All You Need to Know About Controller Salary Levels, Jobs

By Robert Half October 10, 2017 at 1:30pm

If you're interested in managing an organization's daily financial operations, you might want to look at the position of financial controller. If the demand for these roles isn't convincing, perhaps the controller salary levels will be.

Companies are looking for experienced accountants with strong interpersonal skills and an interest in “controlling” access to corporate funds. If that's you, consider the expectations, required skills and salary range of a controller, which, in some cases, is equivalent to the CFO.

This financial executive position is one of the hot positions listed in the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals, and as the guide shows, the demand for controllers in the financial services sector and in corporate accounting remains strong.

Controller salary benchmarks

According to the Salary Guide, the controller salary for 2019 in corporate accounting is expected to be $118,250 at the midpoint. For the title of corporate controller, the midpoint level is considered to be $173,750. Divisional controllers can expect starting salaries of $143,000, and for assistant controllers, $106,250.

In financial services, the salary midpoint for a controller is $127,500.

The salaries listed in the Salary Guide reflect starting pay only and are based on actual placements throughout the United States, as well as an analysis of the demand for the role, the supply of talent and other market conditions. Bonuses and benefits are not taken into account.

Duties and expectations

The controller must have the knowledge to guide a company’s strategic financial decisions and is, therefore, integral to the financial health of the organization. The controller job description involves overseeing the day-to-day financial operations of an organization, including the accounting, payroll, accounts payable and accounts receivable departments.

Because this position directly manages finance staff, the controller should have both a strong background in accounting and finance as well as polished soft skills.

Other key responsibilities for controller jobs often include the following:

  • Preparing financial forecasting reports and financial statements (internal and external)
  • Maintaining accounting records, including general ledger, payroll and taxes
  • Reconciling accounts
  • Coordinating audits
  • Managing budgets
  • Recommending financial performance benchmarks
  • Communicating regularly with (and often reporting to) the CFO
  • Overseeing accounts payable and receivable departments
  • Ensuring income tax compliance

Are you ready to take the next step? Check out these openings in five hot cities, and search your own city.

Professional experience and skills

Candidates for controller jobs should have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in accounting or business, but preferably an MBA. They should usually have at least seven years of experience in the accounting field, and some public accounting experience is often required. Other qualifications that hiring managers look for in a controller include the following:

  • CPA or Chartered Global Management Accountant designation (CGMA)
  • Working knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)
  • For public companies: Knowledge of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations and Sarbanes-Oxley Act
  • Strong work ethic
  • Advanced knowledge of accounting software
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to multitask
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Managerial abilities
  • Interpersonal skills, including collaboration and communication
  • Integrity

The role of controller can vary widely across different organizations, but controllers should be leaders and teachers with strong tech skills, a good understanding of financial statement preparation and analysis, and an ability to understand myriad accounting operations and job functions. They should be able to dig in and make the numbers tell a story.

Now that you know these skills are in demand and that you could be well-compensated for such expertise, be sure you don't stumble in the search for controller jobs.

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