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In the United States, a comptroller is a financial executive who overseas internal auditing and accounting for an organization. Comptrollers can work for companies, non-profit organizations or governments, and they are responsible for making sure proper accounting methods are being used inside the organization. This is typically a senior position within a company, and it usually takes several years of accounting experience and education to become a comptroller. Most people in this career field have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting. They may also be certified public accountants (CPAs) or certified internal auditors and will generally have extensive professional experience in internal auditing.
A student in the U.S. who wishes to become a comptroller should enroll in an accredited accounting program at a college or university. Some accounting departments offer concentrations in internal and forensic auditing. In most cases, a student interested in this field should try to take an auditing concentration or focus on auditing course work instead of tax preparation. Students should pursue summer internships in auditing departments and try to qualify for Beta Alpha Psi, an honor society for accounting students. They may also wish to become student members of the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA).
Generally, the next step for a graduate seeking to become a comptroller would be to get a job in an auditing department and sit for the CPA exam. Getting a CPA designation may mean additional coursework, as well as prepping for and passing the test. Some companies offer tuition assistance and reimbursement for costs associated with the process. Graduates may also wish to upgrade their IIA membership and take advantage of the organization’s training programs and seminars. A graduate wanting to become a comptroller for a state government will take a similar path, but he may wish to begin his career in an auditing department in the public sector, so he can gain experience in governmental accounting practices.
Once the auditor has passed the CPA exam and established himself professionally, he should begin to seek positions of responsibility within his company’s auditing department. He should also build a relationship with senior financial executives and display the qualities necessary for a good comptroller. The comptroller must be comfortable reviewing the work of his peers within the company and be willing to bring important issues up to senior management. While the comptroller may not be the most popular figure in an organization, his role is vital to ensuring that internal financial reports are accurate and dependable resources.
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