Financial Manager Career Overview

Updated August 2, 2022 | OnlineMBA.com Staff

Financial Manager Career Overview

Are you ready to discover your MBA program?

Financial managers handle budgets, tax laws and regulations, and business expansions. These professionals may hold titles such as controller, treasurer, finance officer, and credit manager.

Financial managers work closely with finance departments and chief executives who monitor companies' overall financial health. While most organizations need some type of financial manager, the largest employers of financial managers work in insurance, finance, and scientific or technical services.

Most financial managers hold at least a bachelor's degree and five years or more of relevant work experience. Successful finance professionals in this field also possess strong communication, math, and problem-solving skills, along with a desire to keep track of complex financial data and changes in their chosen industry.

This page offers a detailed look at financial managers' roles in today's top industries. Read on to learn about hard and soft skill requirements, common financial manager career pathways, salary figures, and how to become a financial manager.

What Does a Financial Manager Do?

Financial managers analyze data that informs their business activity reports and financial forecasts. They advise senior managers to maximize profits and reduce costs. This complex work often involves maintaining extensive records, watching market trends, and guiding investment strategies.

Advancements in bookkeeping technology and software help financial managers better analyze data to understand marketplace changes and form financial forecasts. They also communicate with top executives to offer the latest insights and guidance regarding assets and investments.

Advancements in bookkeeping technology and software help financial managers better analyze data to understand marketplace changes and form financial forecasts.

Depending on their specific positions, these professionals must keep up to date with government regulations, broader conditions of their industry, and logistics challenges.

Key Soft Skills for Financial Managers

  • Communication: Financial managers need to speak, write, and present information clearly to explain financial data to executives and make recommendations.
  • Organization: These managers analyze and synthesize large amounts of information from various sources.
  • Leadership: Financial managers may lead financial consulting teams or advance to executive leadership roles.
  • Attention to Detail: These professionals must pay close attention to financial data and correct errors in financial reporting, budgeting, and forecasting to ensure legal compliance.

Key Hard Skills for Financial Managers

  • Accounting: Financial managers need accounting skills to understand and discuss financial reports when working closely with accountants and executives.
  • Technical Skills: Although systems and technologies vary by organization, financial managers usually need skills in data and financial technologies, such as QuickBooks, SAP, or Hyperion.
  • Data and Financial Analysis: Quantitative skills allow financial managers to review company and market financial data to identify risks and opportunities.
  • Financial Reporting: Financial managers ensure that company financial reports comply with tax regulations and laws. These managers also create, review, and present financial reports to executives.

A Day in the Life of a Financial Manager

Daily activities differ based on employer and position. These managers typically perform financial and market analysis, executive financial advising, and personnel management. Analysis helps financial managers increase profits. They identify opportunities to cut costs and expand through acquisitions, mergers, and investments.

Financial managers also prepare financial reports, ensure legal compliance, and oversee budgeting duties. As managers of financial departments or branches, these professionals may also participate in the hiring, training, and supervision of finance staff.

On a given day, financial managers may:

  • Monitor accounts and cash flow.
  • Review budgets and reports.
  • Identify cost-cutting opportunities.
  • Prepare financial reports and forecasts.
  • Track and analyze market patterns.
  • Identify growth opportunities.
  • Present financial data.
  • Make recommendations to executives.
  • Set financial goals.
  • Participate in strategic planning.
  • Oversee legal and regulatory compliance.
  • Supervise financial staff.

Online MBA Programs for You

Grow your career, leadership, and business acumen with an accredited online MBA program.


How to Become a Financial Manager

Aspiring financial managers usually begin their careers by earning bachelor's degrees in accounting, finance, or other business fields. This step usually takes about four years of full-time enrollment and may include internships with local businesses.

Some financial manager degree-holders at the bachelor's level can enter the job market after graduation to obtain entry-level jobs in finance, business, or accounting. Many employers hire and train financial managers from within company ranks. Professionals who demonstrate talent and success in lower-level jobs can often work their way up to management roles.

Professional certifications, such as chartered financial analyst or certified public accountant, can help graduates demonstrate their preparedness for finance careers. These certifications often require at least a year to prepare for and pass related examinations.

When combined with relevant professional experience, a master's degree in finance, economics, or business administration can help a candidate stand out from the competition. These degrees signify advanced proficiency in areas such as financial modeling, theory, and markets.


Do You Need a Degree as a Financial Manager?

Effective financial managers usually need an education that cultivates advanced financial analysis and decision-making skills and competency in finance software. Employers typically require a bachelor's degree in finance or a related field, such as economics, accounting, or business.

Financial managers also need at least five years of experience in finance-related positions, such as financial analyst or accountant. Some employers offer training opportunities for finance employees looking to advance to management positions.

Many employers prefer job applicants with advanced business-related degrees, such as MBAs in finance. This versatile degree combines a core business and management curriculum with specialized finance courses to help finance professionals pursue upper-level careers. Professionals with MBAs in finance make an average salary of $101,000, according to December 2021 Payscale data.


Insights from a Financial Manager

Portrait of Michael Hammelburger

Michael Hammelburger

Michael Hammelburger received his MBA from the Loyola University Sellinger School of Business in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2010. Since then, Michael has worked as a financial consultant for small and mid-sized businesses. In 2019, Michael founded the Bottom Line Group, a consulting firm helping companies reduce their expenses by thousands of dollars by focusing on areas not typically looked at by the leadership team.


Why did you get into financial management and consulting? What initially interested you about the field?

I've always had a thing for numbers and people, so consulting and finances was a good marriage of the two.

What does your typical workday look like?

I don't think there is such a thing as a typical day in my world. I try to do my sales calls before the day starts and finish all the must-dos first. I try to reconnect with at least one client a day just to check in, and that is when I handle appointments, seminars, and put out fires.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of working in finance? Some of the most challenging aspects?

People's finances are the most important item they typically have after their families, and it is so rewarding helping them navigate [their finances]. At the same time, it's a very sensitive topic, and it can be really challenging, as well.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?

Continuous learning is a high priority for me, and getting the MBA just seemed like something that would pay dividends for my career.

How did your MBA prepare you for your current career?

My MBA program focused a lot on bringing theoretical concepts into the real world and working as a team.

What was the career path that led you to this position? What do you think helped you most on your journey towards financial management?

The thing that helped me the most was a mentor that I learned a tremendous amount from, who showed me the ropes. I cannot stress enough how important it is for any student to find themselves a mentor.

What advice would you give to students considering a career as a financial manager?

Find people who are doing it and see the real-life experience. It's impossible to truly know what you are getting yourself into without seeing it up close.


Financial Manager Career and Salary Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for financial managers to grow by 17% from 2020-2030. The BLS attributes this positive job outlook to upward trends in the general economy. However, demand for financial managers varies by industry and experience level — these projections may change based on economic and industry shifts.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for financial managers to grow by 17% from 2020-2030.

Due to financial crises, regulatory reforms, and increased globalization, the BLS projects increased demand for financial managers specializing in risk management or cash management. Payscale data indicates that financial managers earn strong salaries. However, income for this profession varies based on several variables.


Financial Manager Salary Expectations

Financial managers earn a median annual salary of $134,180, according to the BLS. However, salary levels vary with industry, location, position, and credentials. Financial industries, such as banking, usually pay higher salaries than government roles.

Aside from banking and other financial sectors, these managers earn strong salaries in cable and other subscription programming industries. Experience also factors into financial manager salaries, as illustrated in the table below.




Where Can I Work as a Financial Manager?

Nearly every organization requires financial management, so financial managers can pursue careers in various sectors, industries, and geographical locations. Major metropolitan areas offer many lucrative opportunities, but this high pay often comes with a high cost of living. The following section discusses how job opportunities and high salaries for financial managers cluster in certain areas and industries.


Top Locations for Financial Managers

Geographical location often influences financial manager salaries and employment opportunities. According to the BLS, New York and New Jersey offer the highest average annual wage for financial managers, followed by Washington, D.C., Delaware, and Colorado.

These states have more competitive job markets with higher cost of living figures. California employs about twice as many financial managers as other states. The tables below offer specific salary and employment numbers for 2020.





Professional Organizations for Financial Managers

This network of executive search firms connects accounting and finance recruiters, employers, and job-seekers. AAFA features job search tools and maintains over 40 offices in metropolitan areas.

The AFA serves financial professionals and recruiters by providing networking opportunities and career resources. This professional organization also publishes the Journal of Finance and supports education in the field through academic conferences.

AFP features continuing education opportunities, career resources, and events for financial professionals. Offerings include conferences, a career center, and various publications.

This organization integrates academic and practical realms of finance and supports finance professionals, educators, and students. FMA also offers conferences, publications, and student resources.

FSP connects and supports financial service professionals through conferences, publications, and professional development opportunities.


Common Questions About Financial Managers

How long does it take to become a financial manager?

Financial managers typically need a four-year degree and at least five years of relevant work experience for a total of nine years. In many cases, financial managers enter their roles after working in business or finance occupations as financial analysts, securities sales agents, and accountants.

What degree is needed to become a financial manager?

Financial managers need at least a bachelor's degree. Most professionals in this area complete four-year programs at regionally accredited colleges or universities. Popular majors include business, finance, and economics.

How much money does a financial manager make?

Financial managers make a median annual salary of $134,180 in 2020. BLS data also indicates that the lowest 10% make less than $70,830, while the highest 10% of earners make more than $208,000.

What are some of the best-paying jobs in finance?

Professionals who work in finance can pursue many high-paying careers. According to the BLS, personal finance advisors and financial analysts earn median annual salaries of $89,330 and $83,660, respectively. Other top-paying jobs include accountants and auditors, who earn a median annual salary of $73,560.


Featured Image: Morsa Images / DigitalVision / Getty Images


Sources

Recommended Reading

Search Programs by Concentration

View schools and degrees from across the country.
Find the right program to advance your career.