly. These reports may then be delivered to a financial planning and analysis (FP&A) leader. This FP&A director relies on their team to build budgets, forecasts, and long-term plans based on the future of the company. Such a robust growth rate underscores the importance of controllers in ensuring businesses’ financial health and compliance, making it a promising career path for individuals with expertise in finance and accounting.

Some go into auditing, others tax accounting, some work for the government, and others perform cost accounting and internal reports. In the journey to becoming a controller, practical experience serves as the cornerstone of expertise, providing invaluable insights into the complexities of financial management. This education lays the groundwork for understanding complex financial regulations, auditing processes, and tax laws, which are integral to the controller’s distinguishing real and nominal business accounts role. The controller salary can vary significantly depending on factors such as industry, company size, geographic location, and experience level. In this article, we delve into the essential functions of a controller, highlighting the challenges faced by aspiring professionals and providing actionable steps to achieve success in this dynamic field. A company’s controller is considered to be the chief accounting officer and the head of the accounting department.

  1. Most accountants become increasingly specialized and narrowed in their career focus over a few years, in part because that helps fuel higher salaries.
  2. To qualify for the CMA, applicants need either a bachelor’s degree or one of several finance certifications, plus at least two years’ experience in the field.
  3. A controller also works with the external audit team, assists internal managers will budget preparation, and identifies areas of opportunity to mitigate risk and employ cost savings.
  4. Such a robust growth rate underscores the importance of controllers in ensuring businesses’ financial health and compliance, making it a promising career path for individuals with expertise in finance and accounting.
  5. If a company has subsidiaries, the controller oversees their accounting operations and ensures their reporting and control systems fall within the parameters set by the parent company.

However, the advantage to working for a small business is that high-ranking employees, such as controllers, often get to share in the growth of the company. The controller plays a large role in formulating company budgets and ensuring that expenses are in line with projected revenue. The job requires ensuring that the company makes accounts payable payments on time and that debt is serviced properly. At most companies, these duties are delegated to employees, such as an accounts payable manager, who reports to the controller, but the buck stops with the controller.

As a controller at Optima Office, Maribel provides oversight and recommends improvements within the accounting department, including procedures and systems. Prior to joining Optima Office, Maribel served as a controller or senior finance manager for multiple companies within the medical device manufacturing and pharmaceutical space. She worked in public accounting as an auditor serving clients in various industries, such as manufacturing, distribution, higher education, healthcare, investments, and service in private and public sectors. Maribel holds a BS in accounting from the University of San Diego and is fluent in Spanish, written and verbal. 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.

Controllers tend to make more money and have to manage people and organize departments; not all accountants have the same responsibility. Some people thrive in management roles, and these are the best candidates for controller jobs. Others are happiest as experts in their own fields without the complications of oversight. This should be a major factor when deciding about a potential controller career. The median annual salary for financial managers—which includes controllers—was $134,180 in 2020 according to BLS data.

I would encourage students to speak with professionals in this career and develop mentor/mentee relationships with them. As a student starting out in your profession, you don’t know what you don’t know, so I think that having someone there to guide you and support you is important. As a young child I helped my parents translate documents and pay bills since they didn’t speak English (I am bilingual in English and Spanish). I became their “business administrator.” I enjoyed helping my parents with that, so it led to my decision to become an accountant.

This demand is likely driven by the need for expert financial management and reporting as businesses and organizations continue to navigate the complexities of the global economy and regulatory environments. Controller positions attract experienced accountants with exceptional technical skills and leadership qualities. Some controllers hold advanced degrees such as accounting MBAs in addition to other credentials. 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. No hard and fast educational requirements exist for those wishing to become company controllers.

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