How to Become a Corporate Controller?

Are you thinking of becoming a Corporate Controller or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a Corporate Controller, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new Corporate Controller job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.
"Controller" was the nearest match for you query "Corporate Controller".

Steps to Become a Controller

A controller is an attractive career ambition for many accountants. Find out what it takes to become this financial guru, then follow these steps:

Take an inventory of your personal skills.

Those seeking to work as a controller must have strong personality traits to succeed in the position. This role requires you to interact with clients and oversee your team's daily activities. Therefore, many employers prefer individuals who have:

  • Problem-solving skills.
  • Analytical thinking.
  • Aptitude for leadership.
  • Organization skills.
  • Strong attention to detail.
  • Keen business sense.
  • Interpersonal and communication skills.

Get your master's degree.

Every controller job is unique. However, there are a few universal qualifications that every serious candidate should possess. This analytical position requires a firm grasp of accounting and business concepts that go beyond an undergraduate degree.

A master's degree provides you with the complex instruction in corporate strategy and leadership skills necessary to stay competitive in this field. With this background, you'll have the ability to make sound decisions for your company's financial success. In addition, current professionals should seek out mentors and consider courses in advanced business concepts, like:

  • Managerial finance.
  • Behavioral studies.
  • Business leadership.
  • Economics.
  • Business law.
  • Human resources.
  • International business.

What type of degree should you pursue to become a Controller?

85% of people working as a Controller earned a Bachelor's Degree

What skills do you need to be a Controller?

  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • GAAP
  • Powerpoint
  • Windows Operating Systems
  • Excellent Customer Service
  • Written Communication
  • Audit
  • MS Office
Based on resume data from Glassdoor users who reported working as a Controller in the United States.

Put your degree to work as an accountant.

Even the best student won't get a controller job right out of college. It can take at least five years of dedicated work to earn this coveted title. Controllers must refine their technical skills by practicing as accountants and auditors in private sector roles or with government agencies and nonprofits.

Many individuals start as cost accountants and advance to management positions after demonstrating their financial expertise, leadership abilities, and business management software competency. Plan to follow up that experience with a multi-year tenure as an assistant controller.


Take your certification exam.

In addition to a master's degree and half a decade of experience, aspiring controllers should consider earning a certified public accountant, certified management accountant, or a chartered financial analyst title.

The certified public accountant (CPA) credential is the most commonly acquired certification for controller positions. These certifications require passing an exam to ensure you understand the information. Testing requirements vary by state, but most programs require 30 credits more than a bachelor's degree and at least one year of accounting experience. The CPA examination contains four sections, including:

  • Business environment and concepts.
  • Auditing and attestation.
  • Regulation.
  • Financial accounting and reporting.

Continue your education.

Controllers are typically required to complete continuing education to maintain their CPA-related credentials. Educators designed the process to help you maintain your competency and understanding of ever-changing tax laws. Most of these employees must also demonstrate extensive experience with Microsoft Excel and proficiency with leading financial analysis software, like Intuit's QuickBooks.

Corporate Controller Career Path


2 - 4Years of Experience
$118K - $195K /yrMost Likely Range
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Senior Controller

2 - 4Years of Experience
$133K - $220K /yrMost Likely Range
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Lead Controller

5 - 7Years of Experience
$123K - $199K /yrMost Likely Range
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Total Pay Trajectory

Corporate Controller Career Path

Summer Intern Controller
Assistant Manager of Finance
Senior Controller
Controller Manager
Lead Controller
Senior Manager of Finance
Controller V
Assistant Director of Finance
Associate Director of Finance
Director of Finance
Senior Director of Finance
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Related Careers in the Finance & Accounting Industry

Interested in other Finance & Accounting careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Corporate Controller skills. Discover some of the most common Corporate Controller career transitions, along with skills overlap.

Financial Analyst
38% skills overlap
11% transitioned to Financial Analyst