Your path to becoming a finance manager

A finance student works on a laptop at the university
A finance student works on a laptop at the university

Finance managers, or financial managers, are a crucial member of the finance team. The role can include tasks such as managing budgets and reporting financial results.

Reporting to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and managing a team that includes financial analysts, auditors and bookkeepers, the finance manager plays a key role in coordinating an organisation’s financial resources.

This is a role that demands soft skills such as leadership and communication, broad technical skills in finance as well as the practical ability to manage budgets, develop financial forecasts, and produce financial reports.

Let’s take a closer look at the role of the finance manager, the qualifications necessary for this role and the salary you can look forward to in your career.

What does a finance manager do?

Finance managers are responsible for effectively managing the money that flows through the business while identifying opportunities to increase shareholder value through finance.

Your role as a finance manager will vary day to day, depending on the size and type of organisation you’re working with.

Typical duties for finance managers include:

  • Overseeing and managing the finance department
  • Collecting and analysing financial data
  • Investigating ways to improve profitability
  • Analysing market trends for business opportunities
  • Creating strategies to minimise financial risks
  • Reporting ROI to management and stakeholders
  • Providing financial advice to management

Larger organisations will have specialist bookkeepers, auditors and financial analysts, leaving the finance manager to prepare business plans, financial reports and deliver financial guidance. In smaller organisations, the finance manager may handle all this work themselves.

Steps to become a finance manager

The steps you take to become a finance manager depend on where you are in your career when you take that first step.

Here are common milestones to becoming a finance manager.

Complete a bachelor’s degree

Many finance managers begin their careers with a related bachelor’s degree in a discipline such as business, finance, commerce, accounting, economics or similar. This typically involves three years of full-time study.

You can become a finance manager even if you have already completed a bachelor’s degree in a different discipline. UNSW Online allows students from non-cognate disciplines to study the Graduate Certificate in Applied Finance, then, once completed with a credit average, they can continue studying to complete the Graduate Diploma in Applied Finance or the Master of Applied Finance.

Advance your skills with a postgraduate degree

According to Seek, many employers also expect candidates to hold a relevant master’s degree as an educational requirement. Postgraduate degrees are a signal to employers that you have advanced proficiency and are equipped for more senior positions.

The online Master of Applied Finance at UNSW would help satisfy this requirement and give you the competitive edge to thrive in the modern financial world.

Gain industry experience

Like many industries, gaining hands-on experience is key. You may choose to dip your toe in the water with an internship, or you may land a full-time position as an auditor, accountant or financial analyst.

This industry experience will not only equip you for your future roles, but it may also help you meet the requirements for any certifications you need to advance your career.

Consider certification or industry memberships

Finance managers do not, by rule, need additional certifications. However, some employers may prefer that their finance managers hold a Chartered Accountant (CA) or Certified Practising Account (CPA) qualification. You may also consider joining industry bodies such as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Finance Industry Association (AFIA).

Skills to become a finance manager

We’ve talked about a range of different finance managers who all have slightly different roles but share a common set of technical and soft skills.

Financial management

Of course, the key technical skill for finance managers is financial management itself. According to Investopedia, financial management involves monitoring expenses, revenues, creditors, debtors, and profits to control and allocate resources effectively.

Financial management goes beyond accounting. It’s about analysing financial information in the context of corporate goals to obtain insights that help executive management make effective decisions.

By selecting financial management as an elective part of your online Master of Applied Finance at UNSW, you will be able to interpret financial statements and understand how those insights impact the organisation. Therefore, helping shape strategic decision-making and acquiring the accounting skills necessary to succeed as a finance manager.

Analytical skills

Finance managers play a crucial role in reviewing financial information, identifying the root causes of problems, and proposing effective solutions. With robust analytical skills, you can provide insightful recommendations to executives, guiding strategic decision-making.

These analytical capabilities extend to financial reporting, enabling accurate forecasting and empowering them to identify and interpret market trends.


Accounting is the base-level technical skill that all finance managers need. It’s a skill you’re likely to develop in various accounting jobs on your career path toward becoming a finance manager.


For finance managers who need to manage a team, it’s critical that they can delegate work, resolve issues and support the team to achieve their goals.


Leadership is an essential soft skill for finance managers as you’re likely to lead a team of auditors, accountants, and bookkeepers. Your role as a leader is to remove any impediments that hinder the success of the professionals you lead.

Communication skills

Finance managers communicate with many stakeholders, including senior executives, junior accountants and union reps. Strong communication skills will help you influence these stakeholders to act on the financial information you’re delivering. 

Software and applications 

Finance managers use accounting software programs, including SAP, Xero and Quickbooks. You’ll also benefit from data analytics knowledge for business intelligence (BI) applications. 

Problem-solving and critical thinking

In a recent survey, Seek found that 28 per cent of all employers value problem-solving and critical thinking. Add instant value to your organisation as you progress through the Master of Applied Finance by gaining the transferrable skills to adapt financial theories and frameworks to solve real-world problems. 

Consider these problem-solving frameworks when you’re being interviewed for your finance manager role. Demonstrating the critical thinking you gained from postgraduate education showcases your ability to think deeply and see the bigger picture in the financial landscape.

Career pathways for becoming a finance manager

The finance managers we’ve focused on so far have mainly worked through several different jobs in the finance industry to develop the experience and skills required for the role. 

After graduating with their bachelor’s degree, many finance managers begin their careers as junior accountants or auditors. Jobs like these allow you to observe and learn from the finance managers leading your team. 

If your career to date has ventured outside of the financial sector, you can also look to enter a career in finance with the UNSW Online's Master of Applied Finance. You’ll learn how financial knowledge areas such as business analytics, financial technology and international finance can be applied in business, making you an invaluable asset for any employer. 

How to become a finance manager with the Master of Applied Finance at UNSW

The online Master of Applied Finance at UNSW gives students with varying levels of financial knowledge the skills to confidently apply, manage and lead financial functions at all business levels. 

Embarking on this accelerated program tailored for the busy working professional has been a game-changer for our graduates. Delivered entirely online, it accommodates the demands of a full-time job, allowing students to focus on one course at a time. The flexibility is instrumental in maintaining a work-life balance while instantly applying newfound knowledge to benefit your career and organisation. Yet, you can complete your master’s degree in as little as two years.

The core courses of the Master of Applied Finance have been designed in line with the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) curriculum, a highly valued and globally recognised accreditation. On completion of your master’s, you’ll have a solid grounding to pursue the CFA accreditation. 

Unlock your value. Connect with one of our enrolment advisors to explore how the online Master of Applied Finance at UNSW can empower you to become a finance manager.