Financial Management Majors Guide

What Does it Mean to Study Financial Management?

A financial management degree is a specialized one — ideal if you’re interested in advancing your current career in financial services or in working at a management level with a financial focus. It is more function-driven than a general business degree. As technology has reduced the time and staff required to produce financial reports and compile data, financial managers who are familiar with computer software and applications are spending more time on developing strategies and implementing the long-term goals of their organizations, such as forecasting earnings, profits, and costs, and developing ways to increase profitability.

Finance managers commonly focus on systems integration, business strategies, e-commerce, technology consulting and human resources. Candidates for financial management positions should be creative thinkers and problem-solvers who are comfortable working with computers and technology. Interpersonal and communication skills are critical, because these jobs involve managing people and fostering teamwork to solve financial problems. And as financial operations are increasingly affected by the global economy, knowledge of international finance and/or proficiency in a foreign language can be an advantage.

Effective financial management is critical for efficient business operations. Almost every organization requires professional financial management on a multitude of levels; from CFO to cash controller, there are a wide range of career choices available.

Types of Financial Management Degrees

Continuing education is vital for financial managers. Online college classes in financial management are continually improving in scope and offering more and more finance professionals the chance to advance their careers without sacrificing their current jobs or personal obligations.

Master’s Degrees in Financial Management

Careers in financial management generally require a master’s degree, which emphasizes analytical skills and knowledge of financial analysis methods and technology. This reflects the growing complexity of global trade, shifting federal and state laws and regulations, and proliferation of complex financial instruments. A bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or economics; a good GMAT score; and work experience are standard prerequisites for graduate studies in this field.

Obtaining a master’s degree in finance is commonly done while working full time, in conjunction with certification as a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). A master’s degree program in financial management usually takes about two years to complete.

Graduate certificates in financial management can be suitable for specialized management career paths such as operations, strategic and organizational management. The time requirement is about two semesters or one year, depending on how quickly you take your courses and how extensive your previous academic background is.

Bachelor’s Degrees in Financial Management

If you’re not ready for an advanced degree program, a bachelor’s degree with a financial management focus can be sufficient for entry-level positions or general management positions.

What Can You Do With a College Degree in Financial Management?

There are over 650,000 financial management jobs in the U.S. These managers are found in almost every known industry, but more than one quarter work in service industries like business, health, social and management services. About 30% are employed by financial or related institutions, such as banks, savings and credit unions, finance companies, insurance companies, securities dealers and real estate firms.

Employment in financial management is expected to see average growth through 2010. Here are a few examples of careers that may be open to financial management graduates:

  • Branch Managers of financial organizations administer all the functions of a branch office, from hiring personnel to assisting customers with accounts, approving loans and lines of credit, and establishing a rapport with the community to build business.
  • Cash Managers supervise the flow of cash receipts and disbursements to meet the investment and business needs of their company.
  • Financial Controllers oversee the preparation of financial reports that review and preview the organization’s financial position. They also prepare special reports required by regulatory authorities. Often, controllers oversee the accounting, audit, and budget departments.
  • Credit Managers are in charge of their firm’s issuance of credit, and all policies and procedures surrounding it.
  • Directors and Managing Directors focus on corporate finance. MDs develop and cultivate relationships with various companies in order to generate corporate business for the firm. MDs typically specialize in one specific industry, to develop relationships among management teams of companies.
  • International Finance Managers develop financial and accounting systems for the banking transactions of multinational organizations.
  • Risk and Insurance Managers work to reduce risks and losses that may arise from business operations and financial transactions undertaken by their company. They also manage the organization’s insurance budget.
  • Treasurers and Finance Officers manage the investment of funds and handle associated risks, oversee cash management activities, carry out capital-raising strategies to support a firm’s expansion, and supervise mergers and acquisitions.

Some companies may hire financial managers on a temporary basis or hire financial management consultants for all their accounting and financial operations.

Financial Management Certification, Licensure and Associations

Certification is often required for a career in financial management. It can indicate to employers that you have educational credentials, professional experience, and have maintained certain standards in ethics. Certificates and licenses are as varied as the career paths in financial management.

Financial managers who specialize in accounting may earn the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designations. In general, to become a CPA you must complete 150 credit hours of college-level education, which translates to five years of college- and graduate-level work. You must then pass all four parts of the Uniform Certified Public Accountants Exam, and have about two years of accounting work experience.

The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation requires a bachelor’s degree or a certain minimum score on specified graduate school entrance exams, according to the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).

A CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) designation is sponsored by the CFA Institute. It requires a bachelor’s degree and three years of professional experience in a relevant field, and you can expect to take three rigorous exams over the course of three years.

Financial Managers with at least two years of professional experience can obtain their Certified Cash Manager (CCM) credentials through the Association for Financial Professionals, by earning a passing score on its online exam.

Personal financial advisors are sometimes required to earn a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification. The requirements include completion of a college degree, passing a comprehensive set of exams, and following a strict code of ethics. A certification as a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) is also useful in this field.

The Certificate in International Cash Management is designed for global finance professionals. The Association of Government Accountants offers the Certified Government Financial Manager certification to professionals with a bachelor’s degree, two years of relevant experience, and a passing score on their three-part exam.

The National Association of Credit Management administers a three-part certification program for business credit professionals. Managers start from the Credit Business Associate and graduate to Credit Business Fellow and then Certified Credit Executive.

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