What Is a Financial Examiner and How Can You Become One?

financial examiner using financial systems

Do you have a knack for numbers and an eye for detail? You might consider pursuing a career in finance. There are many types of career opportunities in the finance field, including the role of financial examiner.

What is a financial examiner and what does a financial examiner do? Learn about this exciting and rewarding profession in this in-depth career guide. You’ll also learn about the steps needed to become a professional financial examiner.

Table of Contents for Financial Examiner Resource Guide

Responsibilities of a Financial Examiner

The job of a financial examiner lies at the intersection of finance and law. It is the responsibility of these professionals to monitor financial transactions and ensure that they are in full compliance with all applicable regulations. A financial examiner is also responsible for ensuring the compliance of banks and other financial institutions.

There are two main specializations for financial examiners:

  • Risk assessment: Financial examiners who specialize in risk assessment focus on financial institutions. For example, they ensure that the financial systems are stable, that the institutions do not engage in risky lending practices and that they have sufficient cash on hand to deal with unexpected financial losses.
  • Consumer compliance: Financial examiners who specialize in consumer compliance focus on the rights and financial welfare of borrowers. They must ensure that financial institutions do not offer predatory loans and do not engage in discriminatory practices with their borrowers. It is unlawful for a financial institution to discriminate against borrowers on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender and similar characteristics.

Financial Examiner Job Description

If the general job description of a financial examiner appeals to you, it’s time to take a closer look at their typical daily tasks. A day in the life of a financial examiner can depend on their chosen specialization, but in general, they may do any of the following:

  • Monitor the overall fiscal health and financial practices of financial institutions
  • Verify the assets and liabilities of a financial institution, such as by evaluating operating income and expense accounts, loan documentation and balance sheets
  • Develop financial reports that provide details on the institution’s financial stability
  • Stay up to date on the latest financial regulations and policies, and ensure that the institution is in full compliance with them
  • Develop new procedure and policy guidelines for the financial institution in accordance with the latest regulations
  • Identify areas in which the institution has not achieved full compliance and prepare reports that detail corrective actions

Senior financial examiners may also spend some time training entry-level professionals.

Becoming a Financial Examiner

Now that you know the answers to the questions, “What is a financial examiner and what does a financial examiner do?” you may be wondering how to become one. If you’re in high school, you can request an appointment with your guidance counselor to discuss your career goals and current course load.

It’s recommended that students interested in finance careers take as many classes as possible in mathematics, such as:

  • Statistics
  • Pre-calculus
  • Business-related and finance classes
  • Business law
  • Macroeconomics
  • Microeconomics

Earn Your Finance or Accounting Degree

After high school, your next step is to earn a relevant undergraduate degree. Financial examiners are expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree. As long as your degree is within the finance field and includes coursework in accounting, you have some flexibility regarding the type of degree.

For example, you might choose to earn a Bachelor of Science in Finance or a Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree. Either of these would be a solid choice for an aspiring financial examiner. Above all, make sure you choose a school that is accredited.

The specific curriculum will vary from one school to the next. In general, however, finance majors can expect to study topics such as the following:

  • The fundamentals of the accounting cycle, including the development of financial statements and the interpretation of balance sheets
  • The analysis and application of managerial accounting data for evaluating an organization’s performance and making informed decisions
  • Descriptive and inferential statistics for use in business
  • Microeconomics, including the forces of supply and demand
  • Macroeconomics, with a look at cost of living and national economic productivity
  • Best practices in financial risk management

As you can see, this type of curriculum is well suited to students who wish to pursue careers as financial examiners. However, an accounting degree would also work well. Students pursuing accounting degrees may expect to study topics such as the following:

  • Application of managerial accounting data, with a look at cost–volume–profit (CVP) analysis, budgeting and capital investment evaluations
  • Principles of internal accounting, including job order systems, process costing and activity-based costing
  • Legal and ethical issues that affect businesses, such as contract law, strict liability, tort law and intellectual property
  • Fundamentals of microeconomics, including market structures and forces, market performances and consumer welfare
  • Analysis and interpretation of financial statements, and application of that interpretation

There is some overlap between finance and accounting degree programs. The primary difference between these two degrees is that a finance degree focuses on overall money management with an eye toward revenue growth. In contrast, an accounting degree focuses on the daily operations of monetary transactions.

If you’re thinking about choosing a finance degree, be sure its curriculum would enable you to pursue a voluntary certification (see below). You may need to demonstrate that you have completed a certain number of credit hours in accounting and business law.

Hands-on training is valued in this field. While you’re working toward your degree, you should visit your campus’s career services department to discuss local internship opportunities. Some internship placements that would be ideal for a future financial examiner include the following:

  • Banks and credit unions
  • Accounting firms
  • Investment companies
  • Insurance companies, such as life insurance carriers
  • Credit rating agencies

An internship would give you invaluable experience, allow you to build professional connections and make your resume more attractive to hiring managers.

Pursue On-the-Job Training Opportunities

After you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting, you’ll be ready to pursue an entry-level job as a financial examiner. It’s customary for new financial examiners to undergo a lengthy period of on-the-job training.

You can expect your company to pair you with a senior financial examiner, who will serve as your mentor and trainer. You may work under their supervision for up to one year before you’ll be considered sufficiently qualified to work independently.

It’s important to make a good impression during this time. Be sure to:

  • Ask questions if anything is unclear
  • Take plenty of notes while you’re being trained
  • Demonstrate your willingness to grow by actively soliciting feedback on your performance

Prepare for Professional Certification

Financial examiners aren’t legally required to be licensed or certified. However, obtaining a voluntary professional certification is recommended. Certified financial examiners tend to make more desirable job candidates, and certification may qualify you to pursue senior-level positions within their organization.

The main professional organization that certifies financial examiners is the Society of Financial Examiners (SOFE). The first SOFE credential you may be eligible to pursue is the Accredited Financial Examiner (AFE) certification.

To qualify for this certification, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in accounting. Alternatively, you may qualify if you are a certified public accountant (CPA). You could also qualify if you have a bachelor’s degree in another field, such as finance, provided you can prove that the curriculum included sufficient coursework in finance or economics, accounting and business law. 

You must also be a member of SOFE to qualify for the AFE certification. Furthermore, certification candidates must demonstrate at least two years of full-time work experience in a relevant position. Finally, an AFE credential requires the successful completion of four rigorous AFE exams, which are administered by SOFE.

You’ll need to submit an application for approval by the SOFE committee before you can take your exams. You must successfully complete each exam within 36 months.1

After you obtain the AFE credential, you’ll officially be a certified financial examiner. If you want to further enhance your job qualifications, you might choose to pursue the advanced SOFE credential: the Certified Financial Examiner (CFE) designation.

You must earn the AFE before you can earn the CFE. It’s possible to pursue both credentials concurrently, although the CFE cannot be granted until the AFE is granted.

Qualifying to pursue the CFE requires proof of certain educational requirements, such as coursework in management and general auditing. If you did not take this coursework during your bachelor’s degree program, you may still qualify if you complete a certification course or master’s degree program from an accredited school.

CFE credential candidates must also successfully complete four exams administered by SOFE. These exams cover the following topics: financial examination methods and management, enterprise risk management, reinsurance and financial analysis.

Earn an Advanced Degree for Career Growth

In addition to earning one or more voluntary certifications, you can increase your chances of advancing to the level of senior financial examiner by going back to school. Although it’s not required to build a career in the field, earning a master’s degree can significantly enhance your career qualifications and possibly pave the way to a promotion.

If you do decide to head back to school to earn a graduate degree, there are a few options to consider. For instance, you might decide to earn a Master of Science (MS) in Accounting or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an Emphasis in Accounting. These degrees are similar, but there are notable differences.

An MBA will give you a broad spectrum of business competencies in management, leadership and operations, as well as accounting competencies. In contrast, an MS is more sharply focused on specialized skills in accounting.

Which degree program is right for you all depends on your career goals. If you’re quite satisfied with your career, but want to move into a senior-level financial examining position, then an MS in Accounting could be the right choice. If you think you would rather move into management, then an MBA could help you navigate this transition.

Important Skills and Characteristics for Financial Examiners

Throughout the course of your academic and professional career, you can actively work on becoming a more effective financial examiner by cultivating some core skills and characteristics, including:

  • Analytical reasoning
  • Ethical decision-making
  • Attention to detail
  • Math skills
  • Reading comprehension
  • Writing skills

Is There a Demand for Financial Examiners?

Currently, there is a strong demand for qualified financial examiners. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for financial examiners to increase by about 7% from 2019 to 2029, faster than average, accounting for an estimated increase of 4,900 jobs in the field.2

The demand for financial examiners in the banking industry is expected to be particularly robust. Financial institutions rely on these professionals to ensure that the institutions are in full compliance with all applicable regulations. In this niche, financial examiners are expected to help mitigate the growing costs of compliance.

If you’re passionate about the world of finance, you can build a solid foundation for success at Grand Canyon University. Apply today for enrollment in the Bachelor of Science in Accounting program or the Bachelor of Science in Finance degree offered by the renowned Colangelo College of Business

Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to learn how to become a finance major at GCU.


1 Retrieved from: Society of Financial Examiners, Requirements for Obtaining the AFE Designation Financial Examiner in March 2022.

2 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on 2020, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Financial Examiners 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.