Also known as financial comptrollers or chief accounting officers, financial controllers are tasked with overseeing day-to-day accounting functions, integrating finance operations, forecasting and budgeting, handling tax matters, preparing financial reports, and ensuring organizational financial stability.

A financial controller is a senior-level manager who oversees a business’s day-to-day financial operations. Sometimes called the “company historian,” financial controllers run the accounting function and are responsible for the company’s books and records.

Role of a Financial Controller – What Does a Financial Controller Do?

What does a financial controller do?

A financial controllers responsibilities revolve around ensuring the business is running effectively and efficiently. Their primary duties include:

What is a financial controller?

A financial controller is a financial leader who is responsible for all accounting-related activities, including managerial accounting, high-level accounting and finance activities. The financial controller, also referred to as a “financial comptroller,” usually reports to the chief financial officer (CFO) or may be the top financial officer if there is no CFO.

Average salary for a financial controller

Financial controllers must have an in-depth understanding of accounting and business concepts. It is also an analytical position, as the controller must analyze financial reports and transactions for quality control purposes. Because controllers are considered part of the leadership within an organization, they must develop soft skills to motivate their team. Other skills they must have are:

How to become a financial controller

These are the basic steps you need to take to pursue a career as a financial controller.

1. Obtain a bachelors degree

A bachelors degree is generally a minimum requirement to pursue a career as a financial controller. The ideal degrees for this position are finance, accounting, business administration or another closely related field. A four-year degree in these disciplines provides individuals with a strong background in finance and business.

Many of these degree programs include coursework on topics like managerial accounting, economics, business law, financial management, budget analysis, taxation, human resources and international business.

2. Consider an internship

While its not required, an internship or externship provides an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in finance. Students should consider completing an internship while pursuing their degree, and many programs even include this as part of the curriculum.

3. Obtain an entry-level job in finance

Controllers must have a strong background in finance or financial management. Many employers require a minimum of five years of experience to qualify for the role. Look for a position as an assistant controller to get an understanding of the duties and responsibilities required for the position.

4. Pursue certification

Several certifications are commonly required or preferred for controllers, although you will generally be required to obtain at least a year of relevant experience before qualifying. Controllers are usually required to obtain their Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential.

While CPA requirements vary from state to state, most require at least 150 semester hours of undergraduate education, which is usually 30 more credits than are completed within a bachelors degree program. Candidates are also required to obtain at least one year of experience in an accounting role. The CPA exam has four sections, including financial accounting and reporting, business environment and concepts, auditing and attestation and regulation.

Other certifications that can give financial controllers a competitive edge in the job market are the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Certified Management Accountant (CMA). To obtain these certifications, candidates are generally required to pass several examinations. To retain their CPA licensure and other certifications, controllers must complete regular continuing education.

5. Consider an advanced degree

Aspiring controllers can further their careers through a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program or another closely related degree. A masters degree provides complex instruction in financial strategy and helps aspiring controllers develop strong leadership skills.

Frequently asked questions about a career as a financial controller

Here are a couple of the most frequently asked questions about a career as a financial controller.

Is a financial controller considered an in-demand career?

Job growth for financial managers controllers largely depends on the industry, according to the BLS, but growth for these careers is projected to be 16% from 2018 to 2028, far faster than the average for all jobs.

Whats the difference between a CFO and controller?

The controller is focused on compliance and record-keeping while the CFO is figured on planning and the future performance of the company. In other words, the controller is focused on tactics while the CFO is focused on strategy.


Is financial controller an accountant?

An accountant, or practitioner of accounting, keeps and analyzes financial records. A controller, or comptroller, oversees the accounting operations of a firm, including managing staff. Because controllers’ duties and responsibilities expand beyond that of an accountant, they typically command larger salaries.

What is the difference between CFO and controller?

The CFO plays a significant role in strategizing for the company’s future, pushing the organization forward, and advising stakeholders about important business decisions. The controller, on the other hand, tends to carry out tactics that help with the day-to-day financial operations of the accounting department.

What are the 5 significant roles of a financial controller?

In conclusion, the ultimate responsibilities of financial controller are to deal with finance, accounting, production, marketing, personnel and operations to ensure that the business is profitable and there are proper internal controls.

Is financial controller a stressful job?

The vast majority (89 percent) of survey participants agree that the controller job has become more stressful. Whether it be the demand for speed (67 percent), a higher volume of work (64 percent), or compliance demands (63 percent), the newly-adopted duties are clearly taking their toll.

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