How to Become a Controller: King of the Accountants

If you would like to pursue a management position in the finical industry, you might be wondering about how to become a controller. Controllers direct finance and audit department personnel in preparing financial reports – balance sheets, income statements, earnings forecasts, and the like. Controllers are also the point of contact with regulatory authorities, responsible for preparing and conveying documents required by regulators. Controller positions are a likely career track for candidates with an academic background in business administration, and they share a number of job requirements with other financial managers.

Controller Education Degree Requirements

A bachelor’s degree in a business-related field (accounting, economics or business administration) is the minimum academic requirement for controllers, although MBAs are increasingly sought by employers. Courses are designed to shape a well-rounded business professional and might include study in finance, economics, accounting, marketing, statistics, business ethics, leadership and decision making, and organizational management.

Practically speaking, a controller will almost always be expected to hold a CPA credential, and many also choose to earn Certified Management Accountant (CMA) status from the Institute of Management Accountants to boost their employment and salary prospects. Experience also counts for a lot in positions like that of the controller, where intimate knowledge of a firm’s operations is absolutely necessary to ensure compliance with regulatory authorities and proper fiscal reporting.

Controllers should expect to spend a significant amount of time and energy on continuing education to stay current with regulatory demands, accounting practices, professional certification standards, and advances in accounting software. Because a competent controller can mean the difference between compliance and mistaken non-compliance with regulatory demands, employers commonly cover the cost of continuing education activities for controllers and other financial managers.

Becoming a Controller: Career Outlook

Controllers need to understand the financial structures of their industries, be conversant with relevant tax law and regulations, have command of risk management and profit maximization strategies, and be up-to-date with accounting standards and practices. This base of knowledge makes controllers and other financial managers invaluable business advisors to executives, and exposure to executive decisions through the roll of advisor is one of the major benefits of pursuing a position as a controller. Because so much oversight responsibility already falls on the controller, controllers are often placed in charge of budget, audit, and accounting departments in a firm.

The wages of controllers vary significantly by sector and size of company, but median wages for financial managers come in at about $100,000. Job growth in the financial management sector is expected to be about that of the rest of the economy, and this translates into strong competition as senior accountants and financial personnel vie for controller positions, which stand at the threshold of executive leadership. Competition is fierce, and those with the most experience and education will be best placed to find positions.

Becoming a controller offers candidates with an educational background in business, accounting, and finance an opportunity to advance towards executive leadership by taking on added management responsibilities. A career as a controller starts by building your academic credentials. Begin exploring business degree programs today.