Advance from Accountant to Controller
Dona DeZube, Monster Finance Careers Expert
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.