what is a controller?

Controllers, also known as comptrollers, are senior-level executives who work as the accounting heads. As a controller, you oversee the preparation of financial reports, including income statements and balance sheets. You're also responsible for ensuring the accuracy of ledgers for money coming into the company and eliminating any mistakes. Banks, government agencies and large corporations employ controllers. Other industries like manufacturing, mining and construction firms also rely on controllers to monitor their costs.

Financial controllers work closely with an organisation's accounting, audit, and other budget-related departments. You are responsible for producing reports that determine the company's economic outlook over time. You ensure the accurate and timely completion of monthly financial statements. Controllers are also in charge of submitting paperwork to statutory regulatory authorities. This record-keeping promotes honesty, efficiency and accuracy within the company. Companies expect controllers to improve processes within each team to meet reporting deadlines efficiently.

As a controller, you may also be responsible for staff management. However, you could be the only accountant in a small company. When identifying trends for budgeting and forecasting purposes, controllers aim to express ideas in terms that everyone can understand. You report directly to the president or board of directors to offer insight and provide recommendations for managing budgets.

As a controller, your ability to thrive in a challenging role can be reflected by how you respond to unexpected changes and expectations within the company. Successful controllers are often self-motivated and flexible in their learning approach. People with analytical mindsets are most likely to succeed in this role.

controller jobs

average salary of a controller

The remuneration package of a controller depends on their area of specialisation. For instance, a finance controller earns a median remuneration package of $145,000 annually. The lowest-paid finance controller takes home $135,000, while experienced professionals take home over $155,000 annually.

Cost controllers receive an average salary of $110,000 annually. Entry-level cost controllers take home $105,000 annually, while experienced workers earn over $125,000 annually. A credit controller is the lowest paid controller, with an average salary of $70,000 per year and a remuneration package ranging from $65,000 to $75,000 annually.

how to increase a controller's salary

Focusing on finance helps to improve your remuneration. Your qualifications and work experience also increase your salary expectations. When you are an entry-level worker with minimal experience, your earnings are lower but increase as you gain experience. Sometimes, your location also influences your role as a controller. For instance, working in metro areas is likely to pay more than in smaller cities.

Want to know what you will earn as a controller? Check out what you are worth with our salary checker.

controller salary

types of controllers

Some types of controllers include:

  • finance controllers: as a finance controller, you lead a team of accountants overseeing day-to-day financial operations. Your job is to run the accounting functions, and you are in charge of the company's records and books. Apart from analysing accounting records, you provide accurate analysis that supports strategic business decisions.
  • cost controllers: as a cost controller, you help organisations manage their spending on various projects. You analyse budgets and ensure project costs are adhered to during implementation.
  • credit controllers: as a credit controller, you analyse the company's available credit and assess the business's debts. You supervise credit assessments, develop payment plans and keep accurate financial records and repayment terms for each creditor. You also ensure the company receives money from its creditors on time.
controller jobs
controller jobs

working as a controller

Working as a controller involves managing the daily operations of a finance department. Let's explore a controller's duties, work schedules and career outlook.


education and skills


Most employers hire controllers with the following academic qualifications:

  • bachelor's degree: to become a controller, complete a bachelor's degree in economics, finance, accounting or any related field. Your field of study should help you gain expertise in finance and accounting. Pursue a post-graduate degree in business administration, financial planning, economics and finance. Some employers prefer controllers accredited as Chartered Practising Accountants or Chartered Accountants. You can apply for accreditation after completing an approved undergraduate degree.
  • experience: controllers require extensive experience as accountants and other entry-level finance roles to gain knowledge of diverse finance practices. Your work experience also speeds up your career progression.

skills and competencies

Some qualities that controllers require include:

  • organisational skills: as a controller, you oversee a company's financial reporting. That means you rely on different accounts records to develop financial statements, budgets and forecasts. You require organisational skills to avoid mixing up the information. Your organisational skills enable you to keep the information accurate.
  • analytical reasoning: you analyse reports to determine the company's performance in each financial year. You rely on analytical reasoning to review reports and identify a company's assets, liabilities and shareholders' equity. You also use your analytical skills to measure performance and determine if the company is achieving its objectives.
  • attention to detail: as a controller, you work with large data sets and analyse multiple reports. Being detail-oriented enables you to maintain the accuracy of financial reports.
  • communication skills: you lead other accounts department members and rely on communication skills to relay instructions. Your communication skills also help you write reports and simplify technical terms for stakeholders to understand.
  • maths skills: as a controller, you rely on maths to generate accurate financial reports, perform calculations and analyse statistical models for forecasts and predictions.

FAQs about working as a controller

Here are the most asked questions about working as a controller:

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