Resource Library

1.02 Corporate Finance and FP&A Salaries and Career Path

Just like most careers, corporate finance has a hierarchy that you need to progress through in your career. We are going to go through each step along the ladder of the corporate finance world. As we review this you will learn a little more about what corporate finance salaries and compensation look like over time as well as what climbing the corporate finance ladder looks like.

corporate finance salary
Corporate Finance & FP&A Salary and Career Progression

The bottom (part 1) … Leadership program

We have discussed it before but probably the best way to get into the corporate finance and accounting functions at most companies is to come through a finance leadership development program.

The Salary: These programs range in starting salary of $60,000 – $85,000… if you look on you will actually see a salary range that is even wider, maybe $40,000 – $110,000… however my practical experience has taught me these clusters for most mid-range cost of living cities would be a total compensation of $60,000 – $85,000 with a bonus of $0-$5,000

The Job: Check out our post on finance leadership development programs.

The bottom (part 2) … Entry level Analyst, Junior Analyst, Lead Analyst

Some people can’t land a position in a financial leadership program. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a chance in the corporate finance and accounting world. For everyone else coming out of an undergraduate program, you will look for a simple entry level analyst position. Different companies will have different names for these.

The Salary: These jobs can start quite low especially at small companies in small cities or rural areas, but it can swing the other direction depending on the company you work for and the location you work in… $35,000 – $70,000 is probably the range with a bonus of $0 – $5,000.

The Job: Unfortunately, these aren’t always the MOST exciting jobs. Things more on the finance side might include payables or receivables analysts (paying bills or tracking incoming payments), it might be a basic FP&A position running reports and doing simple analysis… if you are on the accounting side it might be a position booking journal entries or doing account reconciliations.  That said, these jobs can be critical for developing the knowledge and skills to progress your career.  If you make the most of these jobs, you can get promoted quickly and keep your career moving!

2nd level … Financial Analyst

This level consists of analyst jobs that can still border on entry level type work, but might require a little experience or more education. Likely a graduate of a financial leadership program would find themselves in one of these jobs or someone that has done well in an entry level analyst job for 2-4 years. It’s important to note that

The Salary: (at the time of the writing of this post) has the financial analyst BASE salary range between $47,000 and $87,000… but the average is at $63,829 per year of base salary with additional cash compensation (bonus) of $5,566 for a total of $69,395 per year of total compensation. So on average this job makes $70,000 per year.

The Job: These analyst jobs require more critical thinking than an entry level analyst. Entry level jobs can often be transactional work that requires slugging through. These jobs require problem solving and you have some more opportunities to differentiate yourself by improving the job, taking on additional things, or making your boss look good! On the finance side you will find yourself in jobs like: an FP&A role doing some reporting but also some analysis. A cost analyst job that researches product cost or cost of capital OR an expense analyst reviewing base and/or variable cost for a business. A basic underwriting job entering data into models that you feed up to risk managers. Working on project based finance or run financial data for particular customer or contract. On the accounting side it will be closing the financial ledgers for a month-end or quarter-end close (booking journal entries, reviewing balance sheets, etc) overseeing the accounting transactions associated with billing/invoicing, ec.

3rd level … Senior Financial Analyst

This level is still an individual contributor job (i.e. it works for someone but does not have a team of individual contributors reporting to it). If you are a financial leadership development program graduate you would want to target to be in a Senior Analyst job 2-5 years after completing the program.

The Salary: (at the time of the writing of this post) has the senior financial analyst BASE salary range between $62,000 and $105,000… but the average is at $81,0666 per year of base salary with additional cash compensation (bonus) of $6,713 for a total of $87,779 per year of total compensation. So on average this job makes $88,000 per year!

The Job: Senior Analyst is where the rubber meets the road! A senior analyst has to regularly show that they differentiate themselves from regular analysts. They should take an informal leadership role in the team, help their manager think through challenges (and be their sounding board), and be proficient in their work. On the finance side these are jobs could look like:

  • FP&A … analyzing things like price & productivity, setting up plans/targets for a business or business unit (planning / budgeting), helping to drive the discussion on how to improve margins (or why they aren’t improving), understanding the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow of the business, driving working capital strategy
  • Capital and capital allocation … analyzing business investment decisions, helping to allocate capital, analyzing working capital solutions (funding, etc), entering into f/x hedges or analyzing f/x positions
  • Shops & Business Unit analysts … you might do analysis for a particular product line / vertical / geography in total across FP&A, capital allocation, etc..
  • Sourcing and Purchasing … a senior analyst here may track and analyze sourcing data, deflation, etc.
  • Audit … more on the accounting or even compliance / controllership … senior analysts can often get into auditing both financial practices and sometimes operational or underwriting practices
  • Commercial / Underwriting – modeling different commercial strategies and deals closely with the sales team…. Think … Discounted Cash Flow models, pricing models, NPV, IRR, etc…
  • Project Management – A number of projects come up within businesses that need a dedicated resource

The list really could go on and on.. there is a huge breadth of projects that a senior financial analyst could work on!

4th level … Finance Manager

This level sometimes is an individual contributor job and sometimes is an actual manager job of a small team. If you are a financial leadership development program graduate, you would want to target to be in a Finance Manager job 4-7 years after completing the program… if you are really good you might be able to get into a management job sooner… as quick as 4-5 years of working. If you hired into entry-level, you would aim for 6-10 years after completing the program.

The Salary: (at the time of the writing of this post) has the financial manager BASE salary range between $77,000 and $138,000… but the average is at $104,461 per year of base salary with additional cash compensation (bonus) of $14,051 for a total of $118,512 per year of total compensation. So on average this job makes almost $120,000 per year! … You can tell in the jump in bonus from senior analyst to finance manager… this is the step where companies start to tie more of your compensation to company performance. In good years you will get bigger bonuses than bad years. Nonetheless, if you progress well in your career, in corporate finance you can be at the 120k mark just 4-5 years into your career, without complete sacrifice of your personal life!

The Job: As mentioned above this is either the biggest individual contributor role or it is a manager role. Typically, with a team of direct reports between 1 and 5 employees. This is typically a tough adjustment. This is where people find out if they cut-out for management. The jobs here that are managerial usually have a component where you yourself as the finance manager also need to do some individual contributor work… but you work to find that right balance of managing and delegating vs. doing. Most people struggle here to let go of control and must fight the urge to micro manage! The work itself is much of the same type of work as the senior financial analyst but overseeing vs. doing… and typically you have MORE. You might have 4 analysts working for you that each have something they are responsible, but ultimately you answer up the chain for all of it! This is also the stage where you really can start to work a lot with the sales team, commercial team, marketing, operations, and more. Those folks all come to you to help them solve their problems, to make more money, to model a deal, etc. Jobs in this world will have titles like Shop Finance Manager, FP&A Manager, Controller, Treasurer… but typically of a sub-section or unit of the business.

5th / 6th Level … Senior Finance Manager or Director

This is financial and accounting management. These jobs are Treasurers, Controllers (of a bigger business unit), finance managers of a product line or business unit (think mini-CFOs), FP&A managers of large segments. If you are a financial leadership development program graduate and kicking a$$ you might be able to get here in 5-8 years from college graduation. However, a good target would be to get to one of these positions in 7-10 years after you finish a leadership program… at this point it would be a similar target for someone from an entry level hire, they just have more work to do to differentiate themselves. Which title depends on the company you work out. Some companies don’t have both titles. Typically, Senior Finance Manager is a SLIGHTLY smaller job… but there isn’t too much difference

The Salary: (at the time of the writing of this post) has the Senior Finance Manager BASE salary range between $92,000 and $162,000… but the average is at $123,656 per year of base salary with additional cash compensation (bonus) of $15,772 for a total of $139,428 per year of total compensation. So on average Senior Finance Managers make almost $140,000 per year! For Finance Directors BASE salary ranges between $103,000 and $190,000… but the average is at $142,876 per year of base salary with additional cash compensation (bonus) of $26,181 for a total of $169,057 per year of total compensation for Finance Directors. However, I’ll say in my experience, you frequently see director level jobs, even in Midwest cities in the US at over $200,000 per year. You see the same trend here where the bonus gets even bigger. As employees play bigger leadership roles, companies want them to play bigger roles.

The Job: These are big leadership roles. You have a team and that team that works for you might even have their own direct reports. You could have a finance organization of 5 – 25 people. There is only a small amount of individual contributor work at this point. Your role is largely leadership of your organization, setting strategy and goals, helping your team to get their job done (removing obstacles, etc), partnering with the business operating team (general managers, CEOs, business unit leaders) to set strategy. There is also a lot more work on developing individuals and partnering with HR on filling jobs and attracting talent.

7th level … Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of a division / business unit / product line OR Senior Executive or Vice President of Finance (e.g. FP&A leader for the company)

Big companies have 2nd tier CFOs which serve as CFOs of business units / regions / geographies / product lines / verticals. They serve the same role as a CFO of the company, just on a slightly smaller scale. They also have other roles which serve under the CFO like the FP&A leader for the business, the Treasurer for the business, etc.

The Salary: is not a reliable source salary information for this level of employee.. A better source is a study done by Grant Thornton. This study shows Divisional / Regional CFOs have an average Base Salary of $222,274 at publicly traded companies. In terms of the bonus and additional compensation… a divisional CFO will usually get some percentage bonus 25-60% of their base salary and some sort of equity sharing / stock options (could equate to another 5 – 60% of their base salary). These compensation packages start to get rich. If we take a relatively conservative snapshot here and assume a 30% bonus & 15% equity grant … that would have an average regional or divisional CFO at over $300,000 per year. But there is tremendous variation here. The FP&A leader for a big company in San Francisco might make $1,000,000 per year.

The job: You own the wing-to-wing financials for your business. Income Statement, Balance Sheet, Cash Flow…. Accounting, Controllership, Mergers, Acquisitions…. Cash, Inventory, Underwriting, Pricing…. The list goes on and on. CFOs have to work with both internal and external auditors, oversee accounting policies, partner with CIOs to deliver financial system decisions. Help prepare investor relations scripts, identify business risks. You also are building an organization. This requires recruiting, developing, and retaining talent. Partnering with HR to develop a pipeline, to do succession planning, and other HR-related issues. These jobs typically spend more time with their business unit CEO or General Manager than they do with the overall business CFO.

Data came from a survey by Grant Thornton

VP/CFO – of the overall business

This is the big job. This runs the entire finance and accounting function (and sometimes IT) for the whole business.

The Salary: CFOs at publicly traded companies have a very wide range of salaries. This article on top CFO compensation shows an average pay of $3.8MM… but some CFOs at the lower end of the range might make $300,000 – $400,000 and in 2014 Twitter CFO Anthony Noto made $72.8MM. A 2017 Grant Thornton showed the average compensation of a CFO of a public company > $1B in revenue was $1.8M and the average compensation of a private company CFO between $100M – $1B in revenue was just under $700k. Despite the range, it is safe to say that if you are the top, you will make a lot of money. This compensation is going to be a mix of base salary, short and long term bonuses, and various equity/options.

The job: It is similar to the divisional / regional CFO role explained above but with more direct accountability to the board of directors and the investors. You have a team of those divisional / regional CFOs that report into you. This is the whole show, the captain of the ship!

A practical career path example…

This is theoretical as the organization structure at Toyota might not actually be structured this way…

But let’s say that a new graduate gets a job at Toyota in FP&A as an analyst. They would likely be assigned into one division. They might be an analyst on the Toyota Corolla product line. This FP&A Analyst would be part of a team of 3-4 analysts on that Corolla product line. Those analysts would all work for a Senior FP&A Analyst that is the head of FP&A for the Toyota Corolla. That Senior FP&A Analyst might then be 1 of 3-4 Senior FP&A Analysts that work for the Director of FP&A for Compact Cars. The Director of FP&A for Compact Cars would have peers across other divisions, maybe those are: SUVs, Trucks, Large Cars, and Electric Vehicles, all of whom report up to the FP&A Senior Executive who leads FP&A for the whole Toyota company. That FP&A Senior Executive would report to the CFO of the whole company.


There are infinite paths that someone can take on their career journey, and no two paths are identical.  However, it is good to be educated about the different levels and to have a goal for what you want to strive for… but also to know what work and skills are required to get you where you want to be!

Course Content

Expand All