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What is the Difference Between an Accountant and a Controller?

If you are pursuing a bachelor’s degree with a major in accounting or finance, it is important to learn the difference between an accountant and a controller. While both of these positions are in the field of accounting, there is a major difference in the requirements to become and the responsibilities of each professional. It is important to identify all of your options when you want to work in the world of accounting, and knowing the difference between accountants and controllers can actually help you identify a career option you may have never considered. Here is a straightforward explanation so that you can distinguish between the two:

The Difference Between the Roles of the Accountant and the Roles of the Controller

The easiest way to distinguish between an accountant and a controller is to understand what each does in the accounting department. Basically speaking, an accountant is in charge of preparing financial reports and analyzing how the company is performing financially. A controller on the other hand, is in charge of the accounting department and will oversee the production of financial reports as well as control the company’s cash flow. Controllers are in charge of money and accountants, and accountants are responsible for keeping tabs on where the money is going. As the Chief Accounting Officer of an organization, the controller, often called a comptroller, is also responsible for complying with tax laws and government reporting requirements.

The Difference Between Educational and Experience Requirements for Accountants and Controllers

The educational requirements to become an accountant do not differ much from the requirements to become a controller. In order to become an accountant, you will need to pursue a 4-year undergraduate degree in accounting. Once you earn your bachelor’s degree, you may want to go a step further and study to take the Certified Public Accountants exam to earn your CPA certification. To become a controller, you will need a degree in accounting or finance. In addition to this, you will need either a CPA or a MBA to compete for a position. The major difference between the requirements for a controller and an accountant is that the controller is a manager, and their focus in school will be in both finance and business administration. If you start in the field of accounting as an accountant, your experience may replace the need for an MBA.

What is the Difference in Earnings?

The average salary for intermediate level accountants is $55,331. This average is based on very high and low salaries, and some accountants make significantly more. As the chief accountant of a company, a controller earns about $77,000 on average. It is important to keep in mind that the controller takes the responsibility for accuracy within the department. If you prefer to take a leadership role, being the controller may be the right path for you.

Are you all about the numbers, or do you prefer to head the accounting department and control the budgets? Consider the difference between each profession, the difference in salaries, and which career path will offer you the best future so that you can take the right route.