Career Guide: What Can I Do With An Accounting Degree?


Job Description:

A controller, also known as a comptroller, financial controller, or financial control officer (FCO), directs the preparation of financial reports, including income statements, balance sheets, and analyses of future earnings or expenses, as well as special reports required by governmental regulatory agencies. Controllers may oversee a company’s accounting, audit, and budget departments and direct its financial activities, including investing. In large to mid-size companies, controllers typically answer to a chief financial officer, and their respective duties may overlap.

Controllers must hold at least a bachelor's degree, preferably in finance, accounting, economics, or business administration. Many employers favor candidates with a master's degree in the aforementioned areas. Though not required, professional certification, including certified public accountant (CPA) or certified management accountant (CMA) can be helpful for career opportunities and advancement.
Median Salary:
According to the Robert Half 2013 Salary Guide, the average salary range for controller for companies with annual sales of less than $50 million ranges from $71,500 to $99,750. Salaries for controllers for companies with annual sales of over $500 million range from $140,500 to $192,500. The guide also names controllers as one of a handful of "positions in demand," citing the need of "growth-based companies" in a still-recovering economy.
Job Outlook:

Projected to grow 9% between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS.

Controllers may be a misunderstood sector of the financial management realm, but this occupation often proves essential at the highest executive level of many companies and corporations. Controllers responsible for the health and stability of a given organization are expected to experience modest job growth during this decade. The BLS reports that more than a quarter of all financial managers, including controllers, work in finance and insurance, followed by smaller percentages working in management of companies and enterprises, professional, scientific, and technical services, manufacturing, then government. Growth of employment in this field is expected to parallel overall economic health, and may also fluctuate according to the viability of traditional practices of banking and financial institutions through the year 2020. Although employment rates vary by industry, controllers with terminal degrees and maximum work experience are typically eligible for top jobs in their field.

Continuing Education:

Continuing education provides ongoing career development to professional controllers. It is also required for controllers to maintain their certified public accountant (CPA) certification status. The Institute of Internal Auditors website features various certifications of interest to financial managers. Although requirements vary, in addition to the CPA certification some controllers may enroll in continuing education course credits to pursue chartered financial analyst (CFA) or certified management accountant (CMA) credentials. While no schools currently offer a degree program exclusively for controllers, many schools feature certificate-level curriculum including finance, business, accounting, law, and ethics courses that are in-line with certification requirements for this field.