How to Become a Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Discover how to become a chief financial officer. Learn about job duties, education requirements, salary, and job outlook to see if this career is suitable for you. Schools offering Finance degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Chief financial officers are responsible for managing the financial aspects of a business. They do so by creating and directing financial policies for an organization. They also evaluate the financial performance of a business to determine areas that require improvement. Check out the table below for quick info on the requirements and responsibilities of this career.

Education Required Bachelor's degree at minimum; a master's degree is common
Educational Field of Study Finance, accounting, business administration, or similar field
Key Skills Critical-thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, and leadership skills
Job Growth (2016-2026)* -4% (for all chief executives)
Median Salary (2017)* $183,270 (for all chief executives)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Responsibilities of a Chief Financial Officer?

A large part of the work a chief financial officer does involves forecasting or projecting the financial future of an organization based on various trends. They also set financial goals for a company by assessing financial records as well as manage a company's budget. Additionally, chief financial officers are often responsible for monitoring and ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal finance laws as well as reporting financial information to shareholders. Chief financial officers often work closely with top executives from other departments within an organization.

What Are the Educational Requirements?

A bachelor's degree is required at a minimum, with many chief financial officers possessing a master's degree. Degrees can be obtained in the areas of finance, accounting, business administration, or a similar field. Certification as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) may also be required. Additionally, most chief financial officers have had many years of work experience prior to stepping into the role.

What Are the Skill Requirements?

In order to be successful in a role as a financial chief officer, strong critical-thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills are a necessity. Strong analytical skills could prove to be beneficial also, as chief financial officers are required to take financial data and reports and derive value from them. As a top executive in a leadership role, strong leadership skills, management skills, and communication skills could also prove beneficial for chief financial officers, because they manage other employees within their department and dictate tasks and responsibilities.

How Much Can I Earn?

The median annual pay for all chief executives was $183,270 as of May 2017, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The top industries these professionals worked in were government, manufacturing, and healthcare, as well as professional, scientific, and technical services. These professionals typically work full-time, with many working more than 40 hours per week, including on weekends and evenings.

What Is the Job Outlook?

The BLS projects an employment decline of -4% for all chief executives between 2016 and 2026. This projection is based on the fact that business tools and organizational structures now allow CEOs to more efficiently and effectively handle their business' daily tasks, reducing the need for other chief executives. Also, not as many new companies are being created as in the past. As a result, a larger concentration of employment appears among established corporations. However, individuals possessing a graduate degree and a strong experience record are expected to have the best prospects for these roles.

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