Whether in high tech or healthcare, manufacturing or marketing, every organization needs strong financial leadership. Opportunities for chief financial officer careers are numerous and varied. Pursuing a career as a CFO takes strong financial skills and a solid educational foundation, which can be acquired in an MBA program with a specialization in Management.

Chief Financial Officers Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of top executives, including chief financial officers, grow steadily in coming years. Job growth will vary by industry and will generally reflect the growth or decline of the industry. For example, healthcare is a rapidly-growing field and should have more opportunities for top executives. Competition is strong for top positions; candidates with strong managerial experience and leadership qualities could have an advantage.

Job Duties

While the nature of a chief financial officer’s duties vary with an organization’s size, they are generally responsible for an organization’s day-to-day financial operation. CFOs coordinate the actions of the accounting and finance departments and ensure that the entire organization meets fiscal responsibilities, according to established objectives.

These senior accounting professionals typically report directly to the chief executive officer. CFOs are often responsible for strategic financial planning, as well as contributing to the overall strategic operational plan of the business. This role could also include participating in acquisition, divestiture and merger activities.

Executives in the chief financial officer position are often responsible for all budgeting and forecasting activities, as well as overseeing investing and financing. They may plan, direct and coordinate budget preparation for the entire organization. Reviewing and approving financial reports, budgets, contracts and capital expenditures are additional job duties for CFOs.

Additionally, chief financial officers supervise cash management activities and execute capital-raising strategies to support a firm's operations or expansion.

Chief financial officers usually work in a private office; a 40-hour week is standard. Depending on the size of the company, travel to satellite offices may be required. At certain times of the year – such as quarter-end and year-end reporting periods – chief financial officers may put in extra hours to meet important deadlines.

Salary Potential: Chief Financial Officers

According to national salary data on PayScale.com, as of December 2010, CFOs had a median total income of about $129,776 per year, with those in the 25th to 75th percentile earning between $85,581 and $174,241 in total pay.

PayScale.com data also indicated that chief financial officers with a master’s degree can earn significantly more than those with only a bachelor’s degree. In fact, based on 75th percentile salary figures, CFOs with an MBA earned $165,814 per year while those with a BS in Accounting earned $150,119 per year – a differential of over 10%.

The data shows that the top salaries generally go to those with solid experience and the advanced education employers need to remain competitive in a changing global business environment.

Education and Training Requirements

Most chief financial officer positions require at least a bachelor’s degree and extensive experience; many top employers show preference to candidates with a master’s degree. Some require the CPA designation, as well.

Professionals who wish to advance into a chief financial officer position can improve their career prospects by enrolling in an MBA program with a specialization in Management. Coursework typically includes managerial economics, international business, financial management and production and business management.

Employers can be confident that professionals who have earned an MBA with a specialization in Management are able to:

  • Use critical thinking to make decisions and solve problems.
  • Apply modern theories of leadership, management and negotiation to real-world challenges.
  • Predict, initiate and manage change through innovative methods.
  • Assess risk using financial, statistical and economic data and create manageable solutions.
  • Leverage advanced knowledge and skills to succeed as a chief financial officer.

Do You Aspire to Advance to a Chief Financial Officer Career?

The challenges of a CFO position require highly-developed accounting skills, as well as leadership, self-motivation and decisiveness. If you possess these qualities and the desire to take your career to new heights, a chief financial officer role could be the perfect fit for you. Earning an MBA with a specialization in Management not only provides the skills and knowledge top employers want, it will also give you the confidence you need to compete for a top position as a CFO.

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