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How much do Controllers make? How much do Accountants make?

When it comes time to hire for a position, where do you get your pay range from? I use the trusted source of Robert Half's salary guide, which I've found to be helpful in getting ranges. I'm helping with a project to determine salary ranges for positions being hired for. There seems to be an issue over titles, as in I want to title someone different than the hiring manager. Keep in mind, I work in accounting and have experience.The hiring manager is at the executive director level and knows what he wants to pay and duties he plans to assign. The saying that title doesn't matter is only true in some instances. Titles are important in accounting because, in general, it delineates duties and, often times, experience levels. A controller does, and rightly so, have different duties that an accountant. Just like an accounting director and a finance director are different from a controller and an accountant. Thus, the pay ranges are different. When you hire, do you follow the duties route to get to the title? Or do you start with the title and build the duties beneath it? Once you get the title and duties, how and where do you determine their pay? Is Robert Half's salary guide where you turn to for salary ranges, or is another resource better fit to be checked?


Ken Stumder
Title: Finance Director / Controller
Company: Ken Stumder, CPA
(Finance Director / Controller, Ken Stumder, CPA) |

Hi Chris,

I would say most hiring managers start with the immediate business need(s) they want to address, scope in duties as you say, and then compare that vs. the marketplace and title accordingly. Triangulation to the role instead of a strict definition starting with a title if that makes sense at all.

In the case where you want to title something differently than the hiring manager, is it inside the realm of accounting or something completely unrelated? If they are the direct line manager, control the job responsibilities and the budget, seems like they should be able to land on a reasonable title.

Is it a non-finance person doing it for finance dept? HR personnel are not direct hiring managers, but I am not sure if you mean someone within that function or someone in the business.

With regards to pay, it usually comes from step A above when you investigate the marketplace. Surveys can be helpful, but very often positions are posted in the local market with salary ranges and you've got your own budgetary constraints that influence how various positions are defined (you can do hiring in the future but need someone for xyz now instead of trying to put everything ideal in one role).

Came across this company though I have never used them.

Bet there are others,


Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

As far as salary guides go, your best bet is talk with peers, look at the help wanted to get a feel of what like-kind companies are paying, talk w/CPA firms or Payroll companies since they have that data (remind them you're looking at averages, not individual persons or companies).

The Robert Half guides, guides and others sometime agree (+/-) or are totally in disagreement between them. They are another yardstick.

Lastly if you are looking to change locales, check out the cost of living indexes to gauge where your present salary would situate you. A lower cost of living along with a lower salary may not be a step back, but could be an improvement (lower COL, lower taxes, etc.).

Steve Sheridan
Title: Associate
Company: Dean Lewis Associates
(Associate, Dean Lewis Associates) |

In addition to those resources mentioned (Robert Half,, I often look at Craigslist, Indeed, Monster, etc., to see what others are paying. It allows me to compare job duties, and as Ken said, see what the market is offering. The market is what really drives the range, as I'm competing for talent vs other companies.

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