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How to Become a Finance Controller
Finance controllers, more commonly known as financial controllers, oversee an organization’s accounting and financial management practices. A general controller job despcription is that they lead the preparation of financial records such as balance sheets and income statements, analyze the company’s budgets and cash flow, maintain filing systems of accounting records and ensure compliance with tax regulations. Aspiring financial controllers typically must earn a degree in accounting, gain relevant work experience and possess analytical and leadership skills.
Earn the Degree and Gain Experience
The first step to becoming a finance controller is obtaining a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or another closely related field such as economics or business administration. Because a financial controller holds a management-level position in the accounting department, employers also prefer individuals with vast experience working in a business environment. As such, prospective controllers typically begin in entry-level positions such as auditor, accountant or financial analyst and work their way up as they gain more experience.
Develop the Skills
Financial controllers need to develop certain skills to ensure they handle their duties properly, whether it's analyzing financial data or ensuring established accounting procedures are being followed. You need strong analytical skills and attention to skills to assess financial data and ensure it is accurate. You also need leadership skills to supervise a staff that may include accountants, budget analysts, payroll clerks and internal auditors, and organizational skills to effectively maintain a variety of financial records. Other useful qualities include communication, math skills and presentation skills, as it's often up to the finance office to disseminate important company-wide initiatives. Espeically when working at a public company, it may be up to the finance office to communicate cost-cutting measures.
Earn Additional Credentials
Although accounting professionals with a bachelor’s degree and the required professional skills and industry experience can qualify for employment as financial controllers, those with professional certification have a better chance of securing jobs. Aspiring controllers can pursue the Certified Public Accountant certification, which is administered by the American Institute of CPAs. Other professional organizations that offer relevant certifications include the Institute of Financial Consulting and Institute of Finance and Management.
Qualified financial controllers can find jobs in many different types of public and private organizations, ranging from insurance carriers, investment firms and banks to hospitals, colleges and universities, manufacturing firms and government agencies. Financial controllers who gain vast experience and pursue graduate degrees in business management or finance can progress to top positions such as chief financial officer, or CFO. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment of financial managers, including financial controllers, is projected to grow by 19 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than the average growth rate for all occupations, which is 7 percent nationally.
What is a Financial Controller Salary?
The average controller salary in the U.S. is about $195,000, according to 2019 Salary.com data. Pay varies by region of the country, but expect to earn more in large metro areas including New York or San Francisco. However, similar to executive-level roles, a financial controller typically receives a base salary, but much of the added compensation comes in the form of bonuses, stock and other corporate incentives. Those bonuses are often dependent on overall company performance.
Based in New York City, Alison Green has been writing professionally on career topics for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in “U.S. News Weekly” magazine, “The Career” magazine and “Human Resources Journal.” Green holds a master's degree in finance from New York University.