How to Become a Finance Manager

Finance managers help guide the success of organizations, from nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies. They focus on the financial health and goals of the company while developing strategies and tracking the finances, expenditures and investments that support those goals. Learn how to become a finance manager.

Why Study Finance?

Studying finance can open doors to multiple career paths and opportunities, as well as higher levels of education and advancement. By learning finance, you may be able to work in industries as diverse as investment banking, management consulting, government and public-sector work, corporate retail, tax auditing, accounting, insurance and investment advising. Finance majors who follow up with graduate degrees can also, with appropriate schooling, become attorneys and business teachers.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Finance Manager?

In some places, it’s still possible to become a finance manager with a bachelor’s degree in finance (which typically takes four years) and three to five years of experience. Some employers, however, prefer job candidates who have a master’s degree, which takes another one to two years. Another route would be to shore up your skill set with a finance certificate or course.

Finance Director Education Requirements

An undergraduate business degree in finance, accounting, economics or business administration can help in attaining finance director positions. If you’re planning to pursue a graduate degree, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) may be a good option, though it may be beneficial to obtain a few years of experience in the working world instead of going straight from undergraduate to graduate work.

Steps to Becoming a Finance Manager

There are many ways to become a finance manager and they will often vary by company and position. However, a common path that may help you land the position can include these steps:

1. Choose your college or university

Spend time online exploring your education options, both in-person and online programs. Find out what business majors are offered, what the curriculum entails, whether the degree plans include online or scheduling flexibility, the cost and availability of financial aid. Remember, because of online programs, you don’t have to restrict yourself to a particular geographic region.

2. Earn a bachelor’s degree

Depending on the school you attend, you may pursue undergraduate studies in accounting, business administration, business intelligence and analytics, finance, health-information management, human resource management, information technology or small business management/entrepreneurship. A typical undergraduate curriculum will include foundation courses in accounting, economics, information systems, math (algebra, calculus, statistics), business ethics, business law, fundamentals of marketing, investments, financial management, organizational behavior and operations management. You’ll choose elective courses to learn about specific topics most interesting to you.

3. Find a job in an industry that interests you

If you want to work as a finance manager in a specific industry, try to get an entry-level job in that field. Look for a position with the potential to learn in different areas of the company, especially those associated with finance. Get as much varied experience as you can in two to five years (some MBA programs require this).

4.Consider earning a master’s degree

The two degrees that may help in a career of finance would be a master’s in finance (MF) or an MBA. The MF degree will be much more focused on finance, while the MBA will offer a broader approach, even with a concentration in finance. MF courses will include financial theory, corporate finance, investments, financial analysis, financial reporting, equity analysis, markets and valuation. MBA courses will have a broader focus: accounting for managers, organizational behavior, marketing management, ethics, economic analysis and business communications, for example. The MF degree typically takes a year; a regular MBA or an executive MBA, which is open to students with a specified level of work experience, typically take two years.

5.Obtain your professional certification

There are three exams that lead to the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification, which is voluntary but may increase your job opportunities or career potential.

7 Skills that Finance Executives Use Every Day

As a finance executive, you’ll face any number of daily challenges. For those who are already a manager seeking an executive role, here are some skills you’ll encounter:

1. Analytical ability

Can you look at a real-world situation in detail (including data), analyze it from multiple perspectives, and draw conclusions? It’s one thing to do it in a case study for class, but quite another when your decisions have an impact on real workers’ lives and company budgets.

2. Problem-solving skills

Fluctuations in the economy, errors in strategic company planning, cybersecurity issues and other negative situations require problem-solving skills. How do you perform under pressure?

3. Leadership experience

Understanding how management works—both from the point of view of a manager and from that of a worker being managed—will give you insight into the real-world effects of decisions you make as a finance executive.

4. Communication skills

Much of the information you’ll deal with on a daily basis can seem like a foreign language to those who haven’t studied finance. You need to communicate clearly—verbally and in writing—to make information manageable to a diverse population.

5. Accounting expertise

You’ll use your accounting expertise in many tasks, regardless of whether it involves direct accounting practice.

6. Understanding the marketplace

What is the relationship between your company and the marketplace? What is your market share? Is it growing or falling? How is your market changing, and how must your company respond? Being able to think in a forward manner about these issues will help in your career.

7. IT and cybersecurity expertise

Do you need to be able to write code? No. But do you need to be able to understand the concerns of your information technology people and the vital cybersecurity needs of your company? Yes. The biggest data breaches can cost a company millions of dollars.

Why Become a Financial Manager?

Financial manager jobs are the intersection of every other aspect of business: accounting, communication, negotiation, planning, research, data, management, budgeting, investing and capital expansion. These positions are needed in many industries, which gives you opportunity and flexibility in the future. As the world changes, challenges in financial management evolve, meaning your responsibility will continue to grow. And the careers can be lucrative.

Finance Manager Careers and Salary

The job outlook for financial managers is robust, with projected growth of 16% from 2018 to 2028—much faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Financial managers earned a median salary of $129,890 in 2019 with the lowest-paid 10% making less than $68,370 and the highest 10% paid more than $208,000. Finance managers in government earned a median wage of $114,250; those in finance and insurance earned $125,600; those in manufacturing, $130,900; those in management of companies and enterprises, $145,280; and those in professional, scientific or technical services earned a median salary of $152,810. Learn more about financial manager salary and careers.

Last Updated August 2020