Controller vs. Bookkeeper: Which One Should You Hire

Controllers and bookkeepers play an essential role in your financial reporting, but some key differences set them apart.

In this blog post, we'll outline the main differences between the two and explain which one is best for your business.

What does a bookkeeper do?

There are many reasons businesses may need the services of a bookkeeper. Some small businesses typically need help with financial transactions and creating basic financial statements.

However, others might require assistance with budgeting, financial reporting, or performing basic accounts receivable and payable management. This can be time-consuming and difficult, which is why business owners often seek bookkeeping services.

What does a controller do?

A controller is responsible for budgeting, supervising the accounting department's employees, and monitoring financial results. They help ensure that all financial procedures are followed and that budgets are met.

Controllers are also responsible for monthly financial reports (e.g., monthly income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow forecast). The controller collects the data from the accountants and checks its accuracy before reporting on the financial and operational progress of the firm.

Additionally, controllers guide management on areas where improvement may be needed. They help the company realize effective accounting solutions in cash flow management areas and maintenance of control over their operational costs.

Remember, a controller can handle all the job duties of a typical bookkeeper. However, they primarily act as a supervisor and oversees financial aspects beyond the scope of a bookkeeper.

A top-notch controller should understand financial reports, the financial health of a company, and the overall market environment and be able to use those data to prepare forecasts and make decisions. 

7 key differences between controllers and bookkeepers

Maintaining financial records

A bookkeeper is responsible for tracking and maintaining basic financial records, such as bank statements, invoices, receipts, and so on. Bookkeepers typically have a degree in financial accounting or some prior work experience.

A controller's responsibilities are much broader - they oversee budgeting processes and monitor financial results from all company departments. They are responsible for than just tracking finances. They are also responsible for forecasting, budgeting, and the financial close process.

Supervising financial data

A controller is often required to lead teams of employees and manage complex financial projections. They will analyze and review the

Financial analysis.

A bookkeeper's job duties do not typically include financial analysis. A controller, however, needs to understand complex financial reports and make informed decisions about company spending to meet goals and objectives.

Scope of Responsibility.

Bookkeepers typically focus on specific accounting functions, such as handling accounts payable and receivable or inventory.

Controllers are more likely to oversee all aspects of an organization's finances. As such, controllers must have the knowledge to choose and maintain financial software to make themselves efficient.


Bookkeepers typically work with historical data already in a specific format, such as figures from invoices or bank statements.

Controllers, on the other hand, may have to interpret complex financial data and predict future trends to make strategic management.


Bookkeepers typically have bachelor's degrees. Controllers have at least a bachelor's in accounting, are more experienced, and some may also have an MBA.


The salaries of controllers and bookkeepers vary significantly, depending on their experience and qualifications.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of accountants (which includes bookkeepers) in 2021 was $77,250. However, financial managers (which include controllers) earned a median yearly salary of $131,710 in 2021.

Both roles have their strengths. Therefore, it's essential to identify which would best suit your needs as a small business owner!

Which one should your business choose?

A bookkeeper will be a better fit if you're looking for someone to handle day-to-day financial record management and to create basic financial statements. A controller will be a better choice if you need someone to take charge of your accounting department, take control of financial management and provide strategic advice and guidance.

Parting words

Trying to figure out the difference between bookkeeping and controller roles in business can be a little confusing. Both positions have their strengths and weaknesses, so assessing your specific needs and budget is essential before making a decision.

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