Finance vs. Accounting: Key Differences to Help Choose Your Next Field With Confidence

We have addressed some of the biggest and most common concerns that many people have when trying to compare accounting and finance. From varying skill sets, different salary expectations, and more, we’ll walk you through the ins and outs of both career paths. 

This is the ultimate guide to study before you make a commitment either way. You should have a thorough understanding of each career choice before you choose a path. This just could be one of the biggest decisions of your life. 

So why not let us take you through both disciplines and help you choose between them? 

Finance vs. Accounting by Definition

They may seem identical but the definitions of accounting and finance are quite different. Let’s take a look. 

Accounting: Accounting is the practice of measuring, preparing, analyzing, and interpreting financial statements. This information helps measure the performance of a business and its financial position. 

The data is also important for the payment of taxes. Accountants use balance sheets, cash flow statements, and ledgers to track daily operations. They focus mainly on the past performance of businesses and individuals. 

Specializations in accounting include:

  • Financial accounting: This is the use of balance sheets, income, and cash flow statements to provide information. This data is used by stakeholders such as investors, tax authorities, and creditors. 
  • Managerial accounting: Managerial accountants use the same information as financial accountants. Internal staff then use the information to make decisions about business operations. 
  • Cost accounting: This involves studying balance sheets and income and cash flow statements to find ways of minimizing the cost of production. 

Finance: Finance deals with investments and the management of assets. A financier will focus on decisions about working capital for businesses and individuals. 

They deal with inventory, credit levels, cash holdings, and financial strategy. Finance will usually focus on the future performance of a business or individual. 

Finance can be divided into three sub-categories:

  • Personal Finance: This includes long-term financial planning for individuals. Some of these include retirement and the purchase of financial products such as mortgages. 
  • Corporate Finance: This involves the financial activities of the running of a business. These activities can include investment strategy and budgeting. 
  • Government Finance: Public finance examines tax and government policies. The information studied will affect how resources are allocated. 

By looking at the different definitions, and a summary of the skill sets, you can see which career path best suits you. You can align your skills, financial needs, ability to travel, and career aspirations with the correct job. 

Finance vs. Accounting Salary

Salaries in both professions will depend on the experience of the individual as well as the industry for which they work. 

Entry-level accountants earn an average of $40,777 and the topmost level accountants can make up to $83,800

In New York, some accountants can earn more than $60.000. The region with the lowest accounting salary is in North Carolina with an average of $44,281

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nationwide average for an accountant’s salary is $71,550. 

The truth is – depending on the type of career you choose, these numbers can have a wide range. 

BLS states that accountants in insurance and finance firms earn the highest salary at $74,690. 

It’s important to note that auditing clerks earn the least and with negative job prospects, it’s a career that’s on the decline. 

Technological improvements have automated some of the roles, hence the decline in open opportunities. This could also affect the accounting industry to a lesser degree. 

People who have specialized in finance can earn a lot of money as they move up the ladder. 

Median Annual Salary (USD)Number of Jobs in 2018Job Outlook 2008 – 2028Employment Change 2018 – 2028
Auditing Clerks$41,2301,707,700-4%-65,800
Accountant$71,5501,424,0006%90,700
Financial Analysts$85,660329,5006%20,300
Personal Financial Advisors$87,850271,7007%19,100
Financial Managers$129,890653,60016%104,700

Similarly, there are different levels of financiers, all earning varying salaries. 

If compensation is a big factor when considering a profession, becoming a financial manager is your best option. Actuaries are some of the highest-paid financial workers, earning from $150,000-$250,000. 

The Different Finance vs. Accounting Job Roles

Accountants need to be extremely precise as they often deal with large amounts of money. Even the slightest error can result in a business or client losing money. The role requires attention to detail and a high level of organization. 

Accountants often work alone so this role is perfect for introverts who will mainly create written reports for senior management. 

Financiers on the other hand need excellent communication skills and must be able to interact extensively with senior executives. The job requires presentation and interpersonal skills as they present reports to an audience. 

This is ideal for extroverts who are confident and able to handle high-pressure situations. 

Your interests, education, and skill sets may influence how you view the different roles required by accountants and financiers. Take a look at our list of job roles below. 

Financial Officer Job Roles:

  • Analyze and interpret financial reports to advise managerial teams 
  • Raise capital through debt or equity
  • Create and put in place a corporate strategy
  • Budgeting and forecasting (monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • Handle mergers and acquisitions
  • Risk management
  • Evaluate and advise on investments 
  • Implement cost-reducing solutions

Accountant Job Roles:

  • Collect, organize, and track financial information 
  • Prepare financial reports that meet government and stakeholder requirements
  • Prepare financial reports for internal use by staff
  • Conduct audits to ensure legality and adherence to policies
  • Prepare tax returns and report income to the IRS
  • Advise clients and firms on how to minimize tax liability

Accounting vs. Finance Personality Types

Not everyone can be an accountant or a financier. There are personality traits that will make some people more apt to perform well in each career. 

We’ve taken a look at one of the most popular personality tests used by organizations across the world. It helps employers decide if a potential employee is fit for the role. This sort of personality testing can help you determine which profession you are more likely to enjoy or excel in. 

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator shows how people use their perceptions and judgment. The MBTI instrument measures preferences, not ability or character. 

Used by Fortune 500 firms the MBTI personality test is helpful before placing an individual in any specialized role. 

The personality type ISTJ (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) is, well-suited for accounting positions. These people are systematic, analytical, and have a high work ethic. 

Known as ‘The Inspector’, they are traditionally serious and loyal. Leaning towards facts, they perform accounting jobs efficiently. Accuracy is key when they have to look through many documents and information. 

Financiers are shown to be INTP personality types. This stands for introversion, intuition, thinking, and perceiving. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the different personality traits which accountants have vs. financiers. 

Accountant:

  • Detail-oriented 
  • Risk manager 
  • Procedure-oriented 
  • Able to use rule-based thinking 
  • Accountable 
  • Accurate 

Financier:

  • Attentive to detail 
  • Can conceptualize scenarios 
  • Analytical 
  • Inquisitive 
  • Business development skills 
  • Problem-solving skills 

Before diving in, why not take the MBTI test to better understand your personality. Free versions are also available online although they are not the original test. 

You can also check at your school’s career center or your work’s HR department if they offer the test. 

The results may surprise you and they will be key in avoiding a career incompatible with your personality. It will show you your strengths and weaknesses and guide you into a job that suits you specifically. 

Financial Analyst vs. Accountant

After taking the test, you should have some direction as to which job you would like to pursue. Though similar, these two professionals perform very different jobs

Let’s take a brief look at the major differences in daily duties and work environments. 

Financial analysts have a broader job description and their roles are less fixed. They deal with the management of assets and liabilities. This enables them to make future predictions and advise management. They develop investment strategies and are in charge of how to make use of company resources. 

Some financial analysts’ duties include: 

  • Analyzing stock fluctuations. 
  • Creating simulations to forecast the outcomes of financial transactions. 
  • Reviewing spending and revenue projections. 
  • Liaising with management teams to offer advice on financial decisions. 

Accountants have a more structured role and are heavily involved in taxes. They deal with the day-to-day flow of money in and out of a business. 

Some duties performed by accountants include:

  • Organizing company accounts. 
  • Reviewing records to reduce spending and increase profits. 
  • Developing and managing working budgets. 
  • Preparing taxation procedures. 

Generally, both types of employees work 40-50 hours per week. Accountants have a busy February to April tax season where they may work up to 70 hours a week, depending on the number of clients they work with. 

The work environment also differs as financial analysts often have their own offices. Many accountants, especially at entry-level, work in cubicles, although many high-level accountants will likely have the luxury of their own office. 

Can I Combine Finance and Accounting?

The careers are somewhat related, and some employees may perform some of the same tasks. 

The topmost position of either of these professions is that of Chief Financial Officer. It is essentially a combination of finance and accounting in one position. 

With the right experience and educational background, you could have the opportunity to manage a business’s finance or accounts departments. 

CFOs are tasked with the financial planning of a business. They also need to oversee the organization’s cash flow. 

To get to this leadership position, you will need to understand both job roles. You will need to supervise employees and perform tasks required in each profession. CFOs need a combination of skills including:

  • Leadership skills 
  • Management skills 
  • Accounting skills 
  • Data skills 
  • Strategy skills 

Besides a Bachelor’s degree, to reach this management position, often you will need a Master’s Degree. An Executive MBA is a good option if you already have some work experience. 

The Difference Between Finance and Accounting Degrees

Both jobs need a basic Bachelor’s degree but further education courses differ. For financiers, it is advisable to be a member of the CFA Institute. Accountants, however, are usually required to complete a CPA certification. 

See the details below:

So which degree is best? Everything is relative and will depend on your strengths. 

Generally, accounting majors at the undergraduate level are not easy. Students say finance on the same level is much easier. 

If you are starting your undergraduate level, it may be advisable to take a joint degree. It will provide you with general knowledge of both professions and help you choose the best path. 

Accounting does not increase in difficulty at higher levels. But finance does, gradually. 

Benefits of Studying Accounting

Accountants are necessary for all businesses and the profession is currently growing. According to the BLS, accountancy is expected to grow up to 10% between 2016 – 2026. 

Having the right information can help you choose which industry you want to work in. This is a way for you to begin to define a clear career path. 

Usually, after graduation, you may start as an entry-level associate with high growth and earning potential. 

Additional certifications will help you advance your career and get a job almost anywhere in the country. 

Another option is to start your own business. If you have an entrepreneurial streak, you can become your own boss after a few years of work experience. 

If you enjoy systematically working with rules accounting is the course you should study. 

Benefits of Studying Finance

Finance offers a wider range of study options compared to accounting. You will cover a variety of specializations used in the business world. You will also be exposed to areas such as economics and banking. 

By studying finance, you will gain the necessary analytical skills to interpret data. 

The knowledge will also be useful in your personal life. You will learn how to make smart investments and handle your finances effectively. 

The career opportunities for graduates are immense and the earning potential is higher than many other careers. You will also learn how to make extra wealth and not just rely on your salary. 

The Best of Both Worlds?

Advice online seems to lean towards studying both degrees. 

Source: www.quora.com

So now, what is the best way to advance your career? An MBA or EMBA degree is common for both accountants and financiers. It will give you the extra edge over and above your basic degree. 

For this with some years of experience, an Executive MBA will allow mid-career professionals to work and study at the same time. 

If you do not have extensive experience, a free online MBA is your best option. By choosing students from the world’s top universities, Quantic School of Business and Technology gives you a chance to network with fellow students either face to face or online. 

Finance vs. Accounting: Key Differences to Help Choose Your Next Field With Confidence

We have addressed some of the biggest and most common concerns that many people have when trying to compare accounting and finance. From varying skill sets, different salary expectations, and more, we’ll walk you through the ins and outs of both career paths. 

This is the ultimate guide to study before you make a commitment either way. You should have a thorough understanding of each career choice before you choose a path. This just could be one of the biggest decisions of your life. 

So why not let us take you through both disciplines and help you choose between them? 

Finance vs. Accounting by Definition

They may seem identical but the definitions of accounting and finance are quite different. Let’s take a look. 

Accounting: Accounting is the practice of measuring, preparing, analyzing, and interpreting financial statements. This information helps measure the performance of a business and its financial position. 

The data is also important for the payment of taxes. Accountants use balance sheets, cash flow statements, and ledgers to track daily operations. They focus mainly on the past performance of businesses and individuals. 

Specializations in accounting include:

  • Financial accounting: This is the use of balance sheets, income, and cash flow statements to provide information. This data is used by stakeholders such as investors, tax authorities, and creditors. 
  • Managerial accounting: Managerial accountants use the same information as financial accountants. Internal staff then use the information to make decisions about business operations. 
  • Cost accounting: This involves studying balance sheets and income and cash flow statements to find ways of minimizing the cost of production. 

Finance: Finance deals with investments and the management of assets. A financier will focus on decisions about working capital for businesses and individuals. 

They deal with inventory, credit levels, cash holdings, and financial strategy. Finance will usually focus on the future performance of a business or individual. 

Finance can be divided into three sub-categories:

  • Personal Finance: This includes long-term financial planning for individuals. Some of these include retirement and the purchase of financial products such as mortgages. 
  • Corporate Finance: This involves the financial activities of the running of a business. These activities can include investment strategy and budgeting. 
  • Government Finance: Public finance examines tax and government policies. The information studied will affect how resources are allocated. 

By looking at the different definitions, and a summary of the skill sets, you can see which career path best suits you. You can align your skills, financial needs, ability to travel, and career aspirations with the correct job. 

Finance vs. Accounting Salary

Salaries in both professions will depend on the experience of the individual as well as the industry for which they work. 

Entry-level accountants earn an average of $40,777 and the topmost level accountants can make up to $83,800

In New York, some accountants can earn more than $60.000. The region with the lowest accounting salary is in North Carolina with an average of $44,281

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nationwide average for an accountant’s salary is $71,550. 

The truth is – depending on the type of career you choose, these numbers can have a wide range. 

BLS states that accountants in insurance and finance firms earn the highest salary at $74,690. 

It’s important to note that auditing clerks earn the least and with negative job prospects, it’s a career that’s on the decline. 

Technological improvements have automated some of the roles, hence the decline in open opportunities. This could also affect the accounting industry to a lesser degree. 

People who have specialized in finance can earn a lot of money as they move up the ladder. 

Median Annual Salary (USD)Number of Jobs in ’18Job Outlook ’08 – ’28Employment Change ’18 – ’28
Auditing Clerks$41,2301,707,700-4%-65,800
Accountant$71,5501,424,0006%90,700
Financial Analysts$85,660329,5006%20,300
Personal Financial Advisors$87,850271,7007%19,100
Financial Managers$129,890653,60016%104,700

Similarly, there are different levels of financiers, all earning varying salaries. 

If compensation is a big factor when considering a profession, becoming a financial manager is your best option. Actuaries are some of the highest-paid financial workers, earning from $150,000-$250,000. 

The Different Finance vs. Accounting Job Roles

Accountants need to be extremely precise as they often deal with large amounts of money. Even the slightest error can result in a business or client losing money. The role requires attention to detail and a high level of organization. 

Accountants often work alone so this role is perfect for introverts who will mainly create written reports for senior management. 

Financiers on the other hand need excellent communication skills and must be able to interact extensively with senior executives. The job requires presentation and interpersonal skills as they present reports to an audience. 

This is ideal for extroverts who are confident and able to handle high-pressure situations. 

Your interests, education, and skill sets may influence how you view the different roles required by accountants and financiers. Take a look at our list of job roles below. 

Financial Officer Job Roles:

  • Analyze and interpret financial reports to advise managerial teams 
  • Raise capital through debt or equity
  • Create and put in place a corporate strategy
  • Budgeting and forecasting (monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • Handle mergers and acquisitions
  • Risk management
  • Evaluate and advise on investments 
  • Implement cost-reducing solutions

Accountant Job Roles:

  • Collect, organize, and track financial information 
  • Prepare financial reports that meet government and stakeholder requirements
  • Prepare financial reports for internal use by staff
  • Conduct audits to ensure legality and adherence to policies
  • Prepare tax returns and report income to the IRS
  • Advise clients and firms on how to minimize tax liability

Accounting vs. Finance Personality Types

Not everyone can be an accountant or a financier. There are personality traits that will make some people more apt to perform well in each career. 

We’ve taken a look at one of the most popular personality tests used by organizations across the world. It helps employers decide if a potential employee is fit for the role. This sort of personality testing can help you determine which profession you are more likely to enjoy or excel in. 

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator shows how people use their perceptions and judgment. The MBTI instrument measures preferences, not ability or character. 

Used by Fortune 500 firms the MBTI personality test is helpful before placing an individual in any specialized role. 

The personality type ISTJ (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) is, well-suited for accounting positions. These people are systematic, analytical, and have a high work ethic. 

Known as ‘The Inspector’, they are traditionally serious and loyal. Leaning towards facts, they perform accounting jobs efficiently. Accuracy is key when they have to look through many documents and information. 

Financiers are shown to be INTP personality types. This stands for introversion, intuition, thinking, and perceiving. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the different personality traits which accountants have vs. financiers. 

Accountant:

  • Detail-oriented 
  • Risk manager 
  • Procedure-oriented 
  • Able to use rule-based thinking 
  • Accountable 
  • Accurate 

Financier:

  • Attentive to detail 
  • Can conceptualize scenarios 
  • Analytical 
  • Inquisitive 
  • Business development skills 
  • Problem-solving skills 

Before diving in, why not take the MBTI test to better understand your personality. Free versions are also available online although they are not the original test. 

You can also check at your school’s career center or your work’s HR department if they offer the test. 

The results may surprise you and they will be key in avoiding a career incompatible with your personality. It will show you your strengths and weaknesses and guide you into a job that suits you specifically. 

Financial Analyst vs. Accountant

After taking the test, you should have some direction as to which job you would like to pursue. Though similar, these two professionals perform very different jobs

Let’s take a brief look at the major differences in daily duties and work environments. 

Financial analysts have a broader job description and their roles are less fixed. They deal with the management of assets and liabilities. This enables them to make future predictions and advise management. They develop investment strategies and are in charge of how to make use of company resources. 

Some financial analysts’ duties include: 

  • Analyzing stock fluctuations. 
  • Creating simulations to forecast the outcomes of financial transactions. 
  • Reviewing spending and revenue projections. 
  • Liaising with management teams to offer advice on financial decisions. 

Accountants have a more structured role and are heavily involved in taxes. They deal with the day-to-day flow of money in and out of a business. 

Some duties performed by accountants include:

  • Organizing company accounts. 
  • Reviewing records to reduce spending and increase profits. 
  • Developing and managing working budgets. 
  • Preparing taxation procedures. 

Generally, both types of employees work 40-50 hours per week. Accountants have a busy February to April tax season where they may work up to 70 hours a week, depending on the number of clients they work with. 

The work environment also differs as financial analysts often have their own offices. Many accountants, especially at entry-level, work in cubicles, although many high-level accountants will likely have the luxury of their own office. 

Can I Combine Finance and Accounting?

The careers are somewhat related, and some employees may perform some of the same tasks. 

The topmost position of either of these professions is that of Chief Financial Officer. It is essentially a combination of finance and accounting in one position. 

With the right experience and educational background, you could have the opportunity to manage a business’s finance or accounts departments. 

CFOs are tasked with the financial planning of a business. They also need to oversee the organization’s cash flow. 

To get to this leadership position, you will need to understand both job roles. You will need to supervise employees and perform tasks required in each profession. CFOs need a combination of skills including:

  • Leadership skills 
  • Management skills 
  • Accounting skills 
  • Data skills 
  • Strategy skills 

Besides a Bachelor’s degree, to reach this management position, often you will need a Master’s Degree. An Executive MBA is a good option if you already have some work experience. 

The Difference Between Finance and Accounting Degrees

Both jobs need a basic Bachelor’s degree but further education courses differ. For financiers, it is advisable to be a member of the CFA Institute. Accountants, however, are usually required to complete a CPA certification. 

See the details below:

So which degree is best? Everything is relative and will depend on your strengths. 

Generally, accounting majors at the undergraduate level are not easy. Students say finance on the same level is much easier. 

If you are starting your undergraduate level, it may be advisable to take a joint degree. It will provide you with general knowledge of both professions and help you choose the best path. 

Accounting does not increase in difficulty at higher levels. But finance does, gradually. 

Benefits of Studying Accounting

Accountants are necessary for all businesses and the profession is currently growing. According to the BLS, accountancy is expected to grow up to 10% between 2016 – 2026. 

Having the right information can help you choose which industry you want to work in. This is a way for you to begin to define a clear career path. 

Usually, after graduation, you may start as an entry-level associate with high growth and earning potential. 

Additional certifications will help you advance your career and get a job almost anywhere in the country. 

Another option is to start your own business. If you have an entrepreneurial streak, you can become your own boss after a few years of work experience. 

If you enjoy systematically working with rules accounting is the course you should study. 

Benefits of Studying Finance

Finance offers a wider range of study options compared to accounting. You will cover a variety of specializations used in the business world. You will also be exposed to areas such as economics and banking. 

By studying finance, you will gain the necessary analytical skills to interpret data. 

The knowledge will also be useful in your personal life. You will learn how to make smart investments and handle your finances effectively. 

The career opportunities for graduates are immense and the earning potential is higher than many other careers. You will also learn how to make extra wealth and not just rely on your salary. 

The Best of Both Worlds?

Advice online seems to lean towards studying both degrees. 

Source: quora.com

So now, what is the best way to advance your career? An MBA or EMBA degree is common for both accountants and financiers. It will give you the extra edge over and above your basic degree. 

For this with some years of experience, an Executive MBA will allow mid-career professionals to work and study at the same time. 

If you do not have extensive experience, a free online MBA is your best option. By choosing students from the world’s top universities, Quantic School of Business and Technology gives you a chance to network with fellow students either face to face or online. 

How to Become a COO 🚀 Your Path to Chief Operating Officer

So, you’ve got your eye on the Chief Operating Officer position? Way to shoot for the stars! The COO is second-in-command in most companies. It’s a unique position that’s largely considered one of the most challenging positions in the boardroom. 

We know you’ve got it in you, and we’re excited for you to take this step. To help you get there, we’ve put together this handy guide on how to become a COO. We’ll take a close look at:

  • What it’s like to be one
  • How to determine where you are in your path to becoming one
  • The skills you should cultivate now in your career 

By the time you’re finished, you’ll know exactly what you need to do next to get the second-top job in the boardroom. Let’s go!

What is a COO?

The COO is responsible for the daily business operations of a company. You can think of the role as something similar to a high-powered general manager. You’ll directly report to the CEO and play an integral role in the leadership of the organization. 

If the CEO is the visionary leader, then the COO is the one who makes things happen. The CEO strategizes and sets goals for the organization — you’ll be the one to figure out how to make those plans a reality.

For example, if a CEO wants to expand the company by offering a new set of services, it will be your job to lead the discovery team to determine what departments, acquisitions, or investments the company will need to make.

As a result, you might see the COO sometimes called the operating director, managing director, or the “executive vice president of operations.” Whatever your title, you’ll be known as the one who gets things done.

The COO Works Closely with the CEO

As a COO, you’ll forge a close relationship with your counterpart, the CEO of your company. Most companies look for a COO that meets the specific needs of the CEO. That might mean: 

  • Leadership with technical experience. A good COO complements the skills and abilities of the CEO. You’ll find this especially true in startups, where the COO often has more practical experience. Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, is one such example.
  • A successor. As second-in-command, you’ll have unique access and insights to the company. Many organizations reserve this position for successors as a result.
  • Someone to handle all internal affairs. It’s not uncommon for CEOs to prefer their COOs to handle the internal operations of a company while the CEO functions as the company’s public face. 

The Job Outlook for the CEO’s Right-Hand Person

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top executives field on a whole is growing at 6 percent per year – about the same rate as other management positions. However, it’s extremely difficult to measure the position’s growth for three main reasons:

  • It’s constantly changing. According to EY, the COO role is one of the most rapidly changing roles at the executive level. That’s why it can be difficult to pin down who and what the COO is.
  • Companies hire or promote from within. When this happens, it’s called an “MVP” COO, someone who is promoted to keep them with the company.
  • COOs are sometimes cofounders. This is especially true in the case of startups, where the COO was there from the start.

What this means for you: Be prepared to round out your education and experience as much as possible so that you can be flexible when the opportunity arises. The greater your ability to demonstrate leadership, business acumen, and industry insight, the stronger candidate you’ll become.

A Day in the Life of a COO

Officially, anything that involves the business or administrative functions of your company will fall under your responsibility. However, the COO’s role means different things to different people and organizations. Therefore, no two roles are ever quite the same. On any given day, expect to find yourself:

  • Managing people or departments. You’ll take an active role in department operations, but you’ll also manage people directly. That may mean coaching employees to help them develop professionally or strategically promoting talent to retain them.
  • Leading projects or initiatives. You’ll constantly look for ways to improve the company’s operations, making them more efficient, cost-effective, and performing better.
  • Communicating strategy and policy to employees. COOs increasingly spend a lot of time managing the company’s overall culture. You’ll create policies, incentives, and an environment that fosters the desired culture. 
  • Supporting your CEO. As the right-hand person, you may find yourself showing the ropes to a new CEO, providing insight or perspective on ideas, or even being a partner on initiatives where the CEO can’t take on everything alone.
  • Undertaking industry-specific responsibilities. If you’re in healthcare, you may find yourself responsible for identifying new ways to deliver critical services to a demographic of patients. Likewise, if you’re serving an insurance company, the CEO may tap you for advice on creating strategies that address major current events as they unfold.
  • Overseeing any business-related operations. In an interview of the COOs of Stripe, Infor, and Instagram, all three mentioned that they routinely oversee business functions as wide-ranging as marketing, advertising, and human resources, plus things like subscription revenues or services.
  • Working very long hours. Excited to check your email at 6:30 AM? That’s the reality for Vera Quinn, the COO of Cydcor. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that half of all COOs report working more than 40 hours per week — all the more reason to make sure you love what you do!

Who Does the COO Work With Each Day?

Since all internal operations will fall under your responsibility, expect to have a lot of contact with people. In a small company or a startup, you may form relationships with all employees. In a larger corporation, you may primarily work with department heads and other executives.

Salary Statistics: What You Can Expect to Earn

According to PayScale, the median salary for a COO in 2020 is $142,735. Aggregated data from Glassdoor indicates a similar average: $143,336 annually. 

Of course, all of that depends on your company size, industry, and education level. According to research by LinkedIn, companies with more than 200 employees tend to pay over $135,000 per year. Likewise, the Energy and Finance sectors yield the highest compensation, averaging at $190,000 and $175,000 respectively.

If you’re not in one of those two industries, however, fear not. LinkedIn notes that COOs with MBAs make on average $185,000 annually in 2020.

The Winding Career Path to Become a COO

If you spend any time reading the thoughtful responses on Quora, you’ll quickly discover that there’s no one path to becoming a COO. Some people start at the bottom of the corporate ladder and work their way up, while others walk into the position after decades of experience in an industry. Here’s our best insight:

It Takes About 10 to 15 Years to Become a COO

Interviews around the web with current and former COOs indicate that it takes around 10 to 15 years of experience in a specific industry (but not always at the same job). 

COOs appear to share a passion for their industry. That’s crucial because you’ll need to have very deep knowledge of your industry to adequately guide a company. Consider Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook who knew from the start she wanted to get involved in a tech company.

So, if you’re planning out your path to the COO role, pay special attention to what industries you’re interested in and go from there.

The Path from Project Manager to COO

If you’re a project manager, you’re in a great position to step into a COO role down the line. You’ll already have many of the skills that you’ll use every day as a COO. If this is you, you’ll want to round out your skills with some solid business admin skills. A free, online MBA can give you exactly what you need to fill this knowledge gab.

You’ll Need a Bachelor’s Degree

Speaking of courses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a four-year degree is essential to any top-level executive. The COO is about as close to the top as you can get! Since you’ll be overseeing business operations, we strongly recommend you consider a bachelor’s degree in business. 

If you’ve already got a degree and it’s not in business, you’re certainly not out of luck. Some COOs do have degrees that have nothing to do with business, such as technical degrees. However, if this is your case, you’ll want to look into developing your business knowledge as you prepare. Consider supplementing your next steps in education with free courses in strategy or leadership.

What Can Further Education Do for You?

Advanced degrees are common in the board room, especially MBAs. As a COO, the position of CEO will lie within reach – and some 40 percent of the top CEOs have MBAs. 

Having an MBA not only improves your chances of commanding a higher salary, but it also puts into your hands the skills you need to competently lead the operations of a company. We very strongly recommend that you consider one, especially if your bachelor’s degree isn’t already in business. 

However, there are two specific reasons why an MBA is particularly necessary for a future COO: 

1. Your Professional Connections Matter

Your ability to rise to the C-level broadly hinges on who you know. That’s especially true with positions like the COO, where you’ll be chosen based on how well your personality and specific skills complement the CEO’s. 

If you’re looking into upgrading your business skills (such as getting an MBA), pay attention to what sort of networking opportunities exist alongside your education. A developed career network will prove tremendously valuable. 

2. It Can Set You Apart from the Competition

An executive MBA can also set you apart from the competition. It still gives you the business knowledge you’ll need for the role, but it focuses more on the leadership skills that you’ll also need. That’s a smart move if you’re specifically pursuing the role of COO, which is a very leadership-oriented position. 

(Here’s more about the MBA versus the EMBA).

The Other Skills & Qualifications You’ll Need

Of course, an MBA does more than just give you the professional connections and business skills you’ll need. It’ll also help you develop an array of hard and soft skills that will amplify your effectiveness in the role. You’ll need:

  • Leadership skills. From leading cross-department teams to working on small, special initiatives, you’ll be a leader at all times. Make sure you develop the fundamentals of leadership so you’re ready.
  • People management skills. Understanding the ins and outs of organizational behavior will help you manage people, encouraging them to become their best.
  • Project management skills. You’ll have projects, and lots of them. Make sure you’re ready to manage all of it with your stellar project management abilities.
  • Strategy skills. You’ll need to understand the components of business strategy to execute those created by the board or the CEO. Learning Blue Ocean Strategy is a fantastic way to cultivate that understanding.

What Makes a Great Chief Operating Officer?

There are plenty of ways to become a COO. This challenging, high-powered position requires a combination of business acumen, leadership skills, and dedication to your industry. It’s a tough road, but no matter where you are in your career, you can take steps toward the boardroom today.

We’ve laid out the degrees, business expertise, and soft skills that you’ll need to develop. In many cases, earning an online MBA can accelerate your trajectory without disrupting your current career. A competitive, rigorous program with a robust career network can help you put the top jobs of the business world within reach.

How to Become a CFO: Responsibilities, Qualifications, and Career Tips

Ready to take that leap into one of the hottest roles in the boardroom? No matter your industry, opportunities abound for aspiring chief financial officers. This fast-paced, forward-thinking, and well-paid position will challenge and thrill you every single day.

We’ve got the ultimate guide on how to become a CFO right here.

Like all executive positions, becoming a CFO requires a commitment to the long-haul and careful planning along the way. We’ll help you figure out where you stand and what you need to do to accelerate your path forward while avoiding common pitfalls by making smart choices about your education and career experience. 

By the time you’re through, you’ll have the foundations for your strategy to secure that coveted executive position. Let’s get started!

CFOs Are in Demand: A Sunny, Competitive Career

If you’re envisioning your future as a CFO, make it a bright one.  

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial managers at every level have experienced a 16 percent growth rate in their job outlook since 2018, with that rate projected to stay steady through 2028. That’s four times the national average of similar careers, such as sales managers (5 percent) or even other executive roles (6 percent).

What does a highly skilled executive like the CFO earn? According to Indeed, the average salary is $138,374 per year (plus benefits). However, it’s possible to earn closer to $200,000 per year if you’re located in an area like New York City, where demand for CFOs is particularly high.

What Is a CFO? Responsibilities and Role

A CFO is the senior financial manager responsible for overseeing and managing the financial actions of a company. Like a treasurer or financial controller, CFOs often manage an organization’s finance or accounting departments.

However, unlike a controller, the CFO makes decisions that have an impact on the overall direction of the company. For example, a controller may review financial statements to audit them for accuracy and adherence to regulatory compliance. In contrast, the CFO reviews those same financial statements to analyze them before making recommendations to improve the company’s financial performance.

Nonetheless, you’ll sometimes see a CFO referred to as a top-level financial controller, where their primary responsibility lies in overseeing all cash flow and financial planning in an organization. 

The Duties of a CFO

As a CFO, you’ll wear many different hats throughout the day. Expect to:

  • Lead, direct, and manage the organization’s finance or accounting teams.
  • Advise the CEO or other executive members on the financial implications of business plans or current events.
  • Review formal finance, H.R., or IT-related financial procedures to enforce policies or internal controls.
  • Manage or oversee independent auditors.
  • Plan, execute and oversee upgrades to financial systems, processes, or technologies.
  • Relate with investors or shareholders to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and expectations.
  • Provide data-driven analyses and recommendations related to the financial goals of a company.

Who Does a CFO Manage?

Traditionally, the CFO heads the finance or accounting department. Here, you may manage a range of professionals, including:

  • Accountants
  • Controllers
  • Tax professionals
  • Analysts
  • Human resources
  • Investor relations specialists

However, any financial hierarchy within a company will fall under your leadership. In general, if any planning or analysis requires the input of an expert on the financial impacts, you can expect to be tapped for your advice.

The Skills & Qualifications of a CFO

Get ready to showcase your flexibility, adaptability, and willingness to be proactive in supporting sustainable growth. The CFO is one of the fastest evolving positions at the executive level thanks to rapidly advancing technology and shifting expectations about the way we do business.

But technology isn’t the only arena in which you’ll need to demonstrate competence. You’ll need a range of hard and soft skills to navigate your position effectively. You can break those skills down into four distinct categories:

1. Leadership and management skills. Almost everything you do as a CFO involves some form of leadership. Whether it’s managing a team to implement new financial infrastructure or getting other executives on board with a plan, understanding leadership fundamentals is crucial to success. 

2. Accounting skills. CFOs are expected to demonstrate technical expertise in accounting and financial topics. Additionally, you’ll need to have a solid grasp on abstract subjects that have concrete impacts in the business world, such as the time value of money.

3. Data skills. According to Deloitte, businesses increasingly expect CFOs to handle business and financial analytics, using it to make highly data-driven decisions. At least 18 percent of CEOs who responded to their survey believed those responsibilities belonged solely to CFOs.

4. Strategy skills. The CFO is responsible for laying the financial foundation to help a company reach its goals. Expect others to turn to you when it comes time to find that uncontested market space that makes competitive and financial sense. 

Deloitte identifies four key skill sets that CFOs must possess. They are:

  • Steward: Protects vital assets, closes the books correctly, ensures compliance.
  • Operator: Emphasizes efficiency and effectiveness in the organization’s finances. 
  • Strategist: Develops long-term plans to improve the company’s financial performance.
  • Catalyst: Drives business improvement initiatives to keep the company competitive.]

The Most Common Degrees for CFOs

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to become a CFO. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the most common are finance, public accounting, economics, public administration, and business administration.

A master’s degree – usually in one of those same fields – also comes highly preferred due to the level of management you’ll demonstrate every day. Common master’s degrees include:

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Science in Accounting
  • Master of Public Administration
  • Master of Accounting for Financial Analysts
  • Master of Accounting for Financial Managers

Getting an MBA Is a Very Smart Move

Strongly consider getting an MBA along the way. According to Russell Reynolds Associates, 62 percent of all CFOs hold advanced degrees, with the vast majority opting for an MBA. (Plus, executives possessing one can expect a pay bump by as much as 16 percent, according to research by Wayne State University in Detroit.)

However, an MBA is valuable because it increases the breadth of your business knowledge. Imagine trying to understand why a product is underperforming but having no grasp on whether it’s the product itself or the result of a failed marketing campaign.

Or, imagine leading a company restructuring to reduce overhead and improve cost-effectiveness, but proposing a recommendation that inadvertently cuts the company’s most valuable talent.

Both scenarios could break the company and end your career super-fast.

As a financial executive, your decisions and recommendations directly impact the course and wellbeing of the company. An MBA will help you expand your perspective to contextualize your decisions within the organization better.

Today, many different types of MBAs exist. Traditional MBAs can provide more hands-on guidance, while an online MBA is great for self-motivated people who want to work while they go to school. We’ve covered the advantages of each to help you determine which path is right for you. 

Here’s a list of just a few of the elite-level CFOs who have earned an MBA:

Consider an EMBA

MBAs are expected in the boardroom now. So, taking your education a step further can set you apart. An Executive MBA (EMBA) is specifically designed for mid-career professionals and entrepreneurs who want to keep working full-time while developing more advanced skills.

An EMBA curriculum is slightly different from a traditional MBA in that it emphasizes leadership and strategy skills in the context of a corporation. At the same time, you’ll still learn everything that you would in an MBA curriculum; an EMBA is explicitly geared towards professionals seeking an executive position. 

Do You Need to Become a CPA?

Technically no, but many CFOs started out as CPAs. The position requires a solid understanding of accounting, so it will give you an advantage. However, according to organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry, the percentage of CFOs who are also CPAs has fallen over the past decade. In 2014, some 46 percent of CFOs were certified public accountants. In 2019, that number had dropped to 36 percent.

A CFA Can Become a CFO

A chartered financial analyst shares some of the technical expertise of a CPA, but a CPA typically has a much stronger grasp on accounting, taxes, audits, and other skills a CFO needs. That said, if you’re a CFA, you’ll stand the best chance at becoming a CFO by pairing your current degrees and certifications with an MBA. To take this route, look for an MBA program with a strong emphasis on accounting fundamentals to gain the technical skills you’ll need.

The CFO Career Path

If serving as a CFO is on your professional bucket list, be prepared for the long-haul. According to one interview with a CFO, potential prospects typically have around 10 years of related background and experience before seeking the position. If you’re laying out your career planning early in your professional development, you can take steps to accelerate your trajectory – such as picking out a business school with a proven track record in helping students achieve their career goals faster.

How to Become a CFO

Attaining the top position in the financial role takes careful preparation. Whether you’re just starting or are looking to advance your career, here are a few tips to help you out.

1. Choose Your Degrees Wisely

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree. Most likely, you’ll also need an advanced degree to carry you forward. Pay special attention to degrees and programs that give you a solid grasp in accounting plus other financial skills. 

Your competition probably has an MBA, but remember that not all MBAs are created equal. Check out the differences between an online MBA and an advanced EMBA right here. 

2. Gain Broad Financial Experience

Actively choose jobs that broaden your financial experience. In addition to accounting, consider positions that demonstrate budgeting, analysis, risk management, investing, and more. The more well-rounded you are, the stronger candidate you become.

You can do this in a variety of jobs, or you can work your way through one company. If the former, it’s wise to stay in the same industry to deepen that experience as well. Many people also pursue a CPA license for this purpose.

3. Take on Roles that Expand Your Skillset

You’ll need to know more than just finances. Look for opportunities to widen your customer service experience, business and operational expertise, technological literacy, and leadership skills.

4. Join a career network.

Career networks can put you in touch with the right people when you’re ready to become a CFO. Join one sooner than later to begin forming connections. Consider the presence of network opportunities when you pursue your MBA or advanced degree. Some programs have career networks which you can leverage while you study.

5. Pursue Board-Readiness Training

Done everything above? Think about sharpening yourself with a board-readiness program. Deloitte recommends that professionals seeking an executive position attend board-specific training to develop a deeper understanding of what’s expected of you in the C-suite.

Summary: How to Become a Great CFO

The Chief Financial Officer is a staple in the board room, playing a vital role in keeping the company compliant and profitable. Yet, the route to achieving that coveted role can seem confusing, leading many people to feel as though it remains just out of reach. 

With the right preparation and strategy, you can absolutely become a CFO. We’ve outlined what it takes to become one, the skills you will need, and provided some pointers in the steps you can take right now no matter where you are in your career. 

Happy advancing!

becoming a CFO. Read the case study now

Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business adopts Quantic

Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business adopts Smartly to teach all incoming MBA students business fundamentals.

Today, we’re proud to announce that Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business adopts Smartly, a new mobile learning platform, to teach all incoming MBA students fundamentals of Accounting, Statistics, Economics and Finance

Washington, D.C.: Pedago, a new innovative mobile learning solutions provider to educational institutions, companies and individuals, announced today that its flagship platform Smartly has been adopted by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business to teach key subjects, including Accounting, Statistics, Economics and Finance, to the incoming MBA Class of 2018 before students even arrive on the Georgetown campus.

McDonough selected Smartly after extensive evaluation by faculty and existing students. McDonough recruits outstanding students from around the world, regardless of whether they have studied business as undergraduates. Selected preparation courses are designed to allow McDonough to provide the proper foundation for all of students so they hit the ground running when they begin their opening term with Structure of Global Industries and Financial Reporting Fundamentals courses.

“Smartly is a next-generation approach to online and mobile learning,” Prashant Malaviya, Senior Associate Dean, MBA Programs at McDonough, said, “and we are delighted to be able to offer our foundational courses to incoming students in this format.”

Students will be able to access Smartly’s MBA Preparation Program through a McDonough-branded web-portal and mobile app that provide access to a curated list of six courses that prime students in key areas needed to succeed in the internationally recognized MBA program. Faculty receive access to an extensive reporting tool that allows them to track student progress and better identify patterns associated with the class as a whole.

“We’re excited to have this new relationship with Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. The business school is known for its excellent faculty and smart students, and it’s a validation for Smartly,” said Pedago co-founder Tom Adams. “And as we’re also based in D.C., we’re hoping this evolves into a broad partnership.”

About Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business
Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, the premier destination for global business education, provides a transformational education through classroom and experiential learning, preparing students to graduate as principled leaders in the service to business and society. Through numerous centers, initiatives, and partnerships, Georgetown McDonough seeks to create a meaningful impact on business practice through both research and teaching. All academic programs prepare students to be “global ready” by providing a global perspective, woven through the undergraduate and graduate curriculum in a way that is unique to Washington, D.C. – the nexus of world business and policy – and to Georgetown University’s connections to global partner organizations and a worldwide alumni network. Founded in 1957, Georgetown McDonough is home to some 1,400 undergraduates, 1,000 MBA students, and 1,200 participants in executive degree or custom programs. Learn more at http://msb.georgetown.edu. Follow McDonough on Twitter: @msbgu.

About Pedago LLC and its platform Smartly
Pedago revolutionizes online education with interactive courses and lessons that make learning effective and fast. Co-founded by Tom Adams, Alexie Harper, and Ori Ratner in 2013, Pedago is on a mission to reinvent online and mobile learning. Inspired by a desire to bring Active Learning practices to an educational technology sector dominated by passive video lectures, Pedago makes learning dramatically faster and more effective with highly interactive lessons available on any device. Pedago is based in Washington, D.C. Pedago’s first platform is Smartly, a learning platform that is transforming business education. Developed in partnership with experts from leading business schools, Smartly offers a broad range of carefully-crafted business courses, designed to make learning fast, convenient, and effective.

*Image courtesy of Georgetown University McDonough School of Business

Statistics is music to our ears

Two Smartly content authors join forces to give you this sweeping ode to statistical correlation: The Correlation Song.

Here at Smartly, we’ve purposefully built a team of polymaths: our business knowledge and experience extend from corporate governance to market research to advanced statistics and beyond. Our educational backgrounds are equally broad: we’ve got a Ph.D. linguist and a Ph.D. mathematician cum classicist, a philosopher, a handful of historians, a quartet of computer science wizards—the list goes on. We even have a Ph.D. archeologist (Indiana Jones, anyone?).

So I guess it’s no surprise that our team’s other skills and interests also run the gamut: from marketing associate Karina’s expertise in fashion to co-founder Alexie’s mastery of Italian to content creator Ray’s homemade doll houses.

For Ellie and I (both members of the content team), our other skill is music: Ellie as a shredding bassist and gifted singer on the San Fran scene, and I as a Latin Grammy-nominated recording engineer and composer (hi, Mom!) based in LA.

Last week, we joined forces to give you this, The Correlation Song. Ellie, our top statistics author/editor, was so inspired by her love of stats that she wrote and sang this sweeping ode to correlation. I am honored to have simply helped bring the track to life. We hope you enjoy these warm—and educational!—vibes from the West Coast. And don’t hesitate to share this song with others: being social and being successful are strongly correlated.

P.S.—Make sure to check out our course Two-Variable Statistics, the inspiration for this dope cut.