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How to Become a Financial Manager: What You Need to Know

Image: How to Become a Financial Manager

It's essential for companies to maintain a clear view of their current and long-term financial health, especially when navigating an uncertain economy. This is a role typically filled by one or more financial managers. A financial manager may, among other things, work to reconcile industry challenges and goals for future growth with current profits and losses in order to paint an accurate picture of a company's present financial state. Job growth for financial managers is on par with the national average, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting 7% growth in the field from 2014 through 2024.1

Below we provide a basic overview of the typical skills and responsibilities involved in such a position, as well as how to become a financial manager if you see this as a potential career fit for you.

What Does a Financial Manager Do?

Financial managers primarily act as experts that advise upper management and executives on decisions that will impact a company's financial health and success. Part of this involves monitoring the company's financial records to ensure accuracy and identify any signs of concern. However, as more of this monitoring work is able to be done by advanced programs and IT systems, a financial manager's role is increasingly defined by analysis and reporting.2

By observing industry trends and analyzing how various economic factors may impact the market, financial managers make recommendations for how to operate more efficiently, reduce risk, or increase a company's bottom line. Sometimes this involves offering advice and expertise as part of an executive's leadership team, or it may include drafting plans for a significant overhaul of internal processes or product offerings. Certain positions may be more akin to a supervisor role, managing a team of employees handling reporting and budgeting.

Required Education and Skills

Typically a bachelor's degree in finance, accounting, economics, or business administration is the minimum education requirement for financial management positions, though an MBA in finance or a closely related field may be preferable for some employers. Because of the complex and advanced nature of a financial manager's role, most employers require five years of experience in a related position, such as financial analyst or accountant.3

Degree programs in business administration or finance work to prepare students for the type of work they may do as a financial manager. Classes will generally focus on a mix of financial analysis methods and programs, economics, budgeting, risk management, research methods and business planning, and management techniques.

Top skills for financial managers include:3

  • Analytical and critical thinking skills
  • Communication skills (both written and verbal)
  • Detail oriented
  • Advanced math skills
  • Strong organization
  • Problem solving

Certifications

While not usually required, some choose to pursue professional certifications to help demonstrate their expertise in financial management. Common certifications include the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) credential from the CFA Institute and the CTP (Certified Treasury Professional) designation from the Association for Financial Professionals. The latter organization also offers a Certified Corporate Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) Professional program.

Types of Financial Managers

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a high median annual salary of $115,320 (as of May 2014) for financial managers, job details will vary depending on one's specific position. Some common financial management roles include:2

  • Controllers
  • Treasurers and finance officers
  • Credit managers
  • Cash managers
  • Risk managers
  • Insurance managers

Ready to learn more? Explore online finance degrees at AIU.

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, "Financial Managers," on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm (visited February 13, 2016).

2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, "What Financial Managers Do," on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm#tab-2 (visited February 13, 2016).

3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, "How to Become a Financial Manager," on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm#tab-4 (visited February 13, 2016).

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