Financial manager: What is this career like?

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A master’s degree in accounting can prepare students for many lucrative career paths, including financial manager.

Demand for financial managers is rapidly growing, with the job outlook for 2016 to 2026 increasing 19 percent, a rate translates to the addition of 108,600 jobs over the course of that decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is a much faster pace than for all occupations, which are growing at 7 percent on average for the same time period.

The typical entry-level education required for financial manager positions is a bachelor’s degree, but many professionals earn master’s degrees and various professional certifications, such as a certified public accountant, and have five or more years of experience in different financial jobs before assuming this role.

Earning a master’s degree in accounting from the University of Alabama at Birmingham can be a strong step on the path to becoming a financial manager.

A man in a suit speaks during a business meeting.

What is financial management?

A financial manager oversees an organization’s financial health. This is no easy task. These professionals must work closely with their firms’ accounting departments and various other teams. They’re tasked with creating financial reports and cash-flow statements, as well as estimating and presenting projected revenue.

In addition to creating these reports, financial managers need to be able to clearly explain the information contained within to executives and other stakeholders who may not have a financial background. For this task, communication and interpersonal skills are essential.

Financial managers aren’t concerned about only the profitability of their organizations. They also must ensure they follow all applicable laws, regulations, and industry standards. Careful attention to detail is important to this task, U.S. News & World Report explained.

For this aspect of the job, students will benefit from AC 612: Corporate Governance. This course discusses the various entities that might dictate how an organization should conduct business, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, boards of directors, the executive team, internal risk managers, independent auditors, shareholders, and various managers within the company.

Financial managers also develop long-term plans to work toward the company’s financial goals. These professionals might be expected to plan out investment strategies, understand how to leverage financial instruments and securities, and appropriately manage risk.

Further, financial managers are usually expected to work with a company’s taxes, so an understanding of tax law and how it applies to their specific organizations is essential. Courses such as AC 620: Tax Entities, which discusses certain parts of the Internal Revenue Code and Regulations, and AC 530: Financial Accounting III, which explores accounting for income taxes and other related processes, will be helpful.

Though financial managers may have a wide range of responsibilities, there are a few specific duties that will be particularly in demand in the coming years, according to the BLS. Risk management and cash management are two highly sought-after skills in this role.

How much do financial managers earn?

The median annual pay for financial managers in 2017 was $125,080, according to the BLS. U.S. News & World Report found that the typical financial manager salary falls into a range of $87,530 to $168,790.

Demand for financial managers is highest in California, New York, Illinois, Texas and Massachusetts, according to the BLS. However, the highest salaries can be found in New York ($205,500 annually on average), New Jersey ($175,290), Delaware ($165,310), the District of Columbia ($160,550), and Connecticut ($159,970).

How to become a financial manager: A typical career path

Most financial managers begin their careers by earning a bachelor’s degree. A Bachelor of Science in Accounting is an excellent starting point, as is a Bachelor of Science in Finance. After that, a graduate might choose to enter the industry and gain some years of experience before pursuing a professional certification or a master’s degree.

A Master of Accounting degree can be a smart move on professionals’ journeys to becoming a financial manager. This curriculum will give them deeper knowledge of financial accounting, internal and external auditing, taxation, accounting for various types of entities, and properly managing an organization’s finances.

Earning professional licenses is common for professionals on this career path. A CPA can be a career-advancing certificate, and students who complete the Master of Accounting degree program through the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business are typically well-prepared to begin working toward this distinction.

Before becoming a financial manager, most professionals have five or more years of experience in other related roles with increasing responsibilities. Some common positions a financial manager might hold before moving into this role would be:

  • Accountant
  • Auditor
  • Securities sales analyst
  • Financial analyst

Any of these positions will give the professional hands-on experience that will become an important part of their knowledge base moving into the financial management role.

How UAB can prepare professionals for financial management

Financial managers provide important services to organizations and are valuable resources for companies that strive to maintain compliance for all applicable financial and tax laws. Working up to this position takes several years of experience and education.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham understands that students enter their programs as a way to boost their careers. Because of this, the university takes pride in its strong curriculum and its faculty composed of experienced professionals. Additionally, the ability to balance coursework with other life responsibilities through the Collat School of Business can be an advantageous way to earn a higher degree in accounting.

To learn more about the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s master’s in accounting program, reach out to an enrollment advisor.

Recommended Readings:

Career Spotlight: Chief Financial Officer

What it is like to be a financial analyst


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics