Controller Vs. CFO: Role, Duties & Salary

Controllers and chief financial officers (CFOs) have different levels of responsibility for the financial well-being of a business. Compare their salaries, growth predictions and daily duties.

Comparing Controllers to CFOs

Controllers and chief financial officers (CFOs) both attempt to keep a company fiscally sound, but CFOs hold a higher level of responsibility, and the daily duties of these two professionals will vary. Readers can also note that there are significant differences between their annual earnings and job growth projections.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)**
Controllers Bachelor's Degree $79,297 (Financial Controller 19% (Financial Managers)
CFOs Bachelor's Degree $127,556 (Chief Financial Officer/CFO) -3% (Chief Executives)

Sources: *Payscale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Controllers vs. CFOs

Controllers are much like corporate accountants in that they track the spending of a company's departments. CFOs do similar work, but they are responsible for setting the budget to which controllers should adhere. Additionally, CFOs make other important policy decisions as members of the executive board, while controllers make sure finical departments are fulfilling the company's procedures and goals. Both are expected to form relationships with managers, and learning the needs of departments throughout the company as a way of implementing budget decisions in an informed way.


Within a company, controllers supervise the accounting and auditing departments. They also allocate funds to different projects and departments while maintaining an overall budget for the organization. Controllers should be able to complete various financial reports, such as balance sheets and monthly financial statements. They also direct the completion of reports for governmental agencies, including ensuring the correct tax codes are used on income tax forms. Controllers work to gather financial information and report on the economic health of the company, allowing stakeholders to make informed business decisions.

Job responsibilities of a controller include:

  • Reviewing federal and state financial reporting requirements
  • Outlining annual budgets for the whole organization
  • Ensuring accounts payable are keeping accurate records for paying employees
  • Ensuring accounts receivable are tracking billing and invoices correctly


CFOs develop a company's business strategies in regards to spending and budgets. As a member of the board, not only are they expected to attend meetings, they should develop policies based on board guidelines. One of their common duties is to appoint financial heads, like human resources and accounting. They also negotiate acquisitions and invest funds, both of which bring fiscal growth to the company. CFOs also oversee the policies and financial decisions of subsidiary companies that could affect their company.

Job responsibilities of a CFO include:

  • Measuring the performances of financial departments and maximize workflow efficiency
  • Supervising third-party auditors or tax accountants
  • Finding cost-effective benefits packages for employees
  • Suggesting new projects and programs to bring funds to the company

Related Careers

Because you seem interested in a career as a controller, you could look into a position as a certified public accountant; both assist with monetary auditing. Of course, if a position as a CFO is more your taste, you could also explore a career as a financial advisor, since both attempt to keep finances healthy.

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