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How to Become a Controller

Career News August 23, 2013

A controller is a major financial position in the workplace, this one involving the analysis and interpretation of financial data. Not only do you understand and explain the material, but you also distribute it, serving all interested parties with pertinent information. This position also contributes to company planning, accounting and budgeting. You’re not only reporting to top level executives, but also to people who don’t think in numbers—a sort of number translator who can get the point across.

What the Job Entails

Controllers are based in the accounting and financial departments of large corporate clients and are often among the most trusted authorities, who will help with decision making. Responsibility is key here, as the controller oversees the work of many, while also reporting to various departments.

You will have to think in a flexible manner, meaning you can be timely when needed, or very accurate, or project “big picture” views, or short-term consequences. In terms of working skills, your greatest assets will be technical and analytical abilities, as well as quick-thinking, critical thinking and people skills, since you will have a major part in influencing company decisions. Managerial skills are also extremely important, as is technical ability. In fact, some students who progress to the point of controller qualification have difficulty keeping up with the high demands for both technical understanding and communicative abilities. The ability to be persuasive and to meet people at their level when discussing technical information is another nuance of the business.

Education is where You Start

Controllers start their career with CPA certification, as well as continuing education, since much of the work is intrinsically linked with accounting principles. Reaching out for Certified Management Accountant training is also a step in the right direction, since this is where you can learn economics, information technology, and the likes. Experts also suggest that joining a philanthropic organization might be a plus on your resume, as this will give you much needed experience in communication.

When you’re starting out at the bottom, a solid education in finance and accounting is required, and this means a bachelor’s degree. However, practically all students who want to advance will go in for their master’s degree or perhaps an MBA. It is actually advised to this as early as possible, so that pursuing more education doesn’t affect your climb of the ladder—which can be fairly quick, if you have the skills.

In addition, you could also take preparation jobs such as accounting or auditing and work as an assistant. This strengthens your credentials while ensuring you have one-on-one mentoring opportunities. Another tip often repeated is to build connections early on; for example, getting to know the CPA who reviews your company and asking him or her about available positions. Never be too modest, just communicative and honest about your career aims. This will ensure that people remember your name and start to associate you with opening positions when they become available. This is an exciting career path to choose and one with tremendous responsibility and cloud, if you have the time to commit to a college education.

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