A Chief Financial Officer, or CFO, is the top financial position of any organization who typically reports directly to the CEO. Becoming a Chief Financial Officer means managing all of the accounting departments and financial functions for the company. If you love working with numbers and have the determination to climb the ladder to success, becoming a CFO could be for you.

Because a CFO is responsible for everything from mergers to tax reports, a qualified officer will have a broad knowledge of international business as well as the latest financial computer technology. The job can involve long hours and high levels of stress, but the satisfaction of guiding a company toward financial success — not to mention top salaries and benefits — makes it a prestigious position in any industry.

Degrees for CFOs

Working as an accountant, tax specialist or auditor is a good way to start the journey to becoming a CFO. Many top executives start their careers with a bachelor’s degree and earn a master’s degree as they gain experience. To stay competitive, qualified CFOs will constantly update their financial knowledge by taking courses online or by attending seminars and professional conferences.

CFO Job Description

A CFO for a large corporation must oversee everything that is finance-related, including taxes, audits, financial reports, budgets and the management of accounting departments. He or she will direct budgeting and forecasting for the entire company and work with other top executives to apply these budgets to their individual departments. CFOs deal with the details of mergers and acquisitions, and they work to raise capital to fund a company’s expansion.

Because their duties are so varied, qualified CFOs must possess certain skills beyond mathematics and technology; to succeed, they must have highly analytical minds, self-confidence and decisiveness.

CFO Salary

According to, the median base salary for a CFO is about $210,000 per year. Another study by Panel Publishers put the top CFO earnings at $984,000, with much of that coming through bonuses and incentives. The actual earning power of a CFO will vary by location and industry, with a surprising number of the top earners employed by smaller companies.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor expects to see growth of just 2 percent through 2016, but because of the skills necessary to do the work, the jobs are unlikely to be eliminated or outsourced. Positions are very competitive, with only the most successful executives reaching the top rungs of the corporate ladder.

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