Advice » Career Development» Getting Promoted » Advance from Accountant to Co ...
Advance from Accountant to Controller

Advance from Accountant to Controller

Controllers are the advanced technicians of the accounting world, working at the top of the corporate pyramid, just below the chief financial officer. Win a controllership, and your duties will include preparing historical financial reports detailing your company’s financial position in income statements and balance sheets, and projecting future earnings and expenses.

“Your hand is on the pulse of everything the business does,” says John Brausch, CMA, CFM, CPA, who oversees the financials for 140 shopping centers as vice president, property controller for Edens & Avant. “Controllers run through a ton of data, and one of our key roles is to turn that data into information. It’s not just a matter of having numbers and knowing accounting rules -- it’s knowing what information needs to get to the company leaders so they can take the business where it needs to go strategically.”

Getting Started on the Path to Being a Controller

The typical controller starts his career with an accounting degree and an accounting certification, says John Rieger, CPA, director of financial accounting and reporting for the Association for Financial Professionals. Accountants who start in public accounting gain the experience required to sit for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation, while those who begin their careers in a corporate setting can pursue the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation.

“If you’re in public accounting and you’re doing audits of smaller companies, you may be able to go right into a controllership at one of your client firms,” Rieger says. “A graduate who goes to work as a staff accountant at a large company could move up there.” However, in a large corporation, many others will aspire to move up to assistant controller and then to controller, so you may have to move to a smaller firm to land a controllership job, he adds.

If you leap to a smaller firm to take a controllership, don’t expect your paycheck to increase. “In some places, a controller for a small firm may make less than a staff accountant at a large firm,” Rieger says.

A controller at a company with $500 million or more in sales typically earned $135,750 to $183,250, while a controller working for a $50 million firm earned $69,000 to $95,000, according to Robert Half International’s 2012 Salary Guide.

Geography also factors into salary. The salary of a controller in a high-cost area such as New Haven, Connecticut, might range from $152,040 to $205,240, while a controller in a lower-cost market such as El Paso, Texas, might make between $95,025 and $128,275, according to the Robert Half survey.

A few controllers take an atypical path through the finance department, moving up to controller from financial analysis or another less-direct route, says Miles Hutchinson, CPA, president of, a Sarbanes-Oxley compliance software company.

Tool Kit to Succeed

A staff accountant needs technical and analytical skills. To move up to controller, you’ll need to add soft skills, such as the ability to think on your feet and to influence and report to company leaders in an enlightening and engaging way. Management and organization skills will help you handle issues that arise as you pull information from each department and transform it into consolidated financial information.

“There’s a hazing that takes place when you move to the controllership level,” Hutchinson says. “Many people who think they would make a good controller find they’re limited because their communication skills haven’t kept up with their technical skills, or they’re not prepared to be an equal member of the leadership team, because they lack the ability to persuade and inform.”

The best way to pick up controller skills is through the continuing-education classes required for CPAs and CMAs, says Brausch, who chairs the Institute of Certified Management Accountants’ Board of Regents. Studying for the CMA exam helps, because it tests three areas critical to controllers: technical accounting, business operation knowledge and strategic management. “In most controllerships, you’ve got to have a breadth of knowledge about management, economics of business, information technology and statistics,” he adds.

To polish your communication skills, join a civic or philanthropic organization, or try Toastmasters International, Hutchinson suggests. “Doing things like serving on philanthropic boards will get your communication juices boiling,” he says. At work or via a trade association, seek mentoring from a controller, CFO or treasurer who’s 10 to 15 years ahead of you.

Get Ready to Fight

While there’s competition among firms to find competent controllers, there’s also a lot of internal competition when an assistant controller or controller job opens. “You have competition, but the demand is there,” Rieger says. “Those with experience with controls and compliance are in demand everywhere.”

Latest Jobs

Posted: 05/25/2015
Pleasanton, 94588
omi's fabrics and textile
Posted: 05/25/2015
New Castle, 16101
omi's fabrics and textile
Posted: 05/25/2015
New Castle, 16101
MCFCU Mohave Comm Fed Credit U
Posted: 05/25/2015
Kingman, 86401
Chugach Electric Association, Inc.
Posted: 05/25/2015
Anchorage, 99501

Want more personalized results?  Update Your Profile


Monster Communities

Teaching Community
Where teachers meet and learn.
Create and connect.
Networking for the career-minded woman.
Nursing Link
Where nurses call the shots.
More Monster Communities

Monster Partners

Scholarships, financial aid and more ways to pay for school.
Find top campus and online degree programs.
Military portal for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Financial Aid
Scholarships & financial aid.
Staffing for Government Jobs
Staffing and hiring solutions for federal government agency jobs.
More Monster Partners

Job Hunt Strategy

Six Ways to Make a Recruiter Hate You
If you want to blow your chances with recruiters -- and, by extension, with the companies they work for -- here are six perfect ways to do so.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Rev Up Your Resume to Relocate
Hoping to relocate? Get the ball rolling on landing the right job in the right location with these expert resume and cover letter tips.


100 Potential Interview Questions
Interview questions can run the gamut. You probably won't face all 100 of these, but you should still be prepared to answer at least some of them.

Salary & Benefits

10 Questions to Ask When Negotiating Salary
Most of us aren't natural negotiators, but asking these 10 questions during salary negotiations can help you get everything you deserve.

Employee Sourcing

Alt text
November Monster Employment Index Grows 13% Year-Over-Year, Tenth Consecutive Month of Positive Annual Growth.

For Seekers

Campus and Online Degrees
Advance your career and earn more with an online degree.
Free Salary Wizard
What are you worth? Find out and negotiate a better salary.
Research Careers
Get information on jobs and career paths to help guide your choices
Questions & Answers
Find answers to all your career related questions -- powered by Yahoo! Answers
Resume Distribution Service
Our distribution service puts your resume right in the hands of recruiters.
Resume Writing Services
Our experts will craft a keyword-rich resume that stands out in the crowd.
More Career Resources

For Employers

Career Ad Network
Target your job posting to more candidates on thousands of websites.
Hire Right Background Checks
Explore our background check packages to improve the quality of your hires.
Hiring Home Page
Find the best candidates for your business with Monster hiring solutions.
Job Postings
Find the right solution for your hiring needs. Starting at $99.
Power Resume Search
Monster's new search technology precisely matches people with your jobs.
Resource Center
Find staffing insights, labor trends, HR best practices and more.
Target Post
Connect with skilled, hourly and administrative candidates for only $99.

Social Media

Jobs on Twitter
Find jobs in your area and industry.
Monster Careers
Tune into our career advice and discussions tackling a wide range of topics and industries.
Monster Corporate & PR
Stay up-to-date on the latest news. Get the 'Who', 'What', 'When', and 'Why' on all things Monster related.
Monster Customer Service
Got a Monster question? We've got the answer. Whether you're a job seeker or employer, we can help you find the answers you need.
Monster for Employers
Find advice on hiring.
Follow Us
Check out our many pages and stay connected with the latest industry news, events, career advice and job openings.

Other Links

Monster Company Profiles
Explore companies and get information to guide your career decisions.
Compare Salaries
See how your pay stacks up to others in your field.
iPhone Application
Download the Monster app for iPhone and iPod touch.
Monster Job Seeker Blog
Monster Job Seeker Blog.
Monster Thinking Blog
Monster's Recruitment Trends Blog.
Jobs & Career Resources
Search Jobs:
For Employers: Post Jobs | Search Resumes | Advertise
About Monster | Work for Monster | Advertise with Us | AdChoices | Partner with Us | Investor Relations | Social Media
Terms of Use | Privacy Center | Accessibility Center | Help | Security | Contact Us | Sitemap | Mobile
©2015 Monster - All Rights Reserved U.S. Patents No. 5,832,497; 7,599,930 B1; 7,827,125 and 7,836,060 MWW - Looking for Monster Cable? - V: 2015.8.0.34-310