How to Become a Financial Manager: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a financial manager. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in financial management.

Should I Become a Financial Manager?

Financial managers help public and private organizations develop and manage financial goals. Financial management is a broad term that encompasses many duties and job titles, including those of treasurers, risk managers and credit managers. Many work full-time in an office setting. While the work hours can be long, the pay is well-above the national average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The following table contains the main qualifications and requirements for financial managers according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; employers may look for job candidates with master's degrees
Degree Field Finance, accounting, business or a comparable discipline
Certification Voluntary certification is available
Experience More than five years in finance is often required
Key Skills Analytical, detail-oriented, organizational, strong communication skills, excellent math skills
Salary $115,320 per year (Median salary from May, 2014 for financial managers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The minimum education requirement for financial managers is a bachelor's degree in finance, business administration or accounting. Other educational majors may be acceptable if they involve finance, business or management. In undergraduate finance programs, students can expect to learn about financial planning, securities and portfolio assessment. Accounting and business administration programs often cover similar topics, including finance principles and microeconomics.

Success Tip:

  • Get an internship. Internship opportunities are a good way to acquire work experience. Students can get involved with local businesses and apply their classroom learning to real-life scenarios.

Step 2: Acquire a Master's Degree

Because employers prefer employees with advanced educations, earning a graduate degree can improve job prospects and lead to career advancement. A master's degree in economics, business administration or finance is ideal. Common courses in these programs includes global financial markets, financial modeling, corporate financial management, financial theory and finance research.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

According to the BLS, appropriate work experience and references are crucial for aspiring financial managers. Typically, these professionals begin their careers in related positions, such as accounting or financial analysis. Financial managers are high-level personnel in most organizations and may be promoted from within. Companies that hire outside financial managers usually look for applicants with suitable experience from a similar position. Any work experience related to finance or business management can be helpful.

Step 4: Obtain Professional Certification

Voluntary certification can demonstrate a high level of competency and proficiency. Many professional certifications exist, like the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation offered by the CFA Institute. Bachelor's-degree holders with suitable work experience are qualified to sit for the three examinations that lead to the CFA credential. Certification may lead to additional job opportunities and career advancement.

Success Tips:

  • Prepare for CFA exams. Completing all three exams can take anywhere from 18 months to four years. The CFA Institute requires that certification candidates complete a self-study program for each exam that includes readings, problem sets and practice questions.
  • Stay up-to-date. The financial industry experiences ever-changing state and federal regulations. Additionally, global markets can change and grow in complexity. Industry conferences and seminars are a good way of staying current on financial management matters.
  • Consider becoming a Certified Public Accountant. Because financial managers commonly work in accounting departments, the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation, though not necessary, can be helpful. Typically, state requirements include a minimum amount of education and work experience. CPA candidates must also pass the Uniform CPA Examination, a 4-part test offered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Continuing education is required in order to maintain certification.

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