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What Do Controllers Do?

Job Descriptions September 30, 2013

Controllers handle business accounting duties, which are concerned with preparing financial statements for review, as well as budgeting. He or she may have to present reports to various members of the company, not to mention third parties. Therefore, one of the prerequisites is that controllers have complete knowledge of all transactions.

A Job Description for Controllers

This means everything from financial statements to budget reports, profit and loss, and even forecasts of future cash flow and assets. This allows the controller to make recommendations for future actions, based on the reports. The controller may find an advantage in cost cuts or additional spending. He or she also has the right to supervise other accountants that work within the hierarchy.

The responsibilities are significant. In addition to ensuring accuracy, he or she must also see that all money owed is collected and that all expenses are paid. Analysis and advice are part of the job description, and you typically report to the CEO.

Although you are not serving as a lawyer, controllers do often give unofficial legal advice, since many will come from attorney backgrounds. The title of CPA, or Certified Public Accountant, is preferred before job hiring, and this will indicate to an employer that you can see a variety of perspectives to a business. Yes, this is an advisory position, not merely an accountant, hence the heavy requirements.

You will be working with computers frequently, and learning new software if need be, in order to keep and report accurate records. Software may not be all in one, but may consist of separate programs for budgeting, forecasting and other analysis tools. Software is frequently updated so expect regular refresher courses to be a part of the job.

Given the high authority of the controller, it is not surprising to hear that, after a relatively short but effective career, you can progress to the point of CEO or even vice president of financial operations.

Increasing Responsibility

As your duties unfold, be prepared to manage bookkeeper workers, handle payroll, sign and verify checks, sign sales tax documents, and make adjustments in journal entries for clarification.

You will also likely be handed over duties of approving or adjusting credit limits, and implementing new policies to make financial systems more efficient. Lastly, you could be called to deal with insurance, risk management and manage a system to protect company assets even in dire times.

A controller, naturally, handles internal controls, meaning the company policies and protocols that have historically led to profitability. When you are dealing with private companies and small to medium range companies, these controls will be individually based, not standardized. Therefore, a personal familiarity with workers and financial information is imperative.

This is a career choice that will set you down a path of lucrative career opportunities. Now is the time to begin your trek into financial responsibility with a college degree. This education can prepare you for the grind, and the knowledge you will be expected to have for the first day of work.

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In 2018, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
median earnings per week than workers with only a high school diploma.*
*Bureau of Labor Statistics

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