Project Controller: Job Description and Education Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

Project controllers work with a myriad of clients and companies to make sure that projects stay on budget. Read on to learn about the education and experience recommended for beginning a career as a project controller.

Essential Information

Project controllers manage the financial aspects of projects for clients and organizations in a wide range of industries. They are financial managers who oversee project revenues and expenditures to verify that projects are completed on time and within budgetary guidelines. Typical work duties may include preparing and presenting financial statements, creating annual project budgets and forecasts, and supervising employees in finance departments.

Project controllers typically hold bachelor's or master's degrees in finance or accounting, and these professionals may have several years of prior experience working in financial positions. There are no required licenses or certifications for project controllers, but employers may prefer to hire credentialed workers.

Required Education Bachelor's degree at minimum; master's degree for some jobs
Other Requirements Previous experience in the financial industry
 Median Salary (2020)   $134,180 (for all financial managers)*
 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)  15% growth (for all financial managers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Duties and Responsibilities

Project controllers may manage the financial services for designated clients or projects. They may perform project monitoring and data collection to determine if a project is progressing according to budget. This may include conducting project audits, managing project schedules, and overseeing regulatory compliance issues. Project controllers may also be authorized to make or approve project expenditures.

In large organizations, project controllers may act as consultants to project management teams or manage accounting departments. They may also serve as liaisons between management and clients or between the finance department and project managers. Project controllers may also perform financial research, manage a project's general ledger, and/or monitor a project's cash flow.

Education Requirements

At a minimum, project controller positions typically require that candidates possess a bachelor's degree in a finance-related field, such as accounting, finance, business administration, or economics. Many employers may prefer candidates with advanced training, including the certified public accountant (CPA) designation or a master's degree. Relevant on-the-job training and experience may include time spent performing project cost accounting duties and in financial reporting roles.

Advanced or continued training in the use of computer-based accounting and analytical software, spreadsheet preparation software, and budgeting tools may be helpful for project controllers. Coursework or hands-on training in project management may also be a plus.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the employment of financial managers, such as project controllers, will grow by approximately 15 percent between 2019 and 2029. The median annual salary of all financial managers, according to the BLS, was reported as $134,180 in May 2020.

Those interested in becoming a project controller should start by earning a bachelor's degree in finances or a related field. They may also consider earning a master's degree or obtaining some hands-on training in order to make themselves more competitive in the job market.

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