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Accountant Vs. Controller

Accountants and controllers both work with financial data. The similarities and differences between these professions are explored here, as well as their training requirements, advancement opportunities and salaries.

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Comparing Accountants to Controllers

Accountants and controllers are both involved with preparing financial documents and calculations. Controllers are in a senior position and oversee the work done by those in a financial department, including accountants. Controllers earn higher salaries than accountants and are currently experiencing a higher rate of job growth in their field.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)**
Accountants Bachelor's degree $50,362 10% (accountants and auditors)
Controllers Bachelor's degree $80,210 19% (financial managers)

Sources: *PayScale; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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  • Accounting with Computers, General
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  • Taxation, General

Responsibilities of Accountants vs. Controllers

Accountants and controllers complete financial documents, check them to make sure that they're accurate and ensure that the reports comply with applicable regulations. When necessary they identify and correct errors. One of the key differences between them is that controllers have more authority and responsibility. Their duties include supervising accountants and reviewing the reports they produce. Controllers also prepare documents for the government. Some accountants, such as government accountants, may be involved in performing audits as part of their duties.

Accountants

Accountants may spend their time preparing tax-related documents for companies or individuals. They may also be involved with producing other types of financial documents for companies. While some accountants work in finance or government, others work for companies that provide accounting services. An accountant's work environment may depend on their employer because some accountants can work from home and travel to see clients as needed while others work in an office. Some accountants pursue opportunities in management or to advance to roles as a financial manager or executive.

Job responsibilities of an accountant include:

  • Reviewing financial records
  • Completing financial documents
  • Assessing records for accuracy
  • Identifying ways to improve profits
  • Conducting audits

Controllers

Controllers are financial managers who are involved with overseeing the work done by staff in a company's finance department. Common fields of employment include manufacturing and insurance. They spend most of their time working indoors and overtime is common. While it's possible to enter this field with a bachelor's degree and experience in a related field, such as accounting, some employers may prefer applicants who have a master's degree. With experience as a controller they can opt to pursue work as a chief financial officer. Attention to detail is important since they spend a lot of time reviewing reports to ensure they're accurate, and controllers must be aware of all regulations and laws that must be adhered to.

Job responsibilities of a controller include:

  • Producing financial reports
  • Determining financial projections for their company
  • Monitoring the work of those in the finance department
  • Creating policies and procedural guidelines for staff to follow
  • Evaluating the work of accountants and others

Related Careers

Other careers that involve assessing financial data and preparing financial reports include being an auditor or financial analyst. Use the links here to learn more about these career options.

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