Is becoming a controller right for me?

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What do controllers do?
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How to become a Controller

Becoming a controller requires a combination of education, relevant work experience, and professional certifications. Here is a guide on how to become a controller:

  • Bachelor's Degree: Start by earning a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting, Finance, Business Administration, or a related field. Many controllers hold a degree in accounting as it provides a strong foundation in financial principles and practices.
  • Accounting Experience: Obtain relevant work experience in accounting or finance. Entry-level positions such as accountant, financial analyst, or auditor are excellent starting points. Aim for roles that involve financial reporting, budgeting, and analysis to build your expertise.
  • Progressive Experience: Work your way up in your career. Controllers usually have several years of experience in accounting or finance, including roles with increasing levels of responsibility and complexity.
  • Certification: Although not always mandatory, obtaining a CPA license can significantly enhance your prospects. CPAs are highly respected in the accounting profession and can open doors to advanced career opportunities.
  • Master's Degree: Pursuing a Master's Degree in Accounting, Finance, or Business Administration (MBA) can provide a competitive edge, especially for senior-level positions.
  • Continuing Education: Stay updated with the latest developments in accounting standards, taxation, and financial regulations through continuing education courses or workshops.
  • Specialize: Gain experience in areas relevant to the industry you want to work in. Specializations, such as cost accounting or tax accounting, can be valuable.
  • Networking: Network with professionals in the finance and accounting sectors. Attend industry events, join professional associations, and connect with peers and mentors.
  • Consider an Advanced Degree (Optional): Some controllers choose to pursue advanced degrees such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Accountancy (MAcc) to enhance their skills and qualifications.
  • Apply for Controller Positions: Once you have the necessary qualifications and experience, apply for controller positions. Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight your relevant experience and skills.
  • Continuous Professional Development: Stay current with industry trends and regulations. Participate in professional development activities and consider pursuing additional certifications or advanced degrees to enhance your expertise.

Controllers can enhance their professional credentials and marketability by obtaining relevant certifications. Here are some notable certifications for controllers:

  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA): The CPA certification is one of the most prestigious and widely recognized certifications in the accounting profession. CPAs have a strong understanding of accounting principles, taxation, and financial regulations. While not specific to controllers, this certification demonstrates expertise in the field and opens doors to various career opportunities.
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA): The CMA certification is specifically designed for professionals involved in management accounting and financial management. CMAs possess expertise in areas like financial planning, analysis, control, decision support, and professional ethics. This certification is valuable for controllers as it emphasizes strategic financial management skills.
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA): The CFA designation is ideal for controllers working in the finance industry, such as investment management or financial analysis. CFAs have in-depth knowledge of investment analysis, portfolio management, and ethical standards. While it is not tailored specifically for controllers, it can be valuable for those in finance-related roles.
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): Controllers involved in financial systems management and IT governance might consider the CISA certification. CISA professionals possess expertise in information systems auditing, control, assurance, and security. This certification is relevant for controllers overseeing financial information systems.
  • Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC): CRISC is another certification related to IT risk management. Controllers responsible for managing financial risks related to information systems might find this certification beneficial. CRISC professionals are skilled in risk identification, assessment, evaluation, and response.
  • Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE): Controllers concerned with fraud prevention and detection might pursue the CFE certification. CFEs have expertise in identifying and mitigating fraud risks, conducting investigations, and implementing anti-fraud measures.
  • Certification in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA): CCSA certification is suitable for professionals involved in internal control and risk management processes. Controllers responsible for internal audits and control systems might find this certification valuable.
  • Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM): CGFM is specifically designed for professionals working in government financial management. Controllers in governmental or public sector organizations might consider this certification. CGFMs have expertise in governmental accounting, financial reporting, internal controls, and budgeting.