You are working hard to become a CPA because you know this will open up a world of possibilities for your career. There are 2 main career paths for you as a CPA: you can become an accountant or an auditor. Most people think of public accounting when they think of CPAs; however, having your license will fast track your career not just in public accounting, but in private companies too. In my case, I found myself more interested in private companies. Today, I am a Controller. And this did not happen overnight. Here’s what I learned about what it takes to be in this position and how you can secure this title for yourself if that is your ultimate ambition!
If you choose the private accounting path, you’ll probably start as an Accountant, then a Senior Accountant, then advance to managerial positons like an Accounting Manager, Assistant Controller, then finally a Controller, which is the highest level as an “accountant.” They are considered the chief accountants of an organization.
Controllers are responsible for directing all the organization’s accounting functions. These functions include establishing and maintaining the organization’s accounting principles, practices, procedures, and initiatives. Controllers are also responsible for financial reporting, budgeting, and presenting findings and recommendations to top management. Controllers lead and direct the work of all the other accountants, analysts, and clerks in the department. They usually report to the CFO of the organization. The controller position typically requires a CPA license and at least 15 years of experience in the field.
If you have your sights set on becoming a financial controller, you should work on your soft skills. Successful staff accountants usually have strong analytical and technical skills but Controllers need to be able to think on their feet, look at the big picture, and not get stuck in the details. They also need to be strong communicators and able to report to the organization’s leadership in an enlightening and engaging way.
You’ll also need to find a mentor in the field. This could be someone at your work place or from a local association, community group, or even church! Make your superiors at work aware of your intentions of becoming a Controller and if you are good at what you do, your name will come to mind when there is a need for someone for fulfil this role.
You should also work hard on developing exceptional interpersonal skills to make contacts with those in executive positions in other areas of your organization. Building those strong relationships with the leadership and external auditors will help you become known for what you are good at, which could be attention to detail, thorough analysis, or any task you excel at doing. You can then ask these contacts to keep you informed about any vacancies that may present themselves in other companies, allowing you to climb the corporate ladder more easily and quickly.
“Just remember, you can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
–Margo Pacific, Guest Blogger for Roger CPA Review