While financial management is a popular profession, many people still ask, what is a comptroller? While most comptrollers are employed in the financial services sector, such as banks and other financial institutions, many others are employed in non-financial sectors such as in schools, hospitals, government and advertising companies. The salaries of comptrollers vary depending on experience, with senior comptrollers earning six-figure salaries. Like controllers, comptrollers are responsible for overseeing accounting and financial operations of firms. However, there is a distinct difference between a controller and a comptroller. Most comptrollers work for government and nonprofit agencies, while most controllers work for-profit organizations, according to The Post-Standard Online.

Job Duties of Comptrollers

State Governments

Most comptrollers in state government are elected officials with strong accounting and financial management skills. The main duty of comptrollers in state governments is to serve as Chief Financial Officers of the state. They are required to ensure financial integrity, responsibility and management. Some of the duties of comptrollers in state government include budgeting, auditing, managing state assets, auditing and developing sound financial policies.

Local Governments

Many comptrollers work in local government agencies in cities and townships. Comptrollers in local governments work as chief financial officers, and are responsible for all financial aspects of local government such as accounting and financial management. Some of the duties of comptrollers in local governments include budgeting, drafting contracts, auditing and financial management. Comptrollers in local government can be elected or appointed to their position, depending on local government policies.


Comptrollers play a crucial role in managing finances for learning institutions. They are employed in colleges and universities as department heads and managers, but may or may not act as Chief Financial Officers for the institutions. Comptrollers in education are responsible for overseeing financial and accounting aspects of learning institutions. Some of their duties include financial reporting, student accounting, grant accounting and asset management.

Comptrollers in Nonprofit Firms

Museums, healthcare organizations and other nonprofit firms may also hire comptrollers. Most often, comptrollers in nonprofit firms serve as Chief Financial Officers and oversee accounting and financial duties of the firms. Some of the duties of comptrollers in nonprofit firms include auditing, asset management, financial reporting and budgeting.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who work in banks can gain the experience required to become comptrollers. Those who stand a good chance of being hired as comptrollers include professionals who have held positions in loan processing. Many financial institutions offer formal management training programs for existing employees. Such programs can help you gain work experience required to become a comptroller. Other institutions where you can gain work experience include accountancy firms, educational institutions, stock brokerage firms and insurance companies.


For professionals beginning their careers in financial management, they can expect to receive a salary of about $40,000 a year. Experienced comptrollers can earn up to $80,000 a year, according to Payscale.

Cities with Most Positions

According to Payscale, the cities with the most comptroller positions include Buffalo, New York, , Dallas, Atlanta and Washington D.C.

Related Resource: Tax Accountant

What is a Comptroller? This question can be answered in many ways. However, being a comptroller is a promising and competitive career in financial management. Many employers look for applicants with formal university education, preferably in financial management. Most times, those with experience in the industry will have an upper hand.