How to Become a Finance Manager

Turning an internship into a paid role

Find out the key skills required to become a finance manager and how to kickstart your journey

Finance managers play a crucial role in the success of any business - a fact that’s reflected in the high salary. Even so, many start their career as a junior finance manager with just a bachelor’s degree and a few years of experience.

This diverse role demands an individual who has a keen eye for detail, thinks analytically, solves problems creatively and can crunch numbers like a pro. Your decisions about where to invest capital will shape the future of your company. 

If this sounds like you - and you’re ready for a challenge – then let’s get started. 

In this article, I’ll answer all your important questions about how to become a finance manager, such as:
How many years does it take to become a finance manager?
What education and certifications do you need?
How do you get experience, and how much of it do you need?

Before we get to those points, however, let’s begin with the basics.

What does a finance manager do?

A finance or financial manager (the two terms are often interchangeable) works under the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) within a company and has generally two major areas of responsibility: ongoing monitoring and management of a company’s finances, and advising on investments to ensure future growth. 

Traditionally, this role has involved far more of the monitoring and reporting side of the equation. However, because of developments in technology, finance managers now spend more time in forecasting and data analysis. 

Being a finance manager is a broad and flexible role where your tasks will depend on the requirements of your company. 

You could be raising capital, directing investment and anticipating trends or you may be asked to focus more on accounting or risk management. In smaller companies you also may be expected to perform the role of CFO, managing everything from reporting to asset management. 

A finance manager is responsible for:
Collecting, interpreting and reviewing financial data
Predicting future financial trends and building models
Analysing competition
Finding ways to increase revenues and minimise costs
Dealing with tax audits and regulatory compliance
Producing financial reports for management and stakeholders 
Developing long-term business plans and profit projections 
Reviewing, monitoring and managing budgets
Developing strategies to minimise financial risk
Manage investments and financial controls
Working with the CFO and leading teams

As you can see, finance management offers a diverse working life requiring a blend of hard and soft skills. With this broad set of expertise you will be able to change roles, work in virtually any industry, company or organisation, specialise, or slip easily into another career such as accounting or revenue management. 

It’s because of the high flexibility, job satisfaction and salary of this role that it has been given the high ranking of ‘#3 Best Business Job’ out of the annual USNews 100 Best Jobs. 

Seek Australia also gives finance manager a 3.9 out of 5 star review for job satisfaction, reporting a high growth rate of 8.9% and an average salary of AUD $130,000. 

The role of finance manager will change as we see developments in technology, globalisation, sustainability and other factors affecting business – so be prepared for lifelong learning.

How long does it take to become a finance manager?

To become a finance manager, it will take on average a minimum of six to eight years, and possibly more

Most finance managers begin their career journey with a four-year bachelor’s degree. It’s then common practise to complete at least two years of work experience in roles such as a financial analyst or auditor, before being considered for a finance manager role. 

More recently, some companies do require finance managers to have a postgraduate level of study. This really depends on the company and seniority of the role, so be sure to read your job description carefully. 

What degree do you need to become a finance manager?

Completing an undergraduate degree in finance or commerce is the most direct pathway towards a career as a finance manager. However, you can also launch into a finance manager career with a BA in a similar area, such as accounting, business administration or economics. 

Having a sound understanding of core topics involved in finance management is more important than the specific title of your degree. 

Make sure your course, whatever it’s called, provides a thorough education in subjects such as: 
Corporate Accounting
Risk Management
Corporate Financial Analysis
Financial Reporting
Global Finance
Wealth Management
Portfolio Management
Banking
Investing
Economic Theory
Auditing and Internal Controls

For aspiring finance managers, the Bachelor of Commerce here at Torrens University Australia (TUA) is the best choice of undergraduate degree, offering subjects such as; Financial Markets, Derivatives and Risk Management, International Financial Management, Financial Accounting and Investment and Portfolio Management.  

If you have an undergraduate degree in a related field, but you’re missing knowledge of some of these key topics then you may want to consider postgraduate study. 

A master’s or postgraduate certificate could fill any gaps in your education that may be preventing you from moving up into the job you want, as well as providing some essential industry contacts. 

Relevant postgraduate study could take the form of a Master of Finance, Master of Professional Accounting, Master of Business Administration specialising in finance, or something similar – depending on your requirements.

Again, take a look at the subjects on offer and make sure your course is going to cover the topics you need. 

What experience do you need to be hired into a finance manager role?

Many finance manager’s start out working as an auditor, loan officer, accountant, financial analyst, or something similar before moving into the finance manager role. 

In fact, it’s desirable for a finance manager to have experience across several different-but-relevant roles such as these mentioned – so that they develop a broad understanding of finance and can offer well-rounded advice. 

As a finance manager, you are going to be working closely with others – so don’t forget to brush up on your soft skills, as well as learning all the necessary technical and analytical skill sets

You should be looking for work experience that gives you opportunities to practice and develop the following skills: 
Problem solving
Communication
Analysis
Mathematical proficiency
Attention to detail
Organisation and time management 
Leadership skills
Decision making

To be a great finance manager, not only do you have to be a whiz with numbers, across the latest in finance theory, and able to analyse the market to identify smart investments – you’ll also have to be good at making a case, negotiating and managing conflicts. 

You will sometimes be called upon to deliver hard news or make big decisions, and you’ll have to do it calmly and clearly. So, try to get as much practise as you can working with others under pressure, and learn some different communication and leadership methods in your spare time.  

How do you get a foot in the door to financial management after graduation?

The best way to get your foot in the door and gain essential experience for your finance manager career is to complete some internships.

I have seen first-hand the benefits of participating in the TUA Internship Program for my business students, many of whom go on to find fantastic paid work through their internship. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to prioritise an internship in your early career.

Research consistently demonstrates that not only do you have a better chance of securing a job after graduation with an internship, you might also get paid more. 

If you are considering study, make sure that your institution offers an active internship program with industry partners that you actually want to work for. If you’re not currently studying, you can also organise an internship independently. 

Check out the ‘3-Step Guide on How to Start Your Business Internship Program’ I wrote in October last year, for everything you need to know about organising your finance internship.

Do you need any other certification or qualifications?

Although this differs from country to country, as a finance manager in Australia you are not legally required to get any specific certifications with an association or governing body. Having a university degree is a sufficient qualification for starting your finance manager career. 

Justin Pierce, Director of Innovation, Industry and Employability, at Torrens University Australia (TUA).

See here for more information on the courses in Business on offer, or here for the Bachelor of Commerce at TUA.
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