Learn About Being a Financial Controller

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

What does a financial controller do?

A financial controller uses advanced financial skills to analyze, prepare and oversee financial reporting processes. They oversee all accounting practices within an organization and may make financial and budget recommendations to the organization’s decision-makers. Financial controllers have the following responsibilities:

  • Recruit, hire and train financial analyst team members

  • Prepare financial statements, budgets and reports

  • Identify financial trends and make recommendations

  • Evaluate current budgets and identify ways to cut costs

  • Approve invoices and follow up with past-due accounts

Average salary

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in U.S.: $87,331 yearly

  • Typical salaries range from: $81,767 to $108,829 yearly.

Financial controller requirements

To secure a job as a financial controller, you’ll need a combination of education, training, certification and skills

Education

A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required to be a financial controller. Many employers also prefer that candidates have a master’s degree in a relevant field. Relevant educational fields include accounting, finance, economic and business systems.

Training

Financial controllers often have in-depth experience in finance and business management. Many employers will require a minimum of five years or more in a related industry. Financial controllers usually come from related industries, including accounting or loan sales. Aspiring financial controllers can use entry-level positions in business and finance to develop the necessary skills.

Certifications

While certifications are not always a requirement as a financial controller, they can make a candidate more competitive. The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification is a popular one that is given through the CFA Institute. This certification requires a bachelor’s degree, work experience and the successful completion of three exams. The Association for Financial Professionals offers a Certified Treasury Professional certification. The Certified Public Accountant test is also an option through the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA.)

Skills

Financial controllers are in charge of each financial aspect of the business. Strong mathematical and analytical skills are needed to understand financial reports. Financial controllers also often lead teams of other financial analysts, so management and leadership skills are beneficial. Useful skills as a financial controller include:

  • Analytical: Business owners and executive team members rely on financial controllers to provide them with recommendations. Strong analytical skills are needed to interpret financial data and use that information to solve problems.

  • Leadership: Financial controllers oversee the financial department. Strong leadership skills are necessary to effectively manage the team.

  • Organization: Financial controllers work with large amounts of data daily. Strong organizational skills are needed to keep budgets and systems organized and free of error. 

  • Communication: Both verbal and written communication skills are necessary as a financial controller. Controllers use these skills to discuss and back up recommendations.

  • Budgeting: Predicting and preparing reports is one of the most important job tasks of a financial controller. Advanced budgeting skills are crucial in the role.

Financial controller work environment

A typical workday for a financial controller is in an office environment. Depending on the size of the organization, a financial controller may report directly to the chief financial officer. In smaller companies, the financial controller may be considered the top financial analyst. Financial controllers will work directly with other executive and management team members to identify and interpret financial needs.

The specific data that a financial controller works with will depend on the industry. Working as a financial controller with the U.S. government, you can expect to manage government budgets and taxes. If you work in a private business organization, you may support the business goals and financial needs of the business owner.

How to become a financial controller

Financial controllers have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a related field with extensive work experience as a financial analyst. Some financial controllers also have additional certifications.

Here are some steps you’ll need to take to become a financial controller. 

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree: Your bachelor’s degree should be in a relevant field including business, accounting or finance.

  2. Earn a master’s degree: A master’s degree is not always required, but can strengthen your resume and make you a more competitive candidate. Relevant master’s programs include business administration, economics and finance.

  3. Complete certification requirements: Certifications show your level of expertise in the industry. There are many options available for certification, including the Association for Financial Professionals and your state’s accountancy board.

  4. Gain experience as a financial analyst: Many financial controllers begin as a financial analyst. Working in an internship or entry-level financial analyst position will help you earn the experience to succeed as a financial controller. Other similar entry-level positions include loan officers or accountants.

  5. Apply for financial controller positions: Once you have developed your finance and budgeting skills and earned your degrees and certifications, you can begin applying for financial controller positions. Use the cover letter and resume to highlight your strengths and education. 

Financial controller job description example

Our organization is looking to fill the important role of a financial controller. In this role, you will use strong analytical and finance experience to manage a team of financial analysts and accountants in maintaining our financial systems. The ideal candidate will also create and monitor financial budgets and offer recommendations as we expand into new regions. The financial controller will work directly with the chief financial officer, identifying reporting and budgeting needs. A master’s degree is required.

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