Motor controllers can be operated manually, remotely or automatically. They may only include the means for starting and stopping the motor or other functions as well.

An electric motor controller can be classified by the type of motor it is to drive, such as permanent magnet, servo, series, separately excited, and alternating current.

A motor controller is connected to a power source such as a battery pack or power supply, and control circuitry in the form of analog or digital input signals.