CFO career requires mix of training, experience, charisma

The annals of elite Chief Financial Officers quietly reads like a who’s who of business royalty: Oracle’s Safra Catz, Disney’s James Rasulo, Hans Vestberg of Verizon, Intel’s Doug Sinclair, the list goes on. 

Those in the “CFO know” admire their decades of behind-the-scenes acumen that made good quarters look like blockbusters and weak financial periods passe. But for the rest of us, what exactly is a Chief Financial Officer? How much training do CFO positions require? How much do they earn, are there remote CFO jobs, how much demand is there for CFO jobs, and more. 

What is a Chief Financial Officer?

A company’s CFO is a senior executive responsible for financial reporting, forecasting and accurately reporting the fiscal health of the company. They are seasoned accountants, well-versed in the regulatory and tax compliance requirements of a specific industry or company, but also well versed in analytics and possess the charisma and leadership skills to head entire organizations. And many ultimately transition from a CFO position to board and CEO posts depending on the company and industry. 

Some Chief Financial Officer executives made the move from an investment banker position and are a good choice if companies expect to be engaged with mergers and acquisitions, while others may have been Controllers, a Vice President of Finance, or Chief Revenue Officers.

How do you become a Chief Financial Officer?

To earn a coveted position as a CFO requires extensive education, training and experience. But if you enjoy math and are ambitious, CFO jobs are a good match. Nearly all CFOs start their careers in accounting and have earned an accounting degree. Additionally, CFOs possess either Certified Financial Consultant or CFO Certification credentials administered by an accredited organization. Certification recipients are adept in all corporate finance areas: Analysis of financial statements and cash flow, budget forecasting and planning, risk-return valuation, principles of financing, dividend policy, M&A, short- and long-term debt, and more.

Those who secure CFO positions worked for many years in junior and mid-level roles as an accountant, financial analyst, finance director or assistant controller. Most have proved to be indispensable to their CEOs, working as a trusted advisor as much as the company fortune teller. Many CFOs add MBA degrees and are avid networkers which ultimately make them good candidates for CEO positions.

Are CFO jobs in demand and what does it pay?

Yes, there is a tremendous need for executives to fill CFO jobs right now. New and changing tax laws, and companies looking to change to market forces – reskilling workers, scaling up and/or workforce reductions – requires talented Chief Financial Officers. Workforce researcher Zippia reports that there were nearly 132,000 CFOs in the United States last year, 71 percent of which were men. The average age is about 52. Women are making gains but work still needs to be done to address the imbalance. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that at present the average entry-level finance salary is about $88,000, with CFO jobs varying between $250,000 and $300,000. Many high profile CFOs earn in the millions each year. 

Taken on the whole, pursuing a CFO job should absolutely be high in the mind of any focused executive. Does the math add up for your career? Contact a Recruiter to start the process of finding a job that fits you.

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