How to Become a Financial Manager

Take Your Next Step

Connect with an advisor to discuss career outcomes, curriculum, and get your questions answered.

Step 1 of 2

Finance is a fast-paced field with significant growth potential. Financial managers play a vital role in a variety of organizations by analyzing financial strategies and activities, monitoring long-term financial goals, and ensuring their organization’s overall financial health.

These professionals are essential to maximizing profits and managing long-term risk for organizations in sectors ranging from banking and real estate to government, and beyond. As such, demand for financial managers is expected to grow substantially over the next decade, with competitive salaries reflecting their integral role in business.

To become a financial manager, an accounting or finance professional needs the right mix of education and experience. An advanced business education can provide valuable training for individuals who are seeking to enter or advance in this field.

Financial Manager Job Description

As stewards of their organization’s finances, financial managers may oversee multiple departments within an organization, including accounting and budget departments, as well as the teams within those segments. In addition to supervisory responsibilities, financial managers research investment strategies, implement financial plans, and help minimize financial risk. Many specialize in areas such as risk management, credit management, portfolio management, and international finance.

Common responsibilities for a financial manager include:

  • Preparing economic forecasts, financial statements, and business reports
  • Identifying ways to reduce expenses or minimize financial loss
  • Supervising financial analysts and budget analysts
  • Analyzing and overseeing capital expenditure plans
  • Recommending financial strategies to executives

Each financial manager’s job description will vary, depending on their specific title and the type of organization they work for. Financial managers hold different job titles depending on their employer, each with its own specialized responsibilities. For example, risk managers evaluate financial holdings to minimize loss. Controllers report financial activity and forecast financial positions. Finance officers manage investment strategies and other efforts to raise capital. All of these positions fall under the broad title of a financial manager.

How to Become a Financial Manager

Most financial managers have both an educational background in accounting or finance and extensive work experience. A graduate degree, like an online MBA, can prepare individuals for careers in financial management. Similarly, professional certifications can add value and credibility to an individual’s qualifications for managerial roles.

Steps to Become a Financial Manager

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree: Many financial managers hold bachelor’s degrees in finance, business, accounting, economics, or a related field. The coursework in these programs helps students build business, analytical, and problem-solving skills.
  2. Gain Experience: Financial managers typically have multiple years of work experience in finance or business. Many work as financial analysts before moving into supervisory positions. Depending on the role, a graduate degree can substitute for work experience.
  3. Earn an MBA or Master’s in Finance: A graduate degree, such as an MBA or master’s in finance, offers industry-focused leadership and management training. While some employers do not require a master’s degree, graduate school can help job seekers enhance their knowledge and credentials to stand out in a competitive job market.
  4. Pursue Professional Certification: Professional certifications indicate competencies in areas such as financial analysis, public accounting, and financial management. These credentials often require relevant work experience and passing a certification exam.

After gaining experience as a financial manager, professionals can advance their career further by pursuing executive-level roles, such as chief financial officer, or CFO. While CFOs function as the highest-level financial manager in their organizations, they also often play an integral role in the organization’s overall strategy and innovation.

A financial manager presents a report to a company’s executive team in a corporate conference room.

Professional Certifications for Financial Managers

Generally offered by professional associations, certifications recognize specialized knowledge and experience. Though typically not required to become a financial manager, finance professionals may benefit from earning credentials in their focus area.

Professional certifications for financial managers include:

  • Chartered Financial Analyst: Designed for investment professionals, the CFA credential requires passing a three-part exam that covers investment tools, portfolio management, and wealth planning.
  • Certified Government Financial Manager: CGFMs specialize in government accounting, auditing, and financial reporting. Public sector finance professionals may benefit from this credential.
  • Certified Public Accountant: CPAs work in tax preparation, financial planning, and corporate accounting. Candidates must complete 150 postsecondary education credits. Many meet this requirement with a graduate degree. The CPA credential also requires passing scores on the Uniform CPA Exam and a state license.

Most professional certifications include a knowledge- and skill-based exam along with educational and work experience requirements. Unlike a degree program, certifications do not teach professionals. Instead, they assess and recognize competencies.

Financial Manager Salary and Job Outlook

Even when compared with other management roles in business, financial managers benefit from a high median salary and a strong job outlook. The median annual salary for financial managers was $131,710 in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The salary range for the role is broad, with those in the lowest 10% earning around $77,000, while the highest-paid make more than $208,000. Numerous variables, such as their level of experience and the industry they work in, can impact compensation.

Demand for financial managers is projected to grow 17% between 2021 and 2031, which translates to more than 71,000 job openings annually and a net gain of more than 120,000 jobs over that period. This growth is much faster than the average for the U.S. job market as a whole. The specialties that may see the highest demand include cash management and risk management roles.

Financial managers can increase their earning potential by specializing in high-demand fields or working in the highest-paying industries. For example, corporate and professional services jobs report the highest median wage at over $158,000, according to the BLS.

Become a Leader in Finance with an MBA

Organizations in various industries rely on financial managers for the success of their business. With a promising job outlook and a six-figure salary, financial management careers can offer an appealing future, especially to individuals who have a strong interest in finance or business analysis and enjoy taking on leadership responsibilities.

If you’re interested in financial management, consider Washington State University’s Online Master of Business Administration program. The program’s finance concentration prepares graduates for leadership roles by developing skills in financial analysis with attention to areas such as financial markets, investments, interest rates, financial futures, and portfolio management.

Learn how you can become a leader in finance with an MBA from WSU.

Recommended Readings

Financial Analyst vs. Financial Advisor: Choosing a Career

How an MBA Curriculum Prepares Students for the Workplace

Top 15 Best Jobs for MBA Graduates


American Institute of CPAs, Become a CPA

Association for Financial Professionals, Finance Job Descriptions

Association of Government Accountants, CGFM Certification

CFA Institute, CFA Program

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Managers