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Financial Controller: Accounting Salaries


Name: Misty Cargill
Job Title: Financial Controller
Where: Woodland, CA
Employer: Resonant Sonic International, Inc.
Years of Experience: 10
Education: BS Accounting – University of Phoenix
Salary: See the PayScale Research Center for median financial controller and other accounting salaries.

Financial Controller: Accounting Salaries

You’ve probably heard of financial controllers, but may not be able to recite a financial controller job description off the top of your head. In this Salary Story, we crunched the numbers with Misty Cargill who is a financial controller in California.

She opened the books on how to become a financial controller, factors that can affect accounting salaries and the daily tasks of today’s financial controller. For more info on a career that really adds up, keep reading!

Financial Controller Job Description:

I enter all invoices for payment (accounts payable) and compare against purchase orders and sales orders. I audit invoices created (accounts receivable) and double-check against the contracts and sales orders. I process all payments going out and all payments coming in.

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I create financial statements and reports for the board (we are a corporation). I audit and approve all payroll from HR; I post it to our general ledger and make sure all appropriate taxes, 401k and varied contributions are indeed made by our 3rd party payroll company.

What was your career path toward becoming a financial controller?

About 10 years ago, I was hired by Enterprise Rent-A-Car to work in their accounting department processing DMV titles. I was hired for my personality and gumption, yet over time I noticed that I was being passed up for any promotions or lateral moves because I did not have a degree.

I left after 2 years and worked a few varied accounting jobs. Well, then I was hired as a full charge bookkeeper for a small local manufacturer. By this point my accounting knowledge was decent, and I was hired based on the fact I did NOT have a degree and could be paid cheaper.

After a year there, my father passed away and I realized that I needed to get on with my life and get an education. At the time, I was a single mom, wanted to provide better for my child and set a good example.

So I put myself through the University of Phoenix, working full time during the day and attending classes at night. My next employer was a computer networking company that hired me as their full charge bookkeeper, contingent on me completing my degree.

A few weeks after graduation, I was promoted to financial controller and took on a more proactive role in all of their financial reporting. I was laid off from there in January of this year. I was completely blind-sided and did not expect it. This experience  gave me a very large reality check: even the accounting industry isn’t completely secure, employment-wise.

I came on board with Resonant Sonic in March of this year as their financial controller. This by far is my most challenging position and I truly love it. Every day it challenges me to think outside the box, and I love knowing my education is being put to use.

As one of today’s financial controllers, can you recall any humorous moments?

I get a lot of people who do a double take when they meet me because I am young. It makes me laugh because there is this huge stereotype that you have to be older and usually a man to be a financial controller.

Little do they realize that the young gal in Levi’s and flip-flops can create a profit and loss statement and tell you whether the company is running itself into the ground just as well as some older stiff in a suit.

Do you have any advice on how to become a financial controller?

You MUST have a four-year degree if you truly want to be a financial controller. Many small businesses will label a position “controller,” but all you are is a glorified full charge bookkeeper. Pay attention to your classes; don’t be afraid to ask questions of your instructors and other accountants you know.

Also, most employers will want you to have your CPA or an MBA, but not want to pay you for that accreditation. Stand your ground and demand it. I do not have it, but am working on my MBA (of which my employer is very aware and supportive).

What is the employment outlook for financial controllers?

There will always be a demand for accountants. The demand for controllers is there, but more and more employers are being very picky. They want extensive education, but do not want to pay the salary to offset that.

To find jobs, I’m a big fan of and (once you weed past the spammers). I found my position through a recruiter. I liked having someone else sell and market me.

What factors can affect the accounting salaries of today’s financial controller?

Business size is the biggest influence. You’re not going to make a six-figure salary if you’ve got a small business maybe clearing $4m in net income every year. If you want big money, go work for a big company. Its all going to depend on what the person wants. Big money? Personal fulfillment? To be challenged?

An MBA, CPA or even a CMA will greatly influence salary – it not only makes an accountant more marketable, but can also generate higher accounting salaries. Companies like bragging about their controller’s background, especially if they have a graduate degree or special accreditation (i.e. CPA).

How does your salary compare to accounting salaries? The PayScale Salary Calculator is a quick and easy way to compare positions. But when you want powerful salary data and comparisons customized for your exact position, be sure to build a complete profile by taking PayScale’s full salary survey.

Matt Schneider
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Thank you for enlightening me on your path to becoming a controller, as a gal aiming to pursue this career you have inspired me!

Jon controller
Jon controller

Great advice keep up the good work. I am a 25 year old CPA and just got hired as a controller. I will use your advice to my success.

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