Controller Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: August 22, 2022

A Controller, or Comptroller, is responsible for overseeing financial statements like balance sheets, invoices, accounts payable and accounts receivable. Their duties include directing Accounting Managers and department operations, compiling financial reports based on financial statements and implementing policies and procedures for financial reporting.

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Controller duties and responsibilities

The following are common duties and responsibilities of a Controller:

  • Assist management with important financial decisions
  • Prepare financial documents such as business reports, financial forecasts and statements to understand the financial state of business
  • Supervise employees who work under the controller in preparing financial reports and budgets
  • Monitor a company’s financial reports and determine ways to reduce costs
  • Keep up-to-date on the financial market to understand how to maximize profits and find new expansion areas
  • Understand the financials of a company in order to meet legal requirements and keep the financial state in good standing
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What does a Controller do?

Controllers typically work for corporations to ensure they keep updated, accurate financial records for future reference. They work closely with upper management to identify areas to reduce costs and liabilities they need to pay off by the end of the year. Their job is to ensure that their company complies with financial regulations. They also review financial statements to determine their corporation’s financial health and take action accordingly. They may also be responsible for monitoring payroll documents to ensure employees receive the correct amount per pay period.

Controller skills and qualifications

There are certain skills that a potential candidate should have to be successful as a controller, such as those that allow them to coordinate with others and multitask effectively. Some of these qualifications include:

  • The ability to communicate effectively with co-workers and management about the finances of the business and justify certain financial recommendations
  • Attention to detail
  • Basic math skills to make accurate calculations and estimates
  • Good understanding of international finance
  • Organization and project management

Controller salary expectations

A Controller makes an average of $86,545 per year. Salary may depend on level of experience, education and the geographical location. 

Controller education and training requirements

A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in economics, business administration, accounting or finance is needed as an education requirement for this position. Some Controllers may also have a master’s degree in a related field which helps them further develop analytical skills. A Controller candidate who has degrees in the financial area meets the education requirements.

There is also a Chartered Financial Analyst certification for professionals who have a bachelor’s degree, four years of work experience, and pass exams. For those with two years of work experience, the Certified Treasury Professional accreditation is available once an exam is passed. Certified public accountants are licensed by the state’s board and have to pass the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants exam.

Controller experience requirements

Financial controllers usually already have some years of experience in a business or financial setting. Various positions can contribute to experience requirements of a controller such as an accountant, financial analyst or loan officer. Some companies do have management training programs for highly motivated individuals who want to become a Controller. Those who have already been Financial Controllers can advance to chief financial officers who are responsible for the company’s overall finances.

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Frequently asked questions about Controllers


What is the difference between a Controller and a Finance Director?

Controllers and Finance Directors operate on the same level within a corporation, and sometimes companies use these titles interchangeably. However, there are a few ways to differentiate between a Controller and a Finance Director. For example, Controllers typically focus on overseeing financial reporting and accurate documentation of financial statements like payroll, tax forms, balance sheets or income statements. In contrast, Finance Directors concentrate on developing long-term financial strategies based on the company’s current financial health. 

It is important to note that both Controllers and Finance Directors provide insights into company finances and act as members of upper management to oversee operations of the finance and accounting teams at lower levels. When a corporation has a Controller and Finance Director, they typically work closely together to ensure the financial stability of their company.


What are the daily duties of a Controller?

On a typical day, a Controller starts by checking their email and voicemail to respond to time-sensitive messages from the CFO and Accounting or Finance Managers. Throughout the day, they review current financial documents like balance sheets, tax forms, income statements, accounts receivable and accounts payable to add to financial reports. Controllers also participate in meetings with the Accounting and Finance teams to implement new financial recording procedures. They also oversee the organization and storage of financial documents for future review.


What qualities make a good Controller?

A good Controller has an extensive background working in finance roles as an Accountant, Financial Planner, Finance Manager or Accounting Manager. Their experience in these roles allows them to effectively manage financial reporting and accounting operations for a corporation. They need to have excellent verbal and written communication to communicate information between lower-level company employees and upper management officials. Controllers should also have an ethical mindset that motivates them to analyze financial documents and highlight instances of fraud.


Who does a Controller report to?

Usually, a Controller reports to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of a corporation to communicate financial reporting needs or budgeting limitations. Chief Financial Officers typically provide Controllers with information to relay at lower levels of the company and meet with them to investigate instances of fraud within the company’s finances.

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