What Is Job Description of the Corporate Controller?

by Aimee M. Bissonette - Updated September 26, 2017
Businessman with laptop, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Corporate controllers (sometimes referred to as "chief financial officers" or CFOs) are top executives responsible for the financial activities of the organizations in which they work. Controllers establish financial policies, track income and expenses, oversee budgets, and make recommendations regarding investment decisions. The job market for controllers is competitive. Industry experience is a must.

Education

Most controllers have bachelor's or master’s degrees in business administration, finance, or accounting. In addition, controllers often earn professional certifications, including Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA). Earning these certifications improves an individual's chance of becoming a controller.

Areas of Responsibility

Controllers manage investments, oversee cash management activities, deal with mergers and acquisitions, and supervise financial reporting. They often manage several employees or entire accounting departments. Controllers report directly to the president or board of directors of their organizations.

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Salary

Controllers, like other top corporate executives, are highly paid. Median annual salaries of corporate executives, including controllers, were $158,560 in 2008. Controller salaries vary widely, however. Top executives in large companies can earn more than $1 million annually, depending on their level of responsibility and industry. In addition to salaries, compensation for controllers often includes stock options and performance bonuses.

Technology

Controllers must be comfortable with technology. They use calculators and computers with specialized financial software programs to compile reports. They use spreadsheets to analyze data and frequently file reports via electronic submission.

Areas of Interest

Controllers must like working with numbers. They need to be knowledgeable about economic and accounting principles and financial markets. They should also have an interest in general business administration, including strategic planning, human resources, and corporate governance.

2016 Salary Information for Top Executives

Top executives earned a median annual salary of $109,140 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, top executives earned a 25th percentile salary of $70,800, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $165,620, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 2,572,000 people were employed in the U.S. as top executives.

About the Author

Aimée M. Bissonette, J.D. (University of Minnesota Law School), has been writing professionally since 1993. Her book, "Cyber Law: Maximizing Safety and Minimizing Risk in Classrooms," helps educators understand the legal issues associated with the use of technology in schools. Bissonette practices law with Little Buffalo Law & Consulting in Minneapolis.

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