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Financial Manager Career Guide

What is a financial manager?

A financial manager oversees the financial activities of an organization to ensure its long-term economic health. They are the financial gatekeepers, planning and directing investments, profit maximization strategies, and risk management activities. Their importance cannot be overstated; these professionals are critical for making strategic fiscal decisions that directly impact a company’s growth, reputation, and sustainability.

Their value goes beyond just managing transactions or budgeting. They apply their expert knowledge of financial principles to develop capital management strategies and set financial goals. These managers also analyze market trends and investment opportunities to help the organization maximize profits and remain competitive.

Duties and responsibilities

Financial managers are responsible for a wide range of duties within an organization. Primarily, they supervise financial planning and budgeting. They create financial reports, direct investment activities, and implement cash management strategies. These managers have a decisive role in crafting long-term financial goals and strategic plans based on available economic forecasts and financial data analysis.

Professionals in this role also make crucial business decisions for cost reduction and profit maximization. They work closely with top executives to make decisions about budgeting and expenditure. They study market trends and interpret complex financial data to ensure the organization is on the right path to growth and profitability. The manager also monitors the organization’s financial health and risk, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations.

Work environment

Financial managers typically work in office settings, including corporate offices, banks, insurance companies, and government agencies. Given the nature of their job, they often have their own offices where they can work in a quiet, focused environment. However, the dynamic nature of the role may require them to attend meetings in various departments within the organization or even travel for work.

The job necessitates a high level of organization and attention to detail, given the amount of financial data they deal with daily. Working under pressure is common as they must meet financial reporting deadlines, make instant decisions based on market conditions, and handle unexpected financial issues. Despite these challenges, many managers find the job satisfying because of its high level of responsibility and its direct impact on their organization’s success.

Typical work hours

Financial managers generally adhere to the typical 40-hour workweek. However, extended hours are not uncommon, especially during crucial financial periods such as the end of the fiscal year, during budget preparations, or when working on significant project investments. At such times, they may work extra hours to meet deadlines and to ensure the organization’s financial operations run smoothly.

Some organizations may also require their managers to be available for consultation outside their standard working hours. It is integral to the role to be ready to address any financial emergencies, fluctuations in the market, or critical strategic decisions. As such, flexibility toward work hours is an expected part of the job.

How to become a financial manager

This career guide section outlines the steps to become a financial manager. It involves attaining an appropriate level of education, gaining relevant experience, and acquiring necessary certifications and licenses.

Step 1: Obtain a bachelor’s degree

The first step is obtaining a bachelor’s degree. The most relevant fields of study include finance, economics, accounting, and business administration. Coursework in these fields typically includes financial management, banking, investments, accounting, risk management, and business statistics. Developing strong analytical and problem-solving skills during this time is essential, as they will be crucial in your future career.

Step 2: Gain relevant work experience

After obtaining your bachelor’s degree, the next step is to gather relevant work experience. This position typically requires at least five years of experience in another business or financial occupation, such as an accountant, securities sales agent, or financial analyst. During this time, you’ll be able to apply what you’ve learned academically to real-world situations, increase your business acumen, and build professional relationships.

Step 3: Pursue a master’s degree (optional)

While this step is not mandatory, many aspiring managers decide to further their education by obtaining a master’s degree in finance or business administration (MBA). This can broaden your career opportunities and increase your earning potential. It can also provide more in-depth knowledge and skills related to financial planning, decision-making, and managerial strategy.

Step 4: Achieve certification (optional)

Another optional but beneficial step is obtaining certification. Industry organizations typically offer these and can demonstrate competency and commitment in the field. One certification is the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation offered by the CFA Institute. Certification sets you apart from other candidates and increases your credibility.

Step 5: Apply for jobs

After gaining relevant education, experience, and possibly further degrees or certifications, you’re now ready to apply for financial manager positions. When searching for jobs, consider the industry and size of the companies, as these factors might affect the nature of the work. Be sure to prepare for interviews by reviewing your experiences and how they’ve prepared you for the roles and responsibilities of being a financial manager.

How much do financial managers make?

Compensation for financial managers varies by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Factors unique to this role that impact salary include years of experience in financially related roles, the size of the financial portfolio managed, and the complexity of the financial responsibilities undertaken by the manager.

Highest paying industries

  • Securities and Financial Activities – $153,840
  • Monetary Authorities – $148,460
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises – $140,880
  • Scientific Research and Development Services – $138,750
  • Insurance Carriers – $137,850

Highest paying states

  • New York – $208,670
  • New Jersey – $175,290
  • Delaware – $173,700
  • Virginia – $170,120
  • Colorado – $168,810

Browse financial manager salary data by market

Types of financial managers

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for financial managers.

Corporate financial manager

In corporations, these professionals are tapped to maximize shareholder value through financial planning, decision-making, and risk management. They may oversee budgeting processes, conduct business costing, and direct financial reporting.

Government financial manager

Working for the government, these specialists manage public funds. They oversee procurement, disbursement, and records management activity while ensuring statutory compliance. Their work supports the implementation of government projects and initiatives.

Insurance financial manager

In the insurance industry, these managers balance risk and profitability. They employ actuarial sciences and statistical models in decision-making, optimizing financial reserves and pricing policies and designing packages to attract different market segments.

Asset management specialist

In asset management, these experts work to grow their clients’ portfolio value. They invest in various financial markets and products, including stocks, bonds, and funds, to balance returns and risks. This specialization calls for intimate knowledge of investment principles and financial markets.

Banking financial manager

Within the banking sector, these managers administer financial products and services, ranging from loans to trusts. Aside from ensuring operational efficiency, they work to ensure regulatory compliance, profitability, and positive customer experience.

Top skills for financial managers

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as a financial manager.

Analytical skills

Being able to scrutinize financial data meticulously and form informed judgments is crucial. Analytical skills aid managers in forecasting trends, interpreting complex financial data, evaluating business activities, and implementing strategic planning.

Financial proficiency

Profound knowledge of finance principles, including aspects like profit and loss, cash flow statements, balance sheets, forecasting, and budgeting, is vital. These financial skill sets assist in deciding the direction of investments, devising financial strategies, and achieving the organization’s financial goals.

Attention to detail

Any minor error in the fiscal world can significantly impact. Thus, an eye for detail is necessary for thoroughly analyzing financial reports, identifying trends, spotting discrepancies, and ensuring data integrity.

Leadership skills

Managers often lead teams and have to inspire and motivate them to achieve specific goals. These skills are essential for efficiently managing workforce resources, resolving conflicts, and fostering a productive work environment.

Communication skills

An effective communicator can visualize complex financial concepts in a way everyone can understand. Since these professionals often collaborate with various departments and stakeholders, being able to communicate effectively is critical to convey financial data and trends, as well as for influencer decision-making.

Financial manager career path options

A financial manager has multiple avenues for career progression. As you gain more experience in financial management, you may advance into a more senior role, such as a financial controller, finance director, or chief financial officer (CFO). These roles hold higher responsibilities and offer larger influence within companies. In addition to more traditional upward mobility, it’s also possible to specialize within different financial management sectors, such as becoming a risk manager or investment manager.

Beyond roles within a single organization, many managers broaden their scope and influence by seeking opportunities in consulting. This can involve working as an independent consultant or with a consulting firm, providing expertise to multiple organizations instead of just one. In these roles, you might advise on the implementation of new financial strategies and systems or assist with mergers and acquisitions.

Another career avenue for those in financial management is the academic or educational field. Many seasoned professionals find fulfillment in teaching finance courses at colleges or universities, sharing their practical experience and knowledge with the next generation of financial managers.

Regarding lateral transitions, you may consider transferring your skills into roles like business analyst, operations manager, or financial analyst. Such roles value the financial acumen, strategic thinking, and analytical skills honed in financial management and offer alternative means to use those talents.

Financial managers are seeing a shift in their roles due to technology advancements and regulatory changes. With organizations’ increasing reliance on data, they are expected to have more than just accounting skills. Thus, the demand for financial professionals with analytical skills and knowledge about data-based decision-making is rising. Additionally, with the increase in international business, it’s becoming essential for these managers to know about global markets and international finance laws.

In recent years, this role has expanded to include strategic planning. They are no longer solely responsible for ensuring a company’s financial health; they also contribute to growth strategies. Therefore, individuals seeking to excel in this role must improve their strategic and communication skills. Since these managers are often in constant interaction with other department heads and top executives, the ability to communicate complex financial information effectively is crucial.

Employment projections

Based on the most recent projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of financial managers is projected to grow 17 percent through 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. This is largely due to the need for services such as planning, directing, and coordinating investments, which are crucial in nearly all businesses. The ongoing shift toward analytical and data-based decision-making also contributes to the demand.

Financial manager career tips

Understand financial legislation

Becoming acquainted with relevant financial legislation cannot be overstated in importance. Many regulations apply to this profession, including tax laws, financial reporting standards, and state and federal regulations. This knowledge is crucial to ensure ethical and legal compliance, thus protecting the organization and its clients from potential liabilities and sanctions.

Get relevant certifications

Adding relevant certifications to your portfolio can give you a competitive edge and demonstrate your commitment to continuous learning. These certifications add credibility and increase your professional standing among peers and potential employers. They include:

  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

Gain relevant experience

Hands-on experience in financial management roles is vital to advance your career, providing you with practical skills and a deeper understanding of the industry. Engaging in job rotations, handling complex projects, or working in different business environments gives you a wider perspective of the financial sector and beneficial insights for your career progression.

Stay up-to-date

The financial industry is constantly evolving. Staying current with the latest financial trends, best practices, and emerging technologies in the finance sector will help you make informed decisions, develop strategic plans, and stay ahead in your career. Consider subscribing to relevant industry magazines and attending professional seminars, workshops, and webinars.

Build a professional network

Building connections with individuals in your field is beneficial in many ways. It opens doors to new opportunities, provides platforms for sharing knowledge, and assists in building mutual partnerships. The following professional associations can help you expand your network:

  • Financial Management Association International (FMA)
  • Association for Financial Professionals (AFP)
  • American Bankers Association (ABA)
  • Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA)

Where the financial manager jobs are

Top employers

  • J.P. Morgan
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Citigroup
  • Bank of America
  • Wells Fargo

Top states

  • New York
  • California
  • Texas
  • Illinois
  • Florida

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • Simply Hired


What key skills are important for a financial manager to possess?

Essential skills include strong analytical skills to organize and analyze financial data, leadership skills to guide a team of employees, excellent communication skills to explain complex financial data to non-financial colleagues, and decision-making skills for financial planning and risk management. Strong numerical proficiency is a must, as is the knowledge of financial planning software and databases.

How vital is continuous professional development for a financial manager?

Continuous professional development is critical in financial management. Market dynamics, economic factors, legal regulations, financial tools, and methodologies continuously evolve. They must regularly update their skills and knowledge to remain relevant and effective. This can be accomplished by taking periodic courses, attending relevant workshops and seminars, and staying up-to-date with industry trends and best practices.

What are the typical working hours for a financial manager?

Their usual working hours are 40 per week during normal business hours, from Monday to Friday. However, they may often work over 40 hours, especially during peak budgeting and tax preparation seasons. Also, due to the international nature of finance, they may occasionally need to be available outside typical office hours for global dealings and calls.

What sort of work environment does a financial manager work in?

They typically work in an office environment and often occupy private offices due to the confidential nature of their work. The work is primarily desk-based, using computers to analyze data, plan, budget, and strategize. Working as a team is also a common scenario in many organizations, so they could also work in an environment where collaboration and frequent meetings are the norm.

What types of organizations employ financial managers?

They are needed in various organizations in virtually every sector. This includes corporations, small and medium enterprises, government agencies, non-profit organizations, banks and other financial institutions, insurance companies, hospitals, universities, and many more. Any organization that oversees money in some way will require their expertise.

How stressful can the financial manager’s job be?

The role can be challenging and stressful, especially during crucial financial decision-making times, budgeting periods, and tax seasons. They are typically held responsible for the financial health of an organization, and these pressures can create stress. It’s important to manage these stresses and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Do financial managers need a specific type of educational background?

The majority hold a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, economics, or business administration. Many also have a master’s degree in finance, economics, or business administration. Specialized certifications like CFA or CPA can enhance career prospects and credibility.

How does a typical day look like for a financial manager?

Their day-to-day duties involve reviewing financial reports, supervising financial staff members, monitoring investment strategies, and meeting with other managers within the organization to discuss financial matters. They may also typically conduct budget reviews, make financial predictions for the company, and work on financial reports for the senior management or board of directors. The nature of the specific duties can vary depending on the size and type of the organization.

What is the job market outlook for financial managers?

The job market is generally favorable, with growth projected for the occupation. This is largely due to the increasing complexity of business, changing financial regulations, and the need for in-depth financial analysis in companies. However, competition can be high for top positions, and having relevant experience, advanced degrees, and professional certifications can provide an advantage.

What are some common challenges faced by financial managers?

They often have to deal with challenges like interpreting complex financial data, managing risk, complying with ever-changing regulations, and making strategic decisions under pressure. They may also face challenges in managing a team, dealing with conflicts, keeping up with technological developments in finance, and staying updated with market and economic trends. Balancing a company’s financial goals with ethical considerations can also pose a challenge.