How do I Become a Chief Finance Officer?

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  • Written By: Sheila Shanker
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2019
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A person who wants to become a chief finance officer (CFO) does so through education, experience, and reputation. Many CFOs have advanced degrees and lots of experience. Being CFO is a tough job. A chief finance officer is a senior manager responsible for the financial health of a business, accounting management, evaluating financial risks, making sure taxes are paid, and leading financial operations. In many business corporations, the CFO is also responsible for human resources and management information systems.

To become a chief finance officer, a four year degree is commonly required, and master degrees are also popular at this level. Education from a well-recognized school is always a plus. Since leadership skills are very important to anyone wishing to become a chief finance officer, school work showing drive and responsibility can be very beneficial, not just academically, but also socially. Many students get this kind of experience by being in charge of a club or a project, while others might become treasurers of a fund-raising drive. Most CFOs have experience before becoming chief finance officers, but showing early signs of leadership abilities cannot hurt.


The experience required to become a chief financial officer can vary. Many CFOs come from finance or accounting, while others may come through sales or marketing. It is important to move around and to look at a business from different angles to appreciate the parts and see how they benefit the whole business. Management experience is a must. This type of experience sharpens leadership skills and makes you consider strategies to achieve a goal.

A chief finance officer is a strategist. He or she has a vision and a plan to get there. Decisions made by a CFO carry a lot of weight and risk to a corporation. Bad decisions can be disastrous, since they often involve lots of money. A person with a goal to become a chief finance officer is someone who can be trusted to make good decisions.

In order to gain people's trust, you need to show your ability to make decisions that are good. Early on, most of these decisions will likely be small, but if you make consistently good choices, you may show that you are a candidate to become a chief financial officer in the future. Showing good judgment and common sense is important. Decisions must have a positive impact on operations, and it must be known that those decisions were yours. Find ways to communicate your good deeds.

As you show that you can make consistently good choices, affecting operations and business for the better, you start building a reputation. Being known as good manager and a good professional, not only in one business but throughout a profession, is how reputations are built. It's a good idea to be active in professional organizations, volunteering, and being known as someone trustworthy who can get things done.

Becoming a CFO is hard work, and the work of a CFO is hard as well. There are many challenges and many responsibilities, but the rewards can be great. CFOs can lead corporations to new levels and can help grow businesses. It can be a rewarding job with usually good pay and executive perks.


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