How Do I Become a Controller?

how to become a controller

A controller is a valuable employee to nearly all businesses and organizations. These individuals are responsible for the financial reporting and related tasks, including evaluating expenses and analyzing the entity’s financial position under specific regulatory guidelines. controllers also manage other employees in accounting and auditing departments. Those interested in pursuing a career as a controller often inquire about the educational and professional requirements. The primary requirements include a minimum of bachelor’s degree, finance experience, licensure and certification, and personal abilities. 

Degree Requirements

In general, at least a bachelor’s degree in finance, business administration, accounting, or related area is required for controller positions. Bachelor’s degrees in these areas provide individuals with a strong business and financial background, and the ability to make sound decisions in the field. Many programs involve instruction in economics, managerial accounting, business law, financial management, human resources, international business, budget analysis, and taxation. A lot of programs include internship and externship opportunities to provide students with the ability to gain hands-on experience in the field. Some employers prefer a master’s degree in business administration or similar field. A master’s degree in this area provide complex instruction in financial strategy and helps individuals develop strong leadership skills.

Experience in Finance

CONTROLLERS need a strong background in financial management or related area, and many employers require at least five years work experience. Many individuals start out as cost accountants and advance to accounting management positions after showing financial expertise and leadership abilities. Some controllers first work as assistant CONTROLLERS to gain an understanding of job duties and demonstrate their abilities to advance.

License and Certification

The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential is commonly required for controller positions. Requirements for a CPA differ by state, but majority require a minimum of 150 semester hours of undergraduate education, which is usually around 30 credits more than a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, those wanting to take the examination need at least one year of experience in accounting. The CPA examination contains four sections, including business environment and concepts, auditing and attestation, regulation, and financial accounting and reporting. Many controllers also pursue voluntary certifications, including Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Certified Management Accountant (CMA). These certifications commonly require the passing of several examinations. To maintain CPA licensure and related certifications, controllers are typically required to complete continuing education.

Personal Skills

Those seeking to work as a controller must have strong personal abilities to succeed in the position. They must have excellent problem solving, analytical thinking, and organization skills. They must also pay strong attention to detail and have a keen business sense. Good interpersonal and communication skills are also required to interact with other employees and oversee their activities. Many employers prefer individuals who have extensive experience with Microsoft Excel and related programs as well as proficiency with financial analysis software.

A career as a controller is typically very lucrative, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports these individuals earning a median pay of $109,740 per year. The top industries for these professionals include professional, scientific, and technical services and management of companies and enterprises. The career outlook is projected to increase as fast as average for all jobs over the next decade. With the right education, experience, and certification, a controller position is a great career choice.