How to Become a Financial Manager

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A higher education degree program like the Online Master of Science in Finance from Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business can open doors to a number of exciting career opportunities. Those interested in the world of finance can select from two distinct learning tracks—corporate finance or investment finance—and work toward employment roles like financial planner, investment banker, financial analyst, and more.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at the financial manager job description, including the skills candidates need and how a master’s degree in finance can help students achieve their career goals.

Financial Manager Job Description

Before we get into skills and education requirements, let’s examine the types of activities professional financial managers engage in.

As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics described, most financial managers work in the finance and/or insurance sectors. Employment opportunities also exist in other areas, including scientific and technical services, enterprises, government agencies, and manufacturing.

Financial managers are responsible for activities like:

  • Creating financial reports to direct investment activities. These include reports on current organizational financial activity, as well as performance forecasts.
  • Monitoring and ensuring compliance with financial data according to legal and regulatory standards.
  • Helping business decision-makers analyze financial data and reports to direct investment activities and develop strategies and plans for future financial initiatives. These initiatives can encompass long-term financial goals of their organization, such as risk management, cash management, cost reduction, and more.
  • Analyzing relevant trends and identify new markets for expansion or other opportunities for the organization.
  • Supervising other financial department employees.

There are also financial managers who specialize in a particular area. Cash managers, for example, focus on monitoring, analyzing, and guiding the flow of capital and profit in a way that helps meet long-term financial goals of their organizations. Risk managers, on the other hand, make efforts to reduce or eliminate the potential for financial loss or uncertainty. That includes issues stemming from market or commodity price changes, the BLS noted.

Becoming a Financial Manager: Necessary Skills and Qualifications

To succeed as a financial manager, students and professionals must be prepared with the right capabilities and education. As U.S. News & World Report pointed out, most candidates begin with a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, economics, or business. However, many employers now seek candidates with a master’s degree.

A master’s-level degree like the Online Master of Science in Finance from Northeastern University introduces students to a more advanced curriculum, including courses covering concepts like:

  • Analysis of financial institutions and markets
  • Financial strategy
  • Valuation and value creation
  • Portfolio management
  • Managing financial risks
  • Investment analysis

These and the other courses in a master degree in finance program provide students with the critical thinking and analytical skills needed to guide investment activities and develop strategies and plans to meet long-term organizational financial goals.

In addition to these financial, accounting, and business administration skills, it’s important for candidates to have soft skills and qualities like communication. Financial managers regularly prepare or oversee the preparation of in-depth financial reports and market analyses. It is their responsibility to break these reports down and explain their findings to company stakeholders. Financial managers must have strong communication skills and the ability to explain financial and investment concepts in a way that makes sense to business managers and department heads.

Financial managers must also be detail oriented and organized. In their preparation and review of financial reports, managers need to ensure that their work is accurate, precise, and free of mistakes. Any errors on their part could skew the data, and by extension, the strategies and plans they develop for their organization’s administrative finance goals.

Voluntary Professional Certification

While not a staunch requirement to work in the industry, many professional financial managers choose to pursue a voluntary certification. The Chartered Financial Analyst from the CFA Institute is a common option, pointed out. Candidates are required to first earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant area like accounting, economics, or business administration.

Financial managers can also consider the Certified Treasury Professional certification from the Association for Financial Professionals, according to the BLS. To qualify, they must have at least two years of experience working in the field, or at least one year of professional work alongside a graduate degree.

Employment Outlook and Salary

The current job outlook for financial managers is growing much faster than the average for all occupations, the BLS reported. This position will experience a 16% growth rate through 2028, with as many as 64,900 openings projected each year.

Financial managers receive a competitive salary as well. As of May 2019, the median annual wage for these professionals was $129,890, with the top 10% of earners taking home over $208,000 annually.

According to U.S. News & World Report, this role also offers candidates considerable upward mobility and opportunity for advancement, alongside an average work/life balance, compared to other jobs. While this can be a high-stress work environment in terms of job responsibilities, many professionals have noted that the compensation they receive is aligned with the complexity of the role.

What Is The Best Degree Path to Become a Financial Manager?

As pointed out, a common career roadmap to become a financial manager is to first complete a bachelor’s degree and then earn a master’s degree. Many professionals gain a bit of work experience, either through their undergraduate or graduate degree programs, which they can leverage to obtain professional certification. The final step is to meet with employers and achieve a professional role in their organization.

To find out more about becoming a financial manager and how a master’s degree can help you succeed, connect with one of our enrollment advisors today.


Recommended Readings

Finance Degree Jobs: Career Paths from Midlevel to Senior Management

Internal Auditors: What They Do and What They Earn

Underwriter Salary and Degree Requirements



Bureau of Labor Statistics – Financial Managers – How to Become a Financial Manager: Education and Career Roadmap

U.S. News & World Report – Financial Manager Overview

Northeastern University D’Amore-McKim School of Business – MSF Curriculum