Qualifications to Become a Controller

Controllers must have at least bachelor's degrees in business, finance or economics.
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Controllers must have at least bachelor's degrees in business, finance or economics.

Companies wouldn't know as much about their financial statuses without controllers, who are the chief accounting officers in government agencies, manufacturers, institutions and securities firms. They analyze financial reports such as income statements and balance sheets, oversee department budgets and ensure companies operate efficiently. If you are interested in becoming a controller, you will need to get a formal education and fulfill some basic requirements. In return, you can earn a six-figure income.


Most controllers, who are also called financial managers, have at least a bachelor's degree in business, finance or accounting. However, since the job of controller is a high-level position, a master's degree can better help you advance among the corporate ranks. More companies are expecting their controllers to have master's degrees in business, finance or economics. Whether you study at the undergraduate or graduate level, you learn various financial-analysis methods and how to use accounting software.


You can't expect to secure a controller position in a company without experience. Check to see what finance or accounting internships are available at your college. If you are already in the workforce and have a business or accounting degree, work as a financial analyst, loan officer, accountant, auditor or securities sales agent in a bank. These are some careers that can provide you proper training for a controller job.


Certification is optional but it can really increase your number of employment opportunities. It might help you land that controller job you desire, or at least get you within striking distance of it. You must have at least a bachelor's degree and four years years of experience to qualify for certification through the CFA institute. This qualifies you as a Chartered Financial Analyst, or CFA, which is the certification best suited for a controller job.


Controllers need several key skills to perform their jobs effectively. They need to be detail-oriented because financial records of companies are highly scrutinized by investors and government officials. In this field, you must also have math skills to compute financial records for your company, or ensure all departments are meeting their budgets. Organization skills are necessary to manage multiple projects and meet deadlines. And you need communication skills to convey complex financial computations and concepts to company managers and executives.

2016 Salary Information for Financial Managers

Financial managers earned a median annual salary of $121,750 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, financial managers earned a 25th percentile salary of $87,530, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $168,790, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 580,400 people were employed in the U.S. as financial managers.

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