What is a Comptroller?

What is a comptroller is a question that even the most fiscally-educated people continue to ask. That’s not a surprise, considering that financial regulations in the country are chaotic at best, and most of the reporting on the crisis is coming from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Here’s a short primer to give you a better understanding of what this important profession entails.

Definition of the Profession

A comptroller is the most senior manager or administrator of an organization’s financial affairs. This is a profession that differs from the CFO role also found in businesses; comptrollers work independently of the CFO yet both work together to build and protect the wealth of the organization. Comptrollers are also sometimes called controllers; there is very little difference between the professions and the only difference found is that a controller is hired by a business and a comptroller often works from a publicly elected office.

Employment Opportunities

As mentioned above, comptrollers have the ability to work both in the public and private sector. Comptrollers can be found to take positions in business, firms, conglomerates, and even in government. In America, cities all have a comptroller; this is a publicly elected office that requires campaigning on the part of the individual who would like to hold the position. Comptrollers can also be found in nearly every agency in the government, in NGOs, non-profit organizations, and even banks. The employment possibilities are endless and include positions in the financial, business, tech, and healthcare industries.


A comptroller oversees the financial health of an organization. They are responsible for internal control audits, financial reports, cash flow, financial policies and procedures, and building and maintaining financial reporting systems. Comptrollers often report directly to the head of an organization or its board of directors and are responsible for payroll, benefits, debt, and any other financial activities that may be pursued by the organization. Working with a team of accountants and other financial professionals below them, they are in a leadership position that requires good communication and critical thinking skills as well as a need for a humble attitude in order to ensure that the financial success of an organization is secured.

Education and Other Requirements

In order to become a comptroller, an individual must have at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or other finance-related fields from an accredited university. They will also be certified as either a CPA or a CMA. These designations come after successfully earning a degree and with at least one year of professional work experience. While the minimum education requirement is a bachelor’s degree, many comptrollers also hold an MBA degree and often hold other designations such as CIA, CGFM, or CFA. Comptrollers often begin finding employment opportunities after five years of work in a finance position, enabling them to gain valuable work experience will building up their resume with the proper leadership experiences necessary to become a valuable comptroller.

Comptrollers are an important part of an organization. They provide the necessary skills to keep a business financially secure and able to move forward with ambitious new projects. From the government to the private sector, few questions are as important as asking, what is a comptroller and how can I become a member of that select group?