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How to Become a Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Career News August 23, 2013

You don’t have to take risks to make lots of money in a long-lasting career. However, you do have to provide value. The skills and discipline of a CFO, or Chief Financial Officer, are indeed truly valuable to a company that is trying to stay profitable. It sounds like a job you might find at the end of a long and illustrious career, right? Actually, it can be within your grasp with some commitment and some time.

What Does a CFO Do?

A CFO has major responsibilities to the company he or she is employed by, including controllership duties, which involve presenting and reporting accurate financial information. You’re not just creating and editing records like a CPA—you’re actually responsible to the shareholders, creditors, employees and analysts. Decisions involving the entire company are made based on the information that the CFO provides.

The CFO also has treasury responsibilities, which means he or she is responsible for the financial condition of the company. This executive will decide how to invest the company’s money, and will oversee capital structure, equity, financing and other issues. Thirdly, the CFO must be active on forecasting and developing strategy for a good business economy. You might even say the whole future of the company is riding on major decisions influenced or ordered by the Chief Financial Officer.

How Do You Become a CFO?

A Chief Financial Officer must not only be skilled as a student of finance, but also have a broad range of knowledge that will help a company’s planning stages. CFOs are expected to understand accounting practices, business strategy, investor point-of-view and technology. Corporate experience is also required since this is where you will be involved, and treasurer or controller experience in particular is essential.

Certified Public Accountants do sometimes move up to CFO positions, since they have experience in presenting and collecting financial information. However, the big business environment is important since you will be positioning yourself as a major team builder, one who can delegate, encourage others, and deal with all business departments.

College Training

While you could take a course for CPA or business, some colleges actually offer CFO leadership training as a degree or certification. Subjects in this training course might focus on information technology, policies, security, transformation, management, and of course, heavy financial training. You can start learning at a bachelor’s degree level and work your way up to a master’s degree or even a doctorate in a related field.

This is a high-paying career option, considering that even small companies will pay CFOs $100,000 to $200,000 per year, while larger corporations can pay three to ten times that figure. If this kind of responsibility and pay interests you then the primary focus right now should be learning business administration, finance theory, economics or perhaps even subfield training, such as medicine or education. While it is possible for a lower level executive to be promoted to a high ranking position, more and more companies requesting strong analytical and communicative skills, not to mention a thorough understanding of complex financial data. This is what college training can do for you—give you the extra edge!

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