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How to Become a Finance Controller

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Finance controllers, more commonly known as financial controllers, oversee an organization’s accounting and financial management practices. 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 financial 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 and math skills.

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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.

Get Hired

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, will grow by 9 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is slower than the 11 percent average for all jobs.

2016 Salary Information for Financial Managers

Financial managers earned a median annual salary of $121,750 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, financial managers earned a 25th percentile salary of $87,530, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $168,790, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 580,400 people were employed in the U.S. as financial managers.

About the Author

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.

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