How to Become a CMO: A Complete Guide to Attaining the Chief Marketing Officer Role

Wondering how to win the top position in the marketing world? Imagine waking up every day to a fast-paced, prestigious job that leverages everything you ever learned about marketing (and pays to reflect that!)

Becoming a Chief Marketing Officer takes planning and dedication to your profession. But this dynamic, high-powered role is completely within reach for master marketers with the right experience and business expertise. We’ll show you how.

We’ll examine what a CMO does and why your professional experience matters so much. You’ll also get clear advice on what education to pursue, and insights on the types of MBAs available for you. You’ll discover common pitfalls to avoid, plus inspiration and wisdom from CMOs at some of the top companies.

By the end, you’ll know exactly where you stand and what steps to take as you advance to the boardroom. 

You bring the passion for marketing – we’ll provide the answers to all your questions about becoming a CMO in this handy guide. Ready? Let’s go!

A Day in the Life of a Chief Marketing Officer

Imagine this: it’s Monday morning, and you’re perusing your email over the rim of your coffee. You’ve got emails from the:

  • Head of Sales: a product’s performance
  • Marketing Department: an interesting brand mention on Facebook
  • CEO: some ideas about expanding into a new market

It’s only Monday morning, and you’ve already got your hands full with product performance reviews, social media response management, market research, strategizing, a meeting with the CEO – that’s only a small part of what a CMO does. 

Oh, and that meeting with the CEO? You can even expect to throw in a meeting or three with the COO and CFO to discuss some of those strategies later this week. They’ll impact the company’s budget and operations, so other board members will need to be kept in the loop.

Career Outlook: Your Experience and Education Matter

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the field of marketing managers broadly is experiencing a growth rate of 8 percent per year. That’s 50 percent faster than related management positions, such as those in sales-related fields (growing at 5 percent per year). 

CMOs play an especially direct role in maximizing a company’s revenue, and you can expect to be well-paid as a result. In 2020, PayScale estimated that CMOs make $174,192 annually on average. LinkedIn agrees, noting that the median annual earnings for the CMO hover around $180,000

However, that compensation is heavily dependent on how long you’ve been a CMO overall. PayScale notes that CMOs with only one year of experience in the role may earn as little as $99,000 per year, while those with over 20 years of experience will earn $197,000 per year.

Speaking of Experience…

According to PayScale, some 49 percent of CMOs have identified themselves as “late-career” individuals possessing more than 20 years of experience as a CMO. Another 35 percent identified themselves as “experienced,” with at least 10 years of experience in the role before seeking their current position. 

In other words, it’s a role that people tend to stay in for a very long time. That can make it difficult for you to break into a position unless you’re experienced and educated. In other words, unless you can demonstrate the same years of experience, or you’ve got an advanced degree to make up for it.

LinkedIn also notes that education plays a large role in what you can expect to earn. CMOs with a bachelor’s degree can expect their earnings to peak at $175,000 per year. In contrast, an MBA may allow you to earn as much as $225,000 per year – and 55 percent of LinkedIn’s survey respondents hold one.

Skills and Competencies: 5 Things You’ll Need to Know How to Do

Working with many different departments and handling such a wide variety of marketing-related responsibilities means you’ll need a combination of technical expertise and soft skills. CMOs are generally expected to master:

1. The fundamentals of marketing and digital marketing. From social media campaigns to effective marketing at events, you’ll need to know almost everything related to marketing in the physical world and marketing online. 

2. Pricing strategy. Pricing strategy gets overlooked a lot, but it’s an underrated skill that can set you apart in the world of marketers. You should know how to tie pricing to value. That’s what helps your marketing strategies maximize profits.

3. Business and corporate strategy. Marketing directly impacts revenue and business growth. Therefore, you will need to understand how your efforts connect with and support broader business and corporate strategies

4. Data analytics for marketing. Much of marketing is data-driven these days, with metrics letting us know exactly how a campaign is performing. That makes it critical to understand things like one-variable statistics and A/B testing.

5. Leadership. You’ll lead teams and manage people almost every day. To do so effectively, you’ll need to understand organizational behavior.

CMO Education Requirements

If you want to become a CMO, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree. LinkedIn, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and PayScale all agree that a four-year degree is the minimum you’ll need to achieve due to the number of technical skills you’ll have to develop. The most common degrees are business-related, but LinkedIn also notes some interesting alternative majors:

  • International business
  • Economics
  • Marketing, marketing management
  • Psychology

Indeed also adds to the list:

  • Journalism
  • Communications
  • Public relations

Going Further: Certifications, Master’s, and MBAs

Since your competition will have a bachelor’s degree, it might have occurred to you to seek out an advanced degree to set yourself apart. That would be a great idea, especially if your bachelor’s degree wasn’t in business. 

When you’re looking into going further, you’ve got three options:

  • Certifications. Organizations like the American Marketing Association offer certifications for marketers and marketing managers. You may also want to consider industry-specific certifications to deepen your insight. Alone, these will only be enough with your bachelor’s degree if you’ve already got significant professional experience.
  • Master’s degree. It may be tempting to pursue a master’s degree in marketing or a similar field. If you choose this route, round out your studies with plenty of elective courses in business-related topics.
  • MBA. Most job sites, including LinkedIn and Indeed, indicate that an MBA is the most popular option for advanced degrees. You’ll want to look for an MBA that offers a marketing specialization, or an executive MBA that specifically prepares you for life in the boardroom.

The CMO Career Path: What to Expect

Get ready to double down on achieving professional experience. The CMO is unique among board positions in that your ability as a marketer matters more than your industry experience. Compare that to a role like the CTO, where industry-specific technical experience matters almost as much as your business acumen. 

Many CMOs, like Kate Jhaveri of the NBA, have a resume that runs the gamut of digital marketing positions across numerous industries. Others, like David Edelman of Aetna, have worked in a variety of sales, consulting, digital marketing, and business strategy roles. 

Of course, if you’ve found an industry that you like, then you’re welcome to remain in it. The CMO of Warner Media Entertainment, Chris Spadaccini, has worked in marketing for the entertainment industry for over 15 years.

(By the way, all three professionals have MBAs.)

Can a CMO Become a CEO?

Yes.

However, it’s not easy. According to Diego Scotti, the CMO of Verizon, it can be difficult for CMOs to progress to CEO. That’s because the position emphasizes expertise in marketing rather than the bigger picture mentality embraced by other C-level positions. In other words, the best CMOs are ultra-competent marketers who might not have the business-mindedness to fulfill the CEO’s role.

If you’re viewing the CMO role as a stepping stone to CEO, take note. It’s one more reason to consider an MBA as it can help broaden your business expertise.

How to Become a CMO

On the road to becoming a CMO, it’s your professional experience in marketing that will set you apart and tip you toward the position. That’s why most CMOs identify themselves as “experienced” or “late-career” professionals.  

As you scope out your next steps toward becoming a CMO, here’s what we recommend you do:

1. Earn a degree that lands you a marketing job. You’ve got a little bit of freedom here, but if you’re still deciding on your degree, opt for something either business or marketing related. Otherwise, get yourself into a marketing position as quickly as possible. After you’ve completed your degree, expect to spend between one and three years here.

2. Gain job experience. For the next five to nine years, it’s not necessary to stay at the same company, but you can. Build your resume by taking successively higher-level marketing jobs to help you gain deeper insights into the field and demonstrate your growing experience.

3. Earn an advanced degree. We recommend choosing an MBA with a marketing specialization as it will amplify your effectiveness in your career while giving you the business skills you’ll need at the executive level. You can go for it at any point after you’ve completed your undergrad. Keep in mind that most CMOs have between ten and twenty years of experience before seeking the role.

4. Grow your professional network. Like other C-level positions, your ability to become a CMO will hinge on who you know. This may take a year or longer, but doing this while in an MBA program with a strong professional network can accelerate this process.

5. Look for CMO roles that match your experience and interests. You may already have an industry in which you’re interested and settled in, but if you don’t, that’s okay. Keep your eye out for positions that interest you and match your background. This process can take over a year, but it can also happen quickly if you’ve got a strong network.

Choosing an MBA Program to Become a CMO

An MBA is an invaluable asset if you’re gunning for the top role in the marketing world. However, not all MBAs are created equal. You’ve got options to consider … three main ones, actually:

  • Traditional MBA. Well-regarded and rigorous, a traditional MBA program at a major school can put you in touch with high-caliber contacts in your field. It might also require you to stop working and can get expensive.
  • Online MBA. Online MBAs are ideal for people who want the flexibility to take courses while they work, or who don’t want to relocate to attend a specific school. Many don’t offer career networks, which can hinder your ability to connect with other business professionals. Others, like Quantic’s program, do. That’s something to consider when investigating this route. (Here are some more thoughts on traditional versus online MBAs.)
  • Executive MBA. A specialized type of MBA, it’s geared toward professionals with considerable experience who are taking steps toward the boardroom. Consider this route if you’ve got your targets locked on becoming a CMO, as it’ll prepare you for the challenges of serving on a board. We’ve covered the differences between an EMBA and MBA right here.

Summary: How to Become a CMO

There you have it – how to become a CMO! The CMO is an interesting position in the boardroom because of its emphasis on marketing expertise – according to Diego Scotti, sometimes at the expense of being able to focus on the bigger picture. Hopefully, we’ve given you a few ideas on how to avoid that pitfall. 

We’ve looked at the hard and soft skills you’ll need, the types of career paths that are common when becoming a CMO, and what you should consider when pursuing an MBA. By rounding out your professional experience with solid business credentials and education, you can attain that wider focus and become a more effective corporate professional all around.

Want to discover more about why our online MBA works? 

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Build the Perfect Data Analyst Resume (5 Example Templates Included)

You have done a lot to position yourself for a career in data analysis. But coursework, projects, and prior jobs will only secure a data analyst job if these experiences can be effectively communicated to recruiters.

You might feel lost as you prepare your resume. Do you know what firms look for in a data analyst? Do you know how to describe your education and job history in a way that makes recruiters excited to interview you? How can you tailor your resume for specific data analyst specializations? 

To help you prepare a resume that will catch a human resources (HR) recruiter’s eye, we have compiled this guide to build the perfect data analyst resume. We will not address general resume tips. You can always find these online. Instead, we have included ideas for using detailed work experiences to give your resume an edge over generic resumes. We have also listed some keywords that will help you stand out and earn an interview.

By following this guide, you can improve your resume by quickly and clearly communicating your experiences and coursework that qualify you for a data analyst position. We have even included five resume templates to get you started in your search for employment in:

  • SQL data analysis
  • Python data analysis
  • Data mining
  • Predictive analytics
  • Digital marketing analysis

What Should a Data Analyst Put on Their Resume?

HR recruiters are not necessarily experts in data analysis. To get past the general HR screening, your resume will need to hit on both your general skills and coursework as well as the specific relevant skills for a data analyst resume.

Universal Skills

Some of the information HR recruiters look for will be the same regardless of the position. These universal skills, educational experiences, academic achievements, and industry certifications will always be included when you apply for a data analysis position.

However, you should not spend too much time emphasizing the same qualifications that every applicant will have. Rather, think of this section as helping the HR recruiter check off certain boxes so you can pass to the next level of review. Keep in mind that when the candidate pool is crowded, recruiters can only spare a few seconds skimming a resume. Spending too much time on your universal skills will not help you stand out and may make it appear as if you have no specialized skills to offer.

If your resume does not stand out after a six-second scan, you may need to rework it.

One approach is to provide a specific case explaining how your universal skills were used. For example, every data analyst has studied statistics. But very few data analyst candidates could say that they “collected and analyzed 200,000 data points from a local delivery business to identify missed efficiencies.” Although data collection and analysis are universal skills that every data analyst puts on their resume, this example contains detail that is more likely to catch a recruiter’s eye. It highlights your ability to collect and filter real-world data, provide an analysis of what the data shows, and create concrete business recommendations based on that analysis. This description provides an HR recruiter with context rather than simply stating your ability to “analyze data.”

Remember that you will probably not receive a job offer based solely on your resume. The goal is to pique a recruiter’s interest so you receive a job interview. Providing a detailed application of your skills can provide a talking point for the interview.

You may be competing against hundreds of other applicants to earn an offer, so make sure your resume makes an impression, and you have talking points for the interview.

Examples of these universal resume builders that everyone should have on a resume, but tailored to a specific application, if possible, include:

  • Advanced mathematics
  • Study design
  • Calculating a sample size
  • Collecting data
  • Data cleaning
  • Modeling data
  • Analyzing data
  • Producing data visualizations
  • Reporting conclusions from the data

Job-Specific Skills

In addition to the universal skills that every data analyst will have, you will also want to tailor your resume to the type of analyst position and the level of seniority. These job-specific skills can help you land a job interview in a few ways:

  • Exhibit knowledge of the company and position: By researching the employer then tailoring your resume to the employer’s business, you will impress the recruiter and potentially move ahead of other job candidates with more generic resumes.
  • Highlight relevant experience: A deep understanding of the position will help you tailor your resume to highlight experience relevant to the job’s requirements.
  • Provide discussion points: A resume should not just point out that you are the type of person who would make a good employee, it should also give you material to discuss during an interview that you would fit in as a member of the team.

Data Analyst Resume Templates:

The best way to explain what you should include in a data analyst resume is with examples. Here we provide curated templates that provide the perfect base for a: 

As you gain seniority along your career path, recruiters’ expectations about the skills and relevant experience will change. For internships and entry-level positions, recruiters may look for technical mastery through grades and coursework. 

However, recruiters looking to fill more senior positions will look for experience managing people and resources. As you use these templates, be sure to include management experience if you are applying for a senior position.

Here are some examples of how to position your experience in your resume to improve your chances of earning an interview.

Senior Data Analyst Resume

A resume for a senior data analyst position will be more likely to earn an interview if it highlights the mastery of technical concepts and relevant management experience. Unless the employer is looking for a lateral hire, the recruiter will probably not expect you to list senior-level management experience. However, the employer will likely expect you to include some prior experience leading a team or managing a project when applying for a senior position.

Entry-Level Data Analyst Resume

At this level, it will be more important to highlight knowledge of technical concepts and skills that make you a good data analyst. Remember to frame your skills in a real-world context and express your passion for problem-solving with data. For example, stating that you did an “undergraduate traffic study” does not provide the eye-catching depth of “studied traffic patterns and police reports to propose changes to traffic light timing to reduce accidents.”

Data Analyst Internship Resume

Applicants for internships are not necessarily expected to have real-world experience. However, you should list coursework and projects relevant to the employer’s business.

Studies show that as many as 80% of positions are filled through networking, regardless of level. Our Quantic Career Network provides students and alumni with the benefits of networking during a job search.

Relevant Skills for a Data Analyst Resume

To be a strong candidate for a data analytics position, your resume will need to highlight certain skills that all data analysts should possess. Also, think through how you would discuss the application of these skills during an interview.

Some of these skills include:

  • Basic analytical skills: Basic analytical skills, like distilling large amounts of data, facts, and figures into pivot tables, are needed to produce something useful.
  • Statistics skills: Statistics skills are needed to make estimates based on data. Recruiters will expect you to know how to use basic tools like Excel to handle one-variable statistics. Moreover, including experience in making data-driven decisions using inferential statistics will show your ability to turn raw data into predictions about the future.
  • Strategic thinking: Strategic thinking uses data analysis to look at the big picture and develop a business strategy informed by the data.
  • Data collection skills: Data analysts need to be able to collect and cleanse data. Planning a cohort of an appropriate sample size that avoids bias can provide a data analysis that is robust and useful.
  • Team management skills: As a candidate for a senior role, you will need to highlight your ability to manage other data analysts and supporting team members. 

Building a Resume with Education Beyond Undergraduate School

To compete with other job candidates, a data analyst needs well-rounded coursework in handling, cleaning, analyzing, and reporting data. However, going further by earning technical certifications can boost a resume and should be highlighted.

For leadership positions in operations and management, such as a vice president or executive director, recruiters are increasingly including candidates who have both technical knowledge and business acumen. Candidates with an MBA will often have a competitive edge when applying for these positions.

Choosing an MBA or EMBA program will be based on many factors, including:

  • Career goals: Your program should teach you the skills and connect you with a network that can advance your career. 
  • Time: If you plan to work while enrolled, you might need to find a program that offers flexibility while still providing well-rounded coursework. 
  • Cost: The salary growth of MBA graduates is roughly 22-23%. Choosing a lower-cost program produces a greater ROI. 

Keywords that can Make a Data Analyst Resume Stand Out

Unfortunately, HR recruiters can only budget a minute or two (or less) to each candidate’s resume. Consequently, you must use keywords in your resume, so it makes it into the “interview” pile rather than the “file” pile.

Some of the keywords that a recruiter might scan for include:

KeywordsPurposeExamples
Technical termsShow you understand concepts that underlie data analysis.Warehouse
Analytics
Model
Mine
Visualization
Forecast
Business termsIllustrate your approach to using analytics to advise business units in making real-world decisions.Report
Operations
Strategy
Action
Plan
Present
Propose
Recommend
Management termsHighlight your experience and skills in managing resources and people.Direct
Head
Lead
Investigate
Team
Members
Budget
Delegate

Using Online Resources to Boost Your Data Analyst Resume

As with everything today, the Internet can be a valuable resource in building your resume and applying for jobs.

Creating a Resume

Reddit can provide a forum for discussing an issue with a specific group. Users can give you job-seeking advice and feedback on your resume. Just remember to observe cross-posting rules and remove any identifying information from your resume before you post it.

Another resource for creating a resume is LinkedIn. LinkedIn provides resume creation tools and templates to create a professional-looking resume when seeking data analyst jobs.

Distributing Your Resume

You can upload your resume in LinkedIn in four ways:

  • Resume storage: You can upload and store a resume in your LinkedIn profile for future job applications.
  • Job applications: You apply for the posted jobs on LinkedIn’s Jobs page and upload your resume after clicking on the “Easy Apply” button.
  • Networking: LinkedIn can store your resume for sharing across your LinkedIn network.

You can also use your resume to build your LinkedIn profile. Simply use your resume to fill in the profile fields so that your work history, education, and experience in your LinkedIn profile match your resume.

Building the Perfect Data Analyst Resume

Building a data analyst resume can be intimidating for both new and experienced analysts. You might have had a resume for past jobs but did not know how to tailor your resume for a data analysis position. Alternatively, you might have worked in data analysis but were at a loss at updating your resume to apply for senior-level positions.

By using the tips in this guide, you can create a data analyst resume that will dwarf those of your competition. Your resume will catch a recruiter’s attention and earn you an interview if you take the time to:

  • Tailor your resume for the position.
  • List, but not overemphasize, your universal skills.
  • Write interesting descriptions of relevant experiences that stress practical, real-world applications.
  • Highlight management experience.

Putting Together Your Resume for Management Opportunities

If you are an experienced senior data analyst, you might feel that it is time to set yourself onto the path of becoming a COO or chief executive officer. Seeking an MBA can help you reach that career goal.

Alternatively, you might be fresh out of undergraduate school and have just as much interest in operations and management as you have in data analysis. For younger data analysts, an MBA can open doors that are not always open to entry-level data analysts.

You can learn more about the benefits of an MBA to your career as a data analyst on our site.

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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!

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