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How to Become an Assistant Controller: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become an assistant controller. Research the education requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in accounting and finance. View article »

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Should I Become an Assistant Controller?

An assistant controller reports to the controller in directing the principles, practices and procedures of accounting within an organization or company. This individual is instrumental in maintaining accountability of the financial resources of the business and safeguarding investor assets. He or she also ensures internal compliance with local, state and federal regulations. Long work hours are often needed, and some controllers and their assistants might be required to travel. The career path for this position involves a combination of education, certification and experience in accounting. In January 2016, Payscale.com reported a median annual salary of $68,150 for assistant controllers.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Accounting
Licensure/Certification Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Experience Experience required by many employers
Key Skills Math and organizational skills; detail oriented; familiarity with accounting software such as Blackbaud, Oracle, or ADP General Ledger
Salary $68,150 (2016 median for assistant controllers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale.com, Monster.com (October, 2012)

To become an assistant controller, you'll need a bachelor's degree in accounting. You may also need to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and experience is required by many employers. You'll need to have math skills, organizational skills, detail orientation and familiarity with accounting software, such as Blackbaud, Oracle or ADP General Ledger.

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Steps to Become an Assistant Controller

Let's learn more about the steps that have to be taken to be an assistant controller.

Step 1: Obtain a Degree from an Accredited University

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field is necessary for a job as an accountant. Assistant controllers require experience in accounting, so this includes them as well. General education courses, such as those in mathematics, social sciences and English, are also essential to developing critical-thinking, problem-solving and communication skills for managing others in the future. A bachelor's degree may be sufficient, since experience can be more important than formal education at some firms, but it's recommended that assistant controllers interested in advancement consider pursuing a graduate degree.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Assistant controllers need to have good communication and leadership skills and be extremely knowledgeable in the financial aspects of business. According to an October 2012 job search on Monster.com, employers look for applicants with previous job experience in accounting, Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification and management experience. They must also be comfortable with accounting databases and other financial management software. Some employers require experience specific to their industry.

Step 3: Become Certified

Qualified candidates who seek the CPA designation must pass the Uniform Certified Public Account Exam. Each state requires a certain level of experience and education to take the CPA exam. Most states require 150 semester hours, as well as 1-2 years of experience working under a CPA, before a candidate can sit for the exam. The exam consists of four sections, including business environment and concepts, financial accounting, reporting and regulation, and auditing and attestation. Some states allow students to take the exam during the final semester of school and submit experience requirements throughout the certification process.

Step 4: Obtain a Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Even though it's not a requirement for most assistant controller positions, the MBA can be enormously helpful for individuals seeking career advancement. The curriculum focuses on general financial management skills that offer students the opportunity to absorb a substantial amount of challenging material in a condensed time frame. Students usually concentrate their studies in a particular area, such as management, computer information systems or finance. Concentration areas depend upon the individual program. Many programs offer flexible schedules and online options. Most MBA programs have strict academic requirements for acceptance, including the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and work experience.

To become an assistant controller, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree and some experience in the field.

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