Controllers are responsible for a company’s financial plans, policies and practices. They typically oversee the accounting, auditing and budgeting departments of a company to provide the most effective financial controls for the organization.

Controllers draw from their education and experience to achieve their positions. They start their careers as entry-level financial managers, advancing to higher management positions until finally entering into the senior position. Most controllers have a master’s degree in finance or accounting, but to keep their skills fresh, they continue schooling through online education and in-house training.

Degrees for Controllers

A controller is one of the highest ranking positions in the world of finance. Most high-level finance executives start with at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or related area of study, earning a master’s degree as their career progresses. Many earn a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation to improve their chances of becoming a controller.

Controller Job Description

As controller for a city’s parks and recreation department, you would set the budget for the year, forecast the income from visitors and approve all expenses involved in the department’s operations. You would also manage all employees in accounting.

Because a controller manages both a corporation’s finances and employees, he or she handles a wide range of duties, including:

  • Direct and maintain the budget
  • Summarize ledger accounts
  • Prepare and finalize financial statements
  • Analyze financial data and recommend new strategies
  • File reports required by the government

Most controllers work at a company’s headquarters with their offices in bustling urban centers.

Controller Salary

Controllers are often under extreme pressure, but they are well compensated. According to, the median expected salary for a controller is $158,928, with the top 25 percent earning over $198,222 per year. Salaries are higher for those working in larger companies. Many controllers see their incomes rise even more with the addition of bonuses and incentives.

Like other positions in accounting and finance, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts that the need for controllers will grow at the same rate as the economy overall. Because this is one of the top positions in an organization, competition for desirable jobs is fierce, making the need for experience and continuing education even greater.

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