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Assistant Controller 101: What They Do, Why They Matter, and How to Break Into the Industry

As the world of finance becomes more complex than ever, skilled financial professionals are more important than ever too.  

Businesses today are seeking experts like assistant controllers who can steer them toward financial stability and growth. With their expertise in financial reporting, budgeting, internal controls, and compliance, their influence extends into decision-making and risk management. 

With demand soaring for assistant controllers nationwide (and salaries increasing to match), now’s a great time to break into the field.  

In this article, we’ll look at what assistant controllers do, how they contribute to organizations, the skills they need, and how to start your career. 

What Is an Assistant Controller?

An assistant controller, or assistant financial controller, is responsible for providing high-level support to corporate controllers as they manage a company’s accounting and financial activities. As defined by Indeed, their duties include producing financial summary statements, forecasting a company’s financial health and correcting inaccuracies in a company’s financial records. 

Key Responsibilities of an Assistant Controller

You can think of assistant controllers as financial stewards who work diligently behind the scenes to ensure an organization’s financial health. Their specific duties and responsibilities include: 

  1. Financial reporting and analysis: Assistant controllers are responsible for preparing and analyzing financial statements like balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements. These reports provide critical insights into a company’s financial performance so that executives can make smart business decisions.
  2. Budgeting and forecasting: Assistant controllers collaborate with other team members to set financial goals and create plans to achieve them. In addition to budgeting, they’re responsible for forecasting future financial trends and developing strategies to mitigate business risk and pursue lucrative financial opportunities.
  3. Internal controls and auditing: Assistant controllers must maintain strong internal controls to safeguard their company’s assets and ensure compliance with financial regulations.
  4. Compliance and regulatory reporting: Assistant controllers make sure their organization maintains compliance with financial laws and regulations. As part of this responsibility, they will prepare and submit reports to government agencies and industry bodies as required. 

Assistant Controllers Are the Financial Backbone of an Organization

Assistant controllers are every organization’s trusted ally to elevate and stabilize their financial health and pave the way forward with strategic decision-making. Here’s how they stay vigilant on the company’s financial stability, compliance, and strategic growth: 

Assistant controllers secure their organization’s financial health.

With their keen analytical skills, assistant controllers are the first to find budget inefficiencies, cut unnecessary costs, and streamline financial processes to enhance profitability and ensure the company stays financially strong and healthy. 

They’re key decision-makers.

Armed with accurate financial data and keen insights, assistant controllers provide invaluable support to leadership in making well-informed, strategic moves that propel the company forward. 

Assistant controllers mitigate and manage financial risk.

In an industry marked with uncertainties, assistant controllers are at the forefront of identifying and mitigating financial risks. Their expertise equips organizations with the tools needed to navigate economic challenges and adapt to changing financial demands and trends. 

Education, Training, Skills, and Qualifications You Need to Become an Assistant Controller

Education and Training Requirements

You’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, business administration, or a related field to get hired (76.1% of assistant controllers graduate with a bachelor’s degree, and 12.5% earn a master’s degree). Many professionals in this role also pursue either a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA) to enhance their qualifications and expertise.  

Desired Work Experience From Employers

Assistant controllers often start this career path with an internship or a cooperative education program in fields like accounting, finance, business administration, or human resources. This hands-on experience brings what they’ve learned in the classroom to life and, oftentimes, proves to make them even more prepared for their career than curriculum alone. 

Upon graduation, these individuals will officially break into the field in an entry-level role in accounting, finance, business administration, human resources, or another applicable field. With time, they can advance to more challenging positions, often with leadership opportunities on the horizon. This journey eventually leads them to finally land a role as assistant controller or controller. In some cases, specific work experience in specialized fields like human resources or tax law might be required, depending on a company’s unique needs.  

Let this be a point of encouragement that there’s wiggle room for you to choose your own adventure on the path to becoming an assistant controller. Sure, there are certain boxes you need to check, but you also get to tailor your journey to your unique skills and interests. How cool is that? 

Whatever Path You Choose, Make Sure You Develop These Skills 

An assistant controller uses industry knowledge, soft skills, and technical abilities to effectively support executive management and other colleagues in assessing and improving the organization’s finances.  

Skills and qualification typically include: 

  • Expert knowledge of accounting and financial principles, regulations, and best practices 
  • Excellent understanding of governmental guideline and tax laws that affect the company 
  • Highly organized with keen attention to detail 
  • Proficient with data analysis, critical thinking, and problem-solving 
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills 
  • Proficient in basic office and accounting software programs 
  • Collaboration and teamwork skills 

How to Optimize Your Resume and Prepare for a Job-Winning Interview

Once you’ve got the required education, experience, training, and skill development under your belt, it’s time to start applying!  

Follow these tips for tailoring your resume and preparing for an interview if you want to stand out in the competitive job market: 

 Resume-Building Tips for Assistant Controllers 

  1. Review the job description carefully and tailor your resume: Note the key responsibilities, skills, and qualifications required so that you can customize your resume for each application. Emphasize the experiences most relevant to the specific assistant controller role for which you’re applying. 
  2. Write a compelling objective statement: Start your resume with a tailored objective statement that summarizes your career goals and how they align with the role. 
  3. Highlight your relevant experience: Focus on positions where you’ve gained financial, accounting, and leadership skills. Use bullet points to detail your accomplishments and responsibilities. 
  4. Don’t skimp on the skills section: Create a skills section that includes both technical and soft skills. Mention proficiency in accounting software, financial analysis, budgeting, data analysis, and soft skills like communication and leadership. 
  5. Include your certifications: If you have certifications like CPA or CMA, make sure they’re listed front and center on your resume. 
  6. Quantify your achievements: Use numbers and quantifiable achievements to demonstrate your impact. For example, “Implemented cost-saving measures that reduced annual expenses by 15%.” 
  7. List your education history: Start with your most recent degree. Mention any relevant coursework, honors, or special projects. 
  8. Highlight relevant projects: If you’ve worked on projects related to financial analysis, budget planning, or compliance, include them in a separate section. 

Key Steps to Prepare for the Interview

Preparing for an interview can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re on the hunt for your first role in the field. While it requires a bit of research and planning, it’s well worth the effort. With the right mindset and a few key strategies, you can set yourself up for success. 

  1. Research the company: Beforehand, have a good understanding of the company and the role. Spend some time researching the company’s mission, values, and culture, as well as any recent news, reviews, and financial challenges or opportunities the company may face. 
  2. Get familiar with behavioral questions: Practice answering behavioral questions that assess your skills and competencies. For example, “Tell me about a time when you identified and resolved a financial discrepancy.” Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your responses.  
  3. Prep for technical questions, too: Expect questions related to financial analysis, regulatory compliance, budgeting, and accounting principles. Brush up on your technical knowledge and be prepared to apply it to real-world scenarios. 
  4. Practice answering case studies: Some interviews may include case studies or problem-solving exercises. Practice analyzing financial data, making recommendations, and presenting your findings. 
  5. Prepare questions for the interviewer: Interviews are a two-way street, so come prepared with your own set of questions as well. You may consider asking about the company’s financial strategies, challenges, and the role of the assistant controller in achieving financial goals. 
  6. Make sure to follow up: After the interview, send a thank-you email to express your gratitude for the opportunity and reiterate your interest in the position. 

Start Your Assistant Controller Career With ITAC Solutions by Your Side

Looking to take steps toward becoming an assistant controller? Our team is here to offer personalized career opportunities, expert guidance, and unwavering support tailored to your unique needs and goals in your financial career.  

The financial world is waiting for your expertise and insights. Reach out today or search open controller roles on our website. Let’s embark on this exciting journey together!