Is becoming a CFO right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do CFOs do?
Career Satisfaction
Are CFOs happy with their careers?
What are CFOs like?

Still unsure if becoming a CFO is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a CFO or another similar career!

Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.

How to become a CFO

Becoming a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) typically requires a combination of education, professional experience, and certain skills. Here are the key steps to pursue a career path towards becoming a CFO:

  • Obtain a Relevant Degree: Start by earning a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting, Finance, Economics, or a related field. A strong foundation in financial principles, accounting practices, and business fundamentals is essential. Consider pursuing advanced degrees such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master's in Finance to enhance your knowledge and credentials.
  • Gain Professional Experience: Acquire a solid foundation of professional experience in finance and accounting. Start with entry-level positions such as financial analyst, accountant, or auditor, and gradually progress to more senior roles. Seek opportunities to work in different functional areas, such as financial planning and analysis, treasury, or corporate accounting, to gain diverse exposure.
  • Obtain Relevant Certifications: Pursue professional certifications that are highly regarded in the finance industry (see below). These certifications demonstrate expertise and can enhance your credibility as a finance professional.
  • Develop Leadership and Management Skills: Aspiring CFOs should focus on developing strong leadership, communication, and management skills. Seek opportunities to lead projects, supervise teams, and demonstrate your ability to strategize and drive results. Develop a track record of successfully managing financial operations and collaborating with cross-functional teams.
  • Gain Industry Experience: Build industry-specific experience by working in sectors relevant to your career goals. Understanding the nuances and challenges of the industry you aspire to become a CFO in can be advantageous when applying for executive positions.
  • Seek Mentorship and Networking Opportunities: Establish relationships with experienced professionals who can guide you in your career advancement. Seek mentorship from seasoned CFOs or other senior finance executives who can provide valuable insights and advice. Actively participate in industry events, conferences, and professional networking platforms to expand your network and stay updated on industry trends.
  • Develop Strategic and Business Acumen: CFOs need to possess strong strategic thinking and business acumen. Expand your knowledge beyond finance by gaining an understanding of various business functions, industry dynamics, and competitive landscapes. Stay informed about emerging trends, regulatory changes, and technological advancements that can impact the financial landscape.
  • Showcase Financial Leadership: Demonstrate your financial leadership abilities by taking on progressively more responsible roles. This may involve leading financial planning and analysis initiatives, driving financial transformations, managing complex financial transactions, or contributing to strategic decision-making processes.
  • Continuous Learning and Professional Development: Stay committed to continuous learning and professional development. Attend seminars, workshops, and executive education programs focused on financial leadership, strategic management, and emerging finance trends. Stay updated with relevant publications, research papers, and industry news to stay abreast of evolving practices and challenges in the field.
  • Pursue CFO or Senior Finance Leadership Roles: As you gain substantial experience and a proven track record of success in finance leadership roles, actively pursue CFO or senior finance executive positions. Leverage your network, industry knowledge, and expertise to explore opportunities within your organization or through external executive search firms.

There are several certifications that can be beneficial for CFOs. It's important to note that while certifications can enhance your professional credentials and knowledge, they are not a substitute for practical experience and demonstrated leadership in financial roles.

  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA): The CPA certification is widely recognized and highly regarded in the finance and accounting field. It demonstrates expertise in accounting principles, financial reporting, and taxation. Although not specific to CFOs, many CFOs hold a CPA designation to enhance their credibility and knowledge in financial matters.
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA): The CFA designation is focused on investment management and financial analysis. While not exclusive to CFOs, it can be valuable for CFOs involved in investment decision-making, managing portfolios, or overseeing financial analysis functions within an organization.
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA): The CMA certification is specifically designed for management accountants and focuses on strategic financial management and decision-making. It covers topics such as financial planning, analysis, control, and risk management, which are relevant for CFOs in their financial leadership roles.
  • Certified Treasury Professional (CTP): The CTP certification is suited for CFOs involved in treasury management, cash flow management, and risk management. It covers topics such as cash and liquidity management, capital markets, financial risk management, and treasury operations.
  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA): The CIA certification is valuable for CFOs who are responsible for internal audit functions within an organization. It focuses on internal audit practices, risk management, governance, and controls.
  • Financial Risk Manager (FRM): The FRM certification is particularly relevant for CFOs involved in risk management functions. It covers topics such as market risk, credit risk, operational risk, and risk modeling.

Seminars, Workshops, and Executive Education Programs
There are numerous seminars, workshops, and executive education programs available for CFOs that focus on enhancing their skills, knowledge, and leadership capabilities. These programs are designed to address the specific challenges and evolving demands of the CFO role.

  • CFO Forums and Conferences: CFO forums and conferences bring together finance leaders from various industries to discuss current trends, best practices, and emerging issues. These events often feature keynote speakers, panel discussions, and interactive sessions. Examples include the CFO Leadership Council, CFO Summit, and CFO Rising.
  • Harvard Business School (HBS) Executive Education: HBS offers executive education programs specifically tailored for finance executives, including CFOs. These programs cover topics such as financial management, corporate finance, strategic financial analysis, and leadership development. The Advanced Management Program (AMP) and the CFO Leadership Program are popular choices.
  • Stanford Graduate School of Business Executive Education: Stanford GSB offers executive education programs designed for finance executives seeking to enhance their leadership skills and strategic thinking. The Stanford CFO Leadership Program and the Stanford Executive Program are well-regarded options for CFOs.
  • Wharton Executive Education: The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania provides executive education programs focusing on finance, leadership, and strategy. Programs such as the CFO: Becoming a Strategic Partner and the Advanced Corporate Finance Program are relevant for CFOs looking to broaden their knowledge and skills.
  • Association for Financial Professionals (AFP): The AFP offers a range of professional development programs and resources for finance professionals, including CFOs. Their educational offerings cover various topics such as treasury management, risk management, financial planning, and cash flow optimization.
  • Financial Executives International (FEI): FEI provides seminars, workshops, and webinars for finance leaders, including CFOs. Their programs cover areas such as financial strategy, governance, risk management, and leadership development.
  • Ernst & Young (EY), Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and KPMG: These leading professional services firms offer executive education programs and workshops specifically tailored for finance executives, including CFOs. These programs cover a wide range of topics, including financial management, risk management, and regulatory compliance.
  • Corporate Training Providers: Several organizations specialize in providing customized training programs for finance professionals. These programs can be tailored to the specific needs and challenges faced by CFOs and their finance teams. Examples include AMA (American Management Association), CEB (Corporate Executive Board), and DDI (Development Dimensions International).

CFOs can also benefit from attending workshops and seminars conducted by industry associations, such as the Financial Executives International (FEI), Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute. These associations often organize events that focus on relevant topics in finance and provide opportunities for networking and knowledge-sharing among finance professionals.