All You Need to Know About Controller Jobs

Dollar signs and graphs — part of controller jobs

If you're interested in managing an organization's daily financial operations, you might want to look at the controller jobs out there. 

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 Robert Half's latest Salary Guide, and as the guide shows, those who land controller jobs are expected to be well compensated in the coming year for their expertise.

Salary benchmarks for controller jobs

  • 2017 Salary Guide coverAt the high end, a controller who joins a company with sales in excess of $500 million can expect to start with a salary range between $167,500 and $226,000 in 2017.
  • At a midsize company with sales between $100 million and $250 million, a controller can expect a salary range from $119,250 and $159,750.
  • At smaller companies, with sales less than $50 million, controllers can expect to start between $86,500 and $115,000.  

These salaries represent an average increase of 4.0 to 4.3 percent from 2016, indicating a strong hiring market for controller jobs. 

Visit the Salary Center, where you'll be able to adjust salaries for controller jobs in your city with the Salary Calculator, and get your own copy of the Salary Guide.

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

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

Now that you know your skills are in demand and that this is a hot position, be sure you don't stumble in the search for controller jobs.

Read Looking for a Job as a Controller? 4 Mistakes to Avoid.

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Editor's note: This post was originally published in May 2014 and was updated recently to reflect new Salary Guide data and information.

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