Hotel Controller: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 09, 2019

Hotel controllers are in charge of the financial matters involved with running a hotel or hotel chain. They are tasked with monitoring and approving all financial decisions a hotel makes, and therefore must have thorough knowledge of accounting and finance to be effective at their job.

Essential Information

A hotel controller is a senior financial manager in the hospitality industry that oversees financial reporting, investments, risk management, and cash flow analysis, among other financial aspects of the business. These professionals may be employed by a single hotel or by an organization that operates many hotels. Most hotel controllers are required to have a bachelor's degree in accounting and a relevant master's degree or work experience. Certified Public Accountant licensure is also typically required.

Required Education Bachelor's degree + 5 years related experience
Licensure Certified Public Accountant licensure
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 6% for all accountants and auditors;
16% for all financial managers
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $70,500 for all accountants and auditors;
$127,990 for all financial managers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Hotel Controller Job Description

Hotel controllers are top-tier executives and as such usually report to the CEO or board of directors of the organization. These professionals have a long list of responsibilities, including the preparation of tax returns, financial statements, forecasts, budgets, profit and loss statements, and compliance reports for the business.

Often controllers supervise other departments such as accounting, collections and billing, and payroll. This executive is responsible for current accounting standards and federal and state regulatory requirements, and sometimes the audits that are necessary to ensure compliance.


Though the duties of hotel controllers will vary depending on the size of the organization where the controller is employed, some of the day-to-day functions are constant in the industry. An average hotel controller could expect in the course of a day to perform tasks such as:

  • Assist the accounting department with financial information and forms for tax compliance needs
  • Review and approve annual budgets and projections
  • Closely scrutinize funds transfer and cash disbursement protocols within the organization
  • Set or revise organizational policy when necessary
  • Monitor performance of financial employees and recommend action to human resources department when necessary
  • Maintain external relationships with banking and insurance executives outside of the organization
  • Approve procurement

Job and Educational Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that controllers are required to be Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), and thus hold undergraduate degrees in accounting or a related field. Additionally, the BLS states that senior-level executives, such as hotel controllers, are generally expected to hold a master's degree.

Bachelor of Science in Accounting

A Bachelor of Science in Accounting is a four-year program that is designed to prepare graduates for employment in business. Students who successfully complete this program will have a thorough understanding of how economics and the sociology of our culture function to create business, as well as the organizational structure within businesses.

Economics, statistics, and mathematics are heavily emphasized. Critical-thinking and problem-solving skills are also accentuated in order to prepare these graduates for eventual careers in management. This degree program is geared specifically toward preparing graduates to sit for the CPA exam upon graduation.

Master of Business Administration in Professional Accountancy

As a high-level executive, there is no specific degree requirement for hotel controllers other than that a graduate degree is usually preferred by employers. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Professional Accountancy could be helpful to the aspiring hotel controller's career. Designed to prepare graduates for a career in financial management, this two-year graduate program integrates accounting theory with business strategy and technical expertise in today's complex accounting standards.

A graduate student in an MBA program on professional accountancy could expect coursework such as:

  • Quantitative management analysis
  • Strategic leadership
  • Advanced managerial accounting
  • Fraud detection and prevention
  • Forensic accounting and audit
  • Business strategy and taxes

CPA Designation

All states in the U.S. require CPAs to pass the Uniform CPA Examination for licensure. The examination is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA); however, licensure is managed by individual state boards of accountancy. Individual state requirements will vary, but most states require a bachelor's degree, some work experience and occasionally additional class hours beyond an undergraduate degree to sit for the exam. Each state accountancy board will have specific eligibility details.

Professional Certification

Professional certifications are available for hotel controllers and may be viewed positively by potential employers. The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute offers a professional designation for investment executives. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree and four years of work experience to study for this graduate-level certification program. Once the study program is completed, three written exams must be passed to earn the CFA designation.

The Institute of Management Accountants offers accounting professionals the opportunity to earn the Certified Management Accounting (CMA) designation. Potential designees must have a bachelor's degree and two years of approved work experience to sit for the 4-part exam.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report data specific to hotel controllers, it does provide data for accountants and financial managers. While financial managers could expect employment within their field to grow by about 16% between 2018 and 2028, accountants and auditors will see job opportunities increase by as much as 6% during the same time frame. The median annual salary earned by accountants and auditors in 2018 was published as $70,500 by the BLS, which also indicated that financial managers earned a median of $127,990 the same year.

Hotel controllers oversee all of the financial matters of a hotel business, including cashflow, taxes, and financial projections. A Bachelor's degree in and of itself is not sufficient, but applicants can seek this position after obtaining several years of related work experience or further education in accounting. Professional certification may also boost job prospects.

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