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How to Become an Assistant Controller

Do you have strong analytical and problem solving skills? Are you detail-oriented and enjoy math, accounting, and financial processes? Then becoming an assistant controller might be the perfect role for you. 

An assistant controller assists the corporate controller in an organization’s or company’s finance and accounting functions. Developing and maintaining financial reporting/planning and budgeting systems are also key roles of this position. Assistant controllers may train accounting staff and coordinate with auditors as well. Preparing monthly, quarterly, and yearly financial reports is another function that the assistant controller completes.

Sample job description

We’re hiring for an assistant controller. The ideal candidate for our team will be interested in learning quickly, have a knack for working with world-class clients, and be excited to be surrounded by some of the best CPAs, accountants, and consultants in the industry. The assistant controller communicates financial data to internal and external contacts and agencies as required. You must have proven experience in financial management as well as experience carrying out a variety of accounting and finance tasks to ensure the financial health of the organization/company.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Create financial statements
  • Prepare financial reports monthly, quarterly, and yearly
  • Ensure accounting practices are in compliance with legal guidelines
  • Identify solutions to any discrepancies in financial records
  • Maintain financial records and work with IT to maintain system processes
  • Provide input into developing the budget
  • Work closely with the company controller
  • Work with the financial team to create internal policies and controls

Education and experience

  • 2+ years of experience in accounting, finance, or a related field

Required skills and qualifications

  • Highly organized with attention to detail
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Proficient in data analysis, problem-solving, and critical thinking
  • Expert knowledge of finance, accounting, budgeting, and regulations
  • Knowledge of basic office/accounting software programs
  • Skilled in time management and prioritizing tasks
  • Looks for ways to improve efficiency

Preferred qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or a related field
  • Certified Public Accountant status
  • Experience in a related field
  • Years of experience in private or public accounting
  • Advanced Excel and computer skills
  • ERP and Concur experience

Typical work environment

Assistant controllers work in different industries including banks, insurance agencies, healthcare, and more. Office environments are where the majority of assistant controllers work, such as large corporate headquarters, government buildings, banks, and more. They work closely with corporate controllers and top executives. Some may work remote full-time or have a hybrid schedule. Travel may be required from time to time, but it’s not common.

Typical hours

Assistant controllers typically work more than 40 hours a week, working overtime, weekends, or evenings if needed. Typical hours are from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday.

Available certifications

It is recommended and preferred for assistant controllers to have certifications in addition to their education and experience. Having certifications can help advance your career as well as hone in on specific skills and knowledge that will be very beneficial for career growth. Here are some of the available certifications:

  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA) – You will need to pass an exam that is 14 hours long and split into four sections (Financial and Accounting and Reporting, Business Environment and Concepts, Auditing and Attestation, and Regulation). In addition, you have to have the minimum experience and education determined by the state in order to obtain a CPA.
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA) – Globally recognized, this certification is a professional credential in financial management and management accounting. This certification affirms that the individual has experience and knowledge in financial planning, control, analysis, and professional ethics. A bachelor’s degree is required before taking this exam. 

Career path

To become an assistant controller, a solid combination of education and related work experience are necessary. A bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as accounting or finance is needed to become an assistant controller. Although a master’s degree is preferred, assistant controllers usually start in an entry-level position after graduating college and then move into supervisory positions before applying for an assistant controller position. Some common positions before becoming an assistant controller include roles as a cost accountant, junior internal auditor, or management accountant.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 11-3031

2020 Employment681,700
Projected Employment in 2030799,900
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 17% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift118,200 increase

The workforce is evolving for many job fields, including assistant controllers. The work of assistant controllers will see more automation, with a transformation into digital finance. Enhancing technology with human capability will maximize efficiency and outcomes. 

As a result of the pandemic, assistant controllers can expect to still see some hybrid or distributed workplaces. This can offer more collaboration and flexibility, as well as a more diverse workforce.