Tasked with overseeing organizational finances, financial managers perform various duties depending on their organization and role. Entry-level financial managers may monitor an organization’s cash flow, risks, and/or insurance. Some financial managers perform financial analyses to inform organizational goal-setting and strategic planning. Financial managers work in many industries, including government, banking, and insurance.
The best financial managers demonstrate talent for thinking creatively and analytically. Often working closely with financial teams and presenting findings and recommendations to company executives, these professionals benefit from leadership, interpersonal, and communication skills.
Financial managers usually need bachelor’s degrees in finance or a related field, but master’s degree-holders typically enjoy more opportunities with higher salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial managers make a median annual salary of $129,890.
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What Does a Financial Manager Do?
Financial managers work to safeguard and improve their organizations’ financial health. Technological advances continue to expedite traditional financial reporting and monitoring duties, freeing financial managers to play a larger role in business decision-making. Today’s financial managers focus on analyzing financial data and markets to illuminate business possibilities and advise executives accordingly. As staff or consulting team leaders, financial managers help identify financial opportunities and problems and generate related plans and strategies.
Goals and responsibilities for financial managers partly depend on organization and industry. Financial managers can work in various industries, including healthcare, banking, and insurance, so these professionals need knowledge of industry-specific trends, tax laws, and financial regulations. Financial managers working in government must understand government accounting, auditing, reporting, and budgeting processes.
The following sections outline hard and soft skills that financial managers need to succeed in their careers.
Key Soft Skills for Financial Managers
Communication: Tasked with explaining financial data to executives and making recommendations, financial managers need to speak, write, and present information intelligently and clearly.
Organization: Financial managers analyze and synthesize large amounts of information from various sources, so organizational skills prove essential to strong performance in this role.
Leadership: Financial managers may find themselves leading financial consulting teams or advancing to executive leadership roles, requiring strong leadership skills.
Attention to Detail: Responsible for ensuring legal compliance and monitoring company finances, these professionals must pay close attention to financial data and correct errors in financial reporting, budgeting, and forecasting.
Key Hard Skills for Financial Managers
Accounting: Often working closely with accountants and executives, financial managers need accounting skills to understand and discuss financial reports.
Technical Skills: Although preferred 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 and analytical 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 and forecasts to executives.
A Day in the Life of a Financial Manager
Daily activities for this profession differ based on employer and position, but most financial managers perform financial and market analysis, executive financial advising, and personnel management. Analysis helps financial managers increase organizational profits by identifying opportunities to cut costs and/or expand business 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 perform some of the following tasks:
Typical Financial Manager Daily Tasks
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
Founder, The Bottom Line Group
Michael Hammelburger received his MBA from the Loyola University Sellinger School of Business in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2010. Since then, Michael has been working as a financial consultant for small and mid-sized businesses. In 2019, Michael founded the Bottom Line Group, an expense reduction 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 your 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 and showed me the ropes. I cannot stress enough how important it is to any student to find themselves a mentor.
What advice would you give to students considering pursuing 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 Salary and Career Outlook
The BLS projects demand for financial managers to grow 16% between 2018-2028. The BLS attributes this positive job outlook to upward trends in the general economy. However, demand for financial managers varies by industry and expertise, and job outlook may change based on economic and industry shifts. Due to financial crises, regulatory reforms, and increased globalization, the BLS projects increasing demand for financial managers specializing in risk management or cash management.
PayScale salary data indicates that financial managers earn generous salaries. However, income for this profession varies based on credentials, position, industry, and location. See below for a detailed discussion of factors influencing financial manager salaries.
Salary Expectations for Financial Managers
Financial managers earn a median annual salary of $129,890, according to the BLS. However, salary levels depend on many variables, including industry, location, position, and credentials.
Financial industries, such as banking, usually pay higher salaries than government entities. Financial managers in the film and cable industries also tend to make good money. See further down this page for more detailed discussion of how industry context and geographical location influence financial manager salaries.
Experienced financial managers may qualify for higher-profile positions, such as financial controller or chief financial officer.
Financial controllers often supervise accounting, budgeting, and auditing departments and perform specialized financial reporting and forecasting duties. These professionals need finance-related bachelor’s degrees plus professional certifications in public accounting, financial management, or management accounting. Many companies favor applicants with MBAs or master’s degrees in financial accounting and at least seven years of accounting experience, including some supervisory experience. These professionals earn an average salary of $83,420 annually, according to PayScale.
Chief financial officers (CFOs) earn an annual average salary of $133,951. These professionals oversee all financial operations and supervise the directors of finance and accounting departments. CFOs collaborate with other company executives to generate financial goals and strategies and oversee their implementation. Required credentials vary based on factors such as company size and industry, but employers usually expect applicants to boast advanced credentials and over 10 years’ relevant experience.
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. The sections below discuss how job opportunities and high salaries for financial managers cluster in certain areas and industries. For example, major metropolitan areas offer many lucrative opportunities, but this high pay often comes with a high cost of living.
Geographical location often influences financial manager salaries and employment opportunities. According to the BLS, New York and New Jersey offer the highest annual mean wage for financial managers, followed by D.C., Delaware, and Connecticut.
However, keep in mind that job competition and cost of living in these states is also typically higher than many other areas. Due in part to its large size and population, California employs about twice as many financial managers as other states. See the tables below for specific salary and employment numbers for 2019.
Annual Mean Wage by State for Financial Managers, 2019
Most organizations require some kind of financial management, so financial managers work in every sector and industry. Top-employing industries include credit intermediation, company and enterprise management, accounting, and finance.
As illustrated in the table below, the BLS identifies securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities as the top-paying industry for financial managers. Other high-paying industries include motion picture and video, subscription programming, and monetary authorities.
Financial managers need industry-specific knowledge, so they typically possess several years’ professional experience in a particular industry.
Annual Mean Wage by Industry for Financial Managers, 2019
Annual Mean Wage
Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities
Aspiring financial managers usually begin their career by earning bachelor’s degrees in accounting, finance, or another business field. This step usually takes about four years of full-time attendance and may include internships with local businesses.
Some bachelor’s degree graduates enter the job market immediately and obtain entry-level jobs in finance, business, or accounting. Many employers hire and train financial managers from within company ranks, so professionals who demonstrate skills, talent, and success in lower-tier jobs can work their way up and become eligible for promotion to management.
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 often attracts employers’ attention. Such degrees signify advanced proficiency in areas such as financial modeling, theory, and markets.
The Financial Manager Job Hunt
Aspiring financial managers can improve their job prospects by expanding their professional network. Mentors and colleagues can provide recommendations or alert you to job opportunities, so make the most of the networking opportunities available through academic programs and conferences. Finance-related professional organizations, some of which appear at the bottom of this page, also provide resources, such as career centers, networking events, and job boards.
The following list of popular job boards includes both finance-specific and general job boards.
This site offers searchable job listings and anonymous company reviews.
Financial Manager Requirements
Financial manager prerequisites typically include several years’ experience working in a financial field, relevant professional certifications, and a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Financial managers usually hold bachelor’s degrees in finance, accounting, business, or economics, and top-level financial executives often boast master’s degrees. See below for further details on financial manager requirements.
Education Requirements for Financial Managers
Effective financial managers usually need an education that cultivates advanced financial analysis and decision-making skills and competency in finance software. Financial manager positions typically require at least a bachelor’s degree in finance or a related field, such as economics, accounting, or business.
Financial managers also need on-the-job learning, including at least five years’ experience in a finance-related position, such as financial analyst or accountant. Some employers offer training opportunities for finance employees seeking promotion to management positions.
Many employers favor job applicants with advanced business-related degrees, such as an MBA in finance. Combining a core business and management curriculum with specialized finance courses, this versatile degree can help finance professionals qualify for promotion to upper-level careers.
Earning a master’s degree in finance also moves recipients up the salary scale. PayScale salary data suggests that master of finance graduates earn an average salary of $79,000 per year — $15,000 more than bachelor of finance graduates, who earn an average salary of $64,000 annually. Professionals with MBAs in finance make average earnings of $99,000 annually, according to PayScale.
License and Certification Requirements for Financial Managers
Not all employers expect financial managers to hold professional certifications or licenses; however, many managers pursue certification or licensure to demonstrate competency in specific areas and qualify for career or salary advancement. The Global Academy of Finance and Management and the Financial Management Association each feature several certifications for finance professionals.
Experience requirements for financial managers vary by position, employer, and industry. However, financial managers typically need at least five years of demonstrated success in related positions, such as auditor, accountant, securities salesperson, or financial analyst. Advanced degrees may count toward experience requirements in some cases.
Most MBA programs include an internship component involving application of classroom knowledge to real-world work environments. In this way, MBA in finance programs expand students’ experience portfolios and job prospects while meeting or exceeding education requirements for financial managers. Top-level managers, such as financial controllers and CFOs, often benefit from the management expertise and advanced finance skills cultivated by MBA in finance programs.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become a financial manager?
It often takes about 10-12 years to become a financial manager. High-level financial managers typically spend about six years obtaining a finance education and another 4-6 years accumulating requisite professional experience.
What degree is needed to be a financial manager?
Many high-level financial managers earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in finance or a related field.
Do I need a master's to become a financial manager?
A master’s in finance makes financial manager candidates more competitive in the job market, but a related bachelor’s degree often meets minimum education requirements for these positions.
How much does a financial manager make?
Financial manager salaries typically range from $70,000-$208,000, with a median annual salary of $129,890, according to the BLS.
What requirements are there to become a financial manager?
Financial managers need at least a finance-related bachelor’s degree and five or more years’ relevant work history. Some employers may expect relevant professional certifications also.
Are financial managers in demand?
BLS job outlook data projects above-average growth for this career during 2018-2028.
Where do financial managers make the most money?
Financial managers in New York and New Jersey typically make more money than their counterparts in other states.
What does a financial manager do?
These professionals supervise financial staff, perform financial analysis and reporting, and work with other management professionals to make business decisions and strategies.
Professional Organizations and Groups for Financial Managers
The AFA serves financial professionals and recruiters by providing networking opportunities and career resources. This professional organization also supports finance research and education by running academic conferences and publishing the Journal of Finance.
This network of executive search firms connects accounting and finance recruiters, employers, and job seekers. AAFA features talent-locating and job-finding tools and maintains over 40 offices in metropolitan areas.
Aspiring to lead the field of financial decision-making, the FMA integrates academic and practical realms of finance and supports finance professionals, educators, and students. FMA offers conferences, publications, and career and student resources.