Controller: Is this job right for you?

Controller - is this the job for you?

Do you live and breathe numbers and feel at home with accounting jobs? Well, then you may be interested in looking into controller positions – the top of the totem pole when it comes to accounting.

The controller is, typically, the highest position in the accounting division of any organization. These individuals can be found in either corporate or government settings, and supervise the accounting department as well as the interpretation and utilization of accountants’ information. This sort of job is great for an accountant who is ready to take the next step in his or her career by moving into a leadership position.

While the role of controller may be considered similar to that of a CFO, they are actually different. In larger organizations both positions are typically necessary to ensure finances and accounting are well-managed. The CFO typically works as much on the business side of things as accounting, while the controller is often immersed in accounting and has little to do with business strategy. Depending on the sort of career path you prefer, either position may be right for you. If, for instance, you simply love working in accounting and couldn’t see yourself doing anything else, you may want to set your eyes on controller jobs.

“A controller will typically come up through the accounting hierarchy.”

The required training
A controller will typically come up through the accounting hierarchy to take the top job in accounting – sometimes in smaller organizations, also the top finance position overall. To get to the tip of the accounting mountain, you will need the right education and certification. A controller often has an accounting degree as well as a Certified Public Accountant license. A certain amount of college credits are necessary for a CPA, which often – though not always – means a graduate degree as well. A CPA will also require some work experience and plenty of studying.

However, you won’t be instantly appointed a controller once you’ve completed the requisite education and earned a CPA license. There is still plenty of work to go – specifically, you’ll have to work your way up through an accounting department or departments until you’ve earned the top position.

What sort of salary does a controller earn?
A controller’s salary may vary depending on the size of the company and the industry. However, often a controller’s salary will be north of $100,000. At a smaller company the pay for a controller will range between somewhere just under $100,000 to around $113,000. As the size of the organization grows so too does the typical salary of the controller. At a midsize company the annual pay could reach as high as $160,000. At larger companies the salary could even reach $200,000 or more.

Managing the balancing of budgets is just one of a controller's many responsibilities.
Managing the balancing of budgets is just one of a controller’s many responsibilities.

Responsibilities of a controller
A controller is the head of all accounting activities at an organization. This means, that, of course, a controller’s responsibilities heavily involve accounting. This involves the management of financial report production, upholding an accurate accounting system, overseeing budget controls and ensuring accuracy in the company’s financial reports. This means that you should be well-versed in financial analysis and reporting, tax operation management and balancing.

The exact responsibilities of a controller, like the salary, will typically depend on the size of the organization. At a smaller company a controller will take over many of the responsibilities a CFO would – including financial strategy – in addition to the management of the accounting division. At a larger company, a controller’s responsibilities will be much more accounting based, while the business-side of things will be left to the CFO. Depending on the sort of job you are looking for, the size of the company may make a big difference in what your position as a controller will entail.

Essentially the controller is the individual that the entire accounting division reports to on all sorts of issues. Sometimes this position may serve as the head of a company’s finances, other times this responsibility will be shared with the CFO. But ultimately, if you’re interested in a leadership position and love to work with numbers, you may want to look into controller positions.