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Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

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What Is a Chief Financial Officer? How to Become One, Salary, Skills.

A chief financial officer is a C-level executive position responsible for deciding how a business can best allocate resources to maximize profits. This position requires several years of professional accounting and finance experience. Here’s what to know about a chief financial officer’s needed skills, salary and how to become one.


What Is a Chief Financial Officer?

A chief financial officer serves as a company’s main financial leader. They employ data analysis and strategic thinking to make decisions in the best interest of meeting the business’ financial goals.


What Do Chief Financial Officers Do?

The duties chief financial officers perform can include overseeing investment portfolios, crafting financial reports, developing financial forecasts and tracking expenses.

Chief Financial Officer Responsibilities

  • Advise other executives and board members on data-driven decisions.
  • Verify financial reports.
  • Monitor cash flow.
  • Assess markets and prepare financial forecasts.
  • Present research to financial stakeholders and decision makers.
  • Manage the company’s investment portfolio.

Chief Financial Officers Within a Company

A chief financial officer is the company’s top financial decision maker. This C-suite role oversees the work of finance directors and controllers who manage and guide the everyday activities of accounting and finance employees.

Importance of Chief Financial Officers

Companies rely on chief financial officers to make profitable decisions based on their market assessments and financial forecasting abilities.

Role of a CFO, and why every business needs one. | Video: SuperCFO


What Skills Are Needed to Be a Chief Financial Officer?

Qualifications to Be a Chief Financial Officer

  • Extensive finance and accounting knowledge.
  • Management experience.
  • Understanding of best practices for investing.
  • Ability to prepare financial forecasts and assess markets.
  • Strong data analysis skills.
  • Experience making data-driven decisions.
  • Familiarity with the accounting and finance software tools their direct reports use.

Chief Financial Officer Prerequisites

  • A bachelor’s degree in a relevant field.
  • Accounting, financial management and auditing certifications can be beneficial.

Chief Financial Officer Hard Skills

  • Conducting research.
  • Analyzing financial data.
  • Using data to drive financial decisions.
  • Managing investments.

Chief Financial Officer Soft Skills

  • Strategic and analytical thinking.
  • Strong leadership and communication skills.
  • Confident decision making.
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How to Become a Chief Financial Officer

Chief Financial Officer Education and Experience

A chief financial officer typically holds a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field like accounting, finance, business or economics. They are not necessarily required to have a master’s degree, but some do bring advanced degrees. Professional accounting and finance experience is most important, with a minimum 10 years on the job usually required. CFOs also commonly bring certifications in accounting, auditing or financial management.

Chief Financial Officer Certificates and Courses

Chief Financial Officer Career Path

The track to becoming a chief financial officer often starts with an entry-level job as an accountant or financial analyst. Next, a professional will take on leadership positions like controller or finance director to further hone their skills and spend time handling management-level responsibilities. 


Chief Financial Officer Salary and Job Outlook

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows employment for “top executives” overall is expected to grow by 6 percent between 2021 and 2031, yet employment among “chief executives” is projected to decline by 7 percent during that same period. 

The full compensation package for a chief financial officer depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to the candidate’s experience and geographic location. See below for detailed information on the average chief financial officer salary.


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