How Do You Become a Comptroller?

ComptrollerAccounting is known as the language of business and one must demonstrate fluency in a variety of accounting functions to become a comptroller. A company’s comptroller is often the highest ranking accounting executive in the organization, and they most likely report directly to the chief financial officer. Besides overseeing the duties of subordinate accountants, the comptroller administers internal audits to ensure that their company complies with the national Generally Accepted Accounting Principles as well as the International Financial Reporting Standards when doing business in foreign markets. Since the job of comptroller is a senior position, there are many steps that a student must take to qualify for the role. Here are some activities that prepare ambitious students to be comptrollers.

Academic Requirements

An undergraduate accounting degree is nearly always the educational foundation that comptrollers lay for their careers. Other undergraduate degree programs that future comptrollers take are finance, economics and business administration. Future comptrollers who take those alternate degree programs usually follow up their education with a master’s degree in accountancy (MAcc). These students also customize their degree programs with concentrations in auditing when given the opportunity. MAcc programs are also popular because most undergraduate accounting programs do not offer enough courses to cover the training requirement for accounting licensure. Subsequently, most comptrollers have advanced degrees in accounting.

Internship Opportunities

The importance of internships is becoming well established within industry, and most accredited accounting degree programs now offer internships within their curricula. Although the most popular internships available to accounting students are related to tax preparation, aspiring comptrollers should try to expand their choices to include assignments with well respected audit teams. The supervised experience gained through these internships are so important to the career progression of all accountants that most students seek opportunities independently of their schools when their programs do not offer the right types of internships.

Featured Programs

Licenses and Certifications

Almost all comptrollers are licensed and hold the certified public accountant (CPA) designation. The CPA license is the most well known credential in the accounting career field, and it is the main way that employers verify a candidate’s knowledge of the discipline. Besides a degree from an accredited accounting programs, the requirements for the CPA credential are 150 semester credit hours of accounting or business training, successful completion of a four part comprehensive examination and actual supervised work experience. The amount of work experience required differs by state. Another popular certification for comptrollers is the Certified Internal Auditor credential, and accounting professionals who work in government program offices also obtain the Certified Government Financial Manager certification.

Professional Association Memberships

Most accounting certifications must be maintained by completing continuing education and taking periodic exams in some cases. One way that aspiring comptrollers are able to gain education credits and prepare for tests is by joining professional accounting associations like the Institute of Internal Auditors, American Institute of CPAs and Association of Government Accountants. These organizations also provide excellent networking opportunities for an accountant who is on the fast track to become a comptroller.

Related Resource: Accounting Fraud


While there are some absolute requirements that one must meet to gain the position of company comptroller, most of them are dwarfed in comparison to expertise and talent. Those characteristics are developed through many years of carefully selected accounting assignments, and one generally cannot become a comptroller without them.