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Chief Financial Officer Career Guide

How to Become a Chief Financial Officer

Financial management plays a critical role in a company’s success. Organizations with sound financial planning, positive cash flow, and compliant accounting procedures are well-oriented for success. A chief financial officer (CFO) will typically direct these strategies, leading accounting and financial departments in ensuring successful financial operations.

One of several careers that depend on an accounting degree, a CFO handles both policies and people. They help to create and implement financial processes while overseeing the performance of accountants and other financial staff members.

If you’re someone who thrives in a financial environment and you’re looking to exercise strong leadership skills, the role of a CFO offers an ideal employment opportunity.

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What Is a Chief Financial Officer?

A chief financial officer is an individual who guides a company’s financial operations. They direct strategies that foster smooth payroll management, investment, tax filing, and budgeting procedures.

CFO is a specialized role requiring both an undergraduate and master’s degree. In addition, you’ll likely need to obtain a few financial certifications and have a few years of financial experience under your belt.

What Does a Chief Financial Officer Do?

A chief financial officer handles a wide variety of responsibilities. In addition to managing accountants and other financial department employees, they implement high-level financial strategies that drive the business toward success.

The exact responsibilities of a CFO include:

  • Directing a company’s financial operations.
  • Managing all financial department employees.
  • Drafting financial strategies that help companies avoid compliance issues and yield sufficient returns.
  • Analyzing financial trends to guide future business decisions.
  • Communicating with other department leaders.
  • Providing reports to company executives or stakeholders.
  • Auditing a company’s financial strategies to ensure decisions are made in the best interest of a company’s fiscal health.
  • Reviewing corporate policies and operations to ensure continued compliance with all local, state, and federal tax laws.

What Education Does a Chief Financial Officer Need?

Before you can begin your management career, you will need to meet a few educational requirements. First, you’ll need to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management, accounting, or a closely related field. A strong financial foundation is critical to a CFO's success. A bachelor's degree program in business and accounting will teach you management fundamentals—including skills in marketing and strategic thinking.

After obtaining an undergraduate degree, many aspiring managers pursue a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) to learn management fundamentals including strategic thinking and marketing. Many organizations will require candidates to have this advanced degree. This program helps fully prepare students for leadership roles in the workplace. Additionally you’ll learn operations management, ethical leadership, accounting, and other skills that make you a great business leader.

What Degrees are Best for a CFO?

Accounting – M.S.

Become better qualified to pursue a greater variety of public...

Become better qualified to pursue a greater...

Become better qualified to pursue a greater variety of public and private accounting positions:

  • Time: 70% of grads finish within 23 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,675 per 6-month term.

Some careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Accountant
  • Accounting manager
  • Internal audit manager
  • Senior accountant
  • Other specialized finance roles

This MAcc program is designed to prepare you for the CPA exam and also the CMA or CIA exams.

Master of Business Administration

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on business...

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on...

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on business management, strategy, and leading teams:

  • Time: Graduates can finish in 12 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,675 per 6-month term.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • President and CEO
  • Vice president
  • Executive director
  • Chief strategic officer

Our competency-based model gives you an innovative learning experience you won't find anywhere else—and our MBA grads tell us they loved accelerating their program to see a faster ROI.

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What Skills Does a Chief Financial Officer Need?

Every day, a CFO relies on key skills. These skills help guide financial decision making.

A chief financial officer needs the following skills:

  • Financial management. Manage all aspects of a company’s financial operations.
  • Budgeting. Create, implement, and optimize company budgets to allocate resources in ways that secure maximum return.
  • Accounting. Record and manage financial transactions.
  • Data analysis/reporting. Collect and analyze data, and report the findings to company representatives and executives.
  • Leadership. Motivate while ensuring accuracy and accountability.
  • Delegation. Assign financial tasks appropriately to management staff and individual financial employees.
  • Interpersonal communication. Correspond effectively with all members of a financial department, in addition to other company representatives and executives.
  • Problem-solving. Identify and overcome issues that a financial department might face.
  • Instruction. Teach best financial practices to department employees and managers.

How Much Does a Chief Financial Officer Make?


The exact income of a chief financial officer varies. Factors include your employer, employer’s location, years of experience, education, and active certifications. On average, the annual salary of a chief financial officer is $136,773, with a range of roughly $77,000 to $224,000.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?


The job outlook for CFOs is expected to remain positive over the next decade. From 2019 to 2029, employment for all financial managers is expected to increase by 15%. This projected growth rate is much faster than the average across all occupations.

The demand for CFO positions is expected to vary by industry. However, companies across virtually all fields will require the services of chief financial officers for creating sound practices and ensuring financial stability. 

Where Do Chief Financial Officers Work?


Many CFOs work in close physical proximity to other members of the financial department. In some circumstances, a CFO might work in a hybrid work environment.

A chief financial officer can work for:


-Private companies



-Healthcare organizations



-Educational institutions



-Banks and credit unions



-Investment and wealth management firms



-Government organizations



-Nonprofit organizations



Interested in Becoming a Chief Financial Officer?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this exciting career.

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