All companies need financial professionals like controllers to help account for company expenditures and guide future acquisitions, and obtaining the degree needed to become a financial controller is often the first step along this exciting career path. A company’s chief financial officer supports the development of the organization’s strategy and relies on a skilled financial controller to carry out financial plans that align with the strategy. Here is the most common type of degree pursued by future financial controllers, the coursework that best supports success in the career and helpful certifications most often obtained by those on track to becoming corporate controllers.

Most Popular Degree For Financial Controllers

While there are always exceptions, most financial controllers begin their careers with undergraduate degrees in accounting. Some of the duties of senior financial managers include the development of financial statements, expenditure projections and internal auditing. The knowledge needed to perform these duties are extensively covered within most accredited accounting degree programs. The position of controller requires considerable quantitative and analytical abilities, but controllers also need knowledge of management, organizational and broad based business topics. While finance, business administration and management degree programs at many universities cover some of the skills required by controllers, it is often the accounting degree program that delivers the most complete package of career tools for aspiring financial controllers.

Degree Courses That Align With Controllership Duties

A financial controller’s duties and job responsibilities fall under the categories of management, transactions, reporting and compliance. One of the first courses that an accounting student will take is Principles of Accounting. This class is designed to familiarize students with the role of financial statements and reports within various types of businesses. Accounting information systems courses teach students about industry standard ways of automating accounting systems for greater accuracy, regulatory compliance and efficiency. Financial accounting coursework introduces students to the domestic and international standards for financial reporting of assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses. Ensuring that these reports are compiled correctly by their accounting department is one of the most important aspects of a controller’s job, because mistakes often constitute fraud and invoke legal penalties. Subsequently, controllers direct internal audits of their financial reporting systems to mitigate risks of errors, and they learn how to conduct these functions through specialized auditing courses within their accounting degree programs.

Beneficial Certifications For Financial Controllers

Financial controllers are sometimes called financial managers, but they really hold the responsibilities of chief accountant within their organizations. Financial controllers often spend many years gaining varied experience as accountants, and accountants are required to be licensed to hold public accounting positions. This is why so many controllers hold the certified public accountant designation, according to the American Institute of CPA’s. Other advantageous credentials include Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and Certified Financial Controller (CFC) designations. The CMA designation is used to verify an accountant’s skills in areas like analysis, control and decision support within the finance and accounting discipline. The CFC credential authenticates a controller’s mastery of accounting knowledge areas like forensic accounting, financial statement analysis and risk management.

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If accounting is the unofficial language of business, then financial controllers are some of the chief spokespersons within their organizations. However, the controller position is not one that is achieved over night. Besides the degree needed to become a financial controller, these professionals typically require several years of progressively challenging experience to perform successfully in the position.