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How To Become A Financial Controller: Degree & Career Guide

As you pursue an educational background and a career in accounting, you may have a clear idea of the role you are hoping to fulfill, immediately or in the near future. One of these roles that you have set your sights on may be that of a financial controller.

A financial controller is a senior accounting role that oversees not only the financial division of a company but also the actual finances of a company. Those who fulfill this role find themselves working directly under the role of the chief financial officer (CFO) in a company.

The role of a financial controller is one that many work toward in their career as accountants.

To become a financial controller, you would need to obtain your bachelor's degree, you would need to obtain the appropriate certification, You would need to gain direct industry experience, and you may need to consider enrolling in a graduate degree program.

Let us take a closer look at this field of study and how it bodes as a career path. Let us also look closely at the steps you would need to take to fulfill this role.

What Is A Financial Controller?

As the lead accountant or the accounting manager in an organization, a financial controller holds a high role within any organization. Working closely with the CFO in a role that is directly beneath them, they ensure that all financial operations within a company are up to par.

While there are other accountants, bookkeepers, accounting clerks, and other individuals working in the finance division of a company, a financial controller will often oversee each individual, their roles, and duties. They will make sure that on an employee level, everyone is properly executing their duties.

Additionally, on an operational level, they will make sure that the finances of an organization are properly allocated, distributed, and that a company remains profitable. They will ensure that all transactions are accurate and that it translates well into the budget of an organization.

They also manage the internal budgets making sure that each division is allocated an appropriate amount of funds, and that the budget allocations cover internal payrolls and payments to vendors and creditors.

Considering that a financial controller is a mid- to senior-level role, you would need to hold the appropriate qualifications and the relevant experience for the role. This is often the position that entry-level accountants aspire to obtain as they climb up the professional ladder.

What Does A Financial Controller Do?

The primary role of a financial controller would be present in most, if not all, financial decisions that take place within an organization. Working with a team of accountants, and other finance specialists, financial controllers will use financial, bookkeeping, and accounting software to develop the company's financial records and reports.

Thereafter, they will work with senior management to assess these reports and make decisions regarding the financial well-being of the organization. Through these reports and the decisions that are made by the management of a company, investments will be made, expansion can be considered, and the growth of an organization will be closely monitored.

If the financials of a company are of any concern or if the financial projections of a company do not look promising, it is up to the financial controller, along with higher management to make adjustments and changes that will enhance the profitability of the company.

Not only are you required to handle the internal financial management of a company as a financial controller, but you are also required to take care of the external financial operations of an organization. You need to communicate with clients or customers, vendors, creditors, and other organizations with which your company interacts on a financial level.

A financial controller will devise and set in place an organization's future financial objections, and they will work toward implementing processes that will allow them to meet these objectives.

Additionally, they will be required to oversee all tax-related processes, they will need to devise finance policies for an organization, they will oversee internal and external audits, and will be in charge of hiring and training all new staff within the finance division.

The duty of a financial controller is also heavily rooted in technology as they are required to use digital processes and software to execute their duties.

The interesting thing about being in any managerial role or mid- to senior-level role is that you need to know how to successfully complete the job of all those who report to you. You need to know how to execute basic bookkeeping duties, how to complete and draft accounting reports, and much more. To be successful in this role, you need to successfully understand the roles of your subordinates.

Steps To Become A Financial Controller

Step One: Obtain Your Bachelor's Degree

Achieving any high-level role can only occur through a combination of education and experience. Therefore, the starting point for a financial controller would be to obtain a bachelor's degree. You would need to work toward your degree in finance, accounting, business management, or any related field. This will equip you with the relevant skills you'd need to fulfill the role of a financial controller.

Step Two: Obtain Your Certifications

To be considered as a candidate for the role of financial controller, you need to have the appropriate credentials. This means obtaining your certified public accountant (CPA) credential, your certified internal auditor (CIA) credential, or your chartered financial analyst (CFA) credential.

Once you have prepared for these certifications, you would then need to sit for extensive examinations before obtaining them.

Step Three: Pursue A Graduate Degree

To make yourself an even more appealing candidate for the role of a financial controller, it would be recommended that you obtain a master's degree, either in accounting and finance or obtain your Master's in Business Administration (MBA).

This could be something you dive into straight after your bachelor's degree, and after your CPA certification, or you could pursue your MBA once you have an entry-level role.

Step Four: Gain Experience

Next, you would need to gain direct industry-related experience. You could do this by applying for internships or other entry-level roles within the field whereby you will work under senior management and learn all the processes that are required for you to one day assume the role of a financial controller.

Step Five: Apply For The Role

Now that you are qualified and that you have the experience, you can then begin your job hunt, or you could work your way up the internal ladder if you already working within the finance division of a company.

You can search for roles within higher education institutes, government agencies, large companies, hospitals, banks, and investment groups.

How Much Does A Financial Controller Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial managers earn a median annual salary of $131,710. The job outlook is also expected to experience a projected 17% growth over the next decade.

What Skills Do You Need To Be A Financial Controller?

Aside from being good with numbers, you would need to have the skills and knowledge to use digital accounting programs, and you would need to have analytical and critical thinking skills.

Additionally, considering that this is a management-level role, you would need to have strong leadership skills. You would also need to be an effective communicator and have the ability to interact with internal and external stakeholders.


Are Financial Controllers In Demand?

Given that the BLS has reported a 17% projected growth in the field of financial controllers, financial controllers are in demand, and there is an expected average of 71,300 job openings year on year for the next ten years.

What Are The Career Growth Prospects Of A Financial Controller?

The next step in the career of a financial controller would be to become CFO. However, you should not expect to walk into the role. It takes hard work, experience, and high performance to qualify for the role of a CFO. Additionally, there would need to be an opening for you to apply for.

Is A Financial Controller A Good Job?

Considering that it is well-paying and that you have certainty that your skill set, and expertise will always be needed, being a financial controller is a good job to have.


If you have the ability to lead a large team, if you know how to communicate, and if numbers are your forte, then this may be the role for you to consider. With hard work and proven experience, you could be successful in this role.

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