What is the average CFO salary by company size

by | Published on Mar 15, 2024 | Compensation

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When it comes to a CFO’s earning potential, company size matters. This article offers a precise breakdown of the “average CFO salary by company size” across different business scales. Uncover the numbers that reflect what CFOs earn in small businesses to large corporations, equipping you with the data to understand these financial leadership roles.


  • CFO compensation varies significantly based on company size, with CFOs in larger public companies earning significantly higher base salaries and total compensation packages compared to those in smaller private companies.

  • The total compensation for a CFO typically includes a base salary, performance bonuses, equity compensation, and long-term incentives, with bonuses often tied to company and individual performance metrics.

  • Factors such as the financing environment, industry sector, geographic location, and company stage influence CFO compensation, with startups often offering substantial equity grants due to limitations in salary offerings.

What does a CFO do?

CFOs, or Chief Financial Officer CFO, hold the top financial position in a company, tasked with:

  • Maintaining its financial wellbeing

  • Balancing revenues and expenses

  • Overseeing financial planning and analysis

  • Making recommendations on mergers and acquisitions

  • Obtaining funding

  • Working with department heads for financial data analysis and budgeting

  • Ensuring the accuracy of financial reports

  • Consulting with boards of directors and CEOs on strategy, alongside other chief financial officers when necessary.

CFOs have transformed into strategic planners and partners, offering vital industry insights and risk evaluation abilities. They are visionaries who look towards the future, working closely with top leadership and providing strategic recommendations. CFO compensation is a mix of cash and stock, which can be influenced by several factors, such as company size, industry, and geographical location.

What are the qualities of a good CFO

A CFO is more than just a financial expert, they are also strategic visionaries, effective communicators, and motivational leaders. They excel in conveying financial information to a diverse range of internal and external stakeholders, and their strategic thinking enables them to identify opportunities and risks and develop strategies to mitigate those risks.

CFOs possess the following skills and expertise:

  • Strong leadership skills to guide and motivate their finance team towards achieving the company’s financial objectives

  • Technical expertise in accounting, financial principles, tax law, and financial software

  • Integrity and ethical conduct that ensures their decisions reflect the company’s values and objectives

Common Pay Structure Explained

CFOs are awarded a multifaceted compensation package, extending beyond a mere base salary. Their cfo compensation packages often include:

  • Base salary

  • Performance bonuses

  • Equity compensation

  • Long-term incentives

The base salary is influenced by factors such as company size, industry, and geographical location, with public companies typically offering higher base salaries to CFOs than private companies.

Bonus structures for CFOs vary but generally have an average bonus potential of 30-60% of the base salary, with the potential for higher payouts in larger organizations. These bonuses are typically based on performance metrics of both the employee and the company, linking the size of the bonus directly to the company’s financial performance.

How Much Does a CFO Make in Small, Medium, and Large Companies?

The scale of a company significantly influences a CFO’s remuneration. The average cash compensation for a CFO in a private company with less than $20MM in annual revenue is $194,354. This illustrates the typical pay level for executives in smaller businesses. CFOs in companies with annual revenue ranging from $21 to $99 million make an average base salary of $237,983. This stands in contrast to CFOs in other companies..

The story is different in public companies, where the median base salary for a CFO in the United States is $362,030, with a median total compensation package of $506,386. These figures reflect the increased complexity and responsibilities associated with leading the financial operations of larger, publicly traded companies.

Average Total Cash Compensation

The average total cash compensation for CFOs comprises base salary, yearly bonus, and other cash incentives included in their remuneration package. In the United States, the median base salary for a CFO is $362,030. Additionally, their median total compensation package, which includes bonuses and benefits, amounts to $506,386.

However, these figures can vary widely, reflecting the salary range for CFOs in private companies. For instance, those with less than $20 million in annual revenue have an average base salary of $194,354, while those in companies with $21 million to $99 million in revenue average $237,983 in base salary, nearly double that salary. It’s important to consider the median base CFO salary when evaluating these numbers.

In contrast, public company CFOs earn about 45% more, with an average salary of approximately $267,976.

The Impact of the Financing Environment on CFO Compensation

CFO compensation can be significantly influenced by the financial climate and market trends. For instance, in Q4 of 2023, 80% of CFOs received raises with one-third seeing up to a 25% increase in total compensation, reflecting the competitive nature of executive compensation in the finance sector. Interestingly, despite salary increases, CFO bonuses decreased by 12% on average, indicating a shift in compensation structures possibly influenced by market trends.

Moreover, over half of CFOs received increased equity compensation in 2023, aligning with the high CFO turnover rate and suggesting a trend towards equity over bonuses in the financing environment. This highlights the need for companies to adapt their compensation packages to remain competitive, especially in a volatile financial environment.

How much do CFOs of startups earn?

Unable to match the salaries offered by larger firms, startups tend to provide more substantial equity grants to lure in CFO talent. In 2023, the average base salary for a startup CFO can vary widely depending on the stage and size of the company, with some earning between $150,000 to $250,000 per year.

However, in early-stage startups, CFOs may receive a significant portion of their compensation in equity, which can range from 1% to 10% of the company, depending on the negotiation and level of responsibility. These equity grants come with vesting schedules to incentivize long-term commitment and contribution to the company’s growth.

Different industries of CFO’s and their average pay

The industry a company belongs to also has a substantial influence on CFO compensation. For instance, technology and life sciences industries tend to offer CFOs substantial equity grants, with median equity values at IPO stage being $4 million for tech CFOs and $1.3 million for life sciences CFOs. This can be many times their base salary, reflecting the high risk and potential high reward nature of these industries.

In contrast, the average CFO salary in different industries is as follows:

  • Technology: $185,000 per year

  • Finance: $175,000 per year

  • Healthcare: $165,000 per year

  • Manufacturing: $155,000 per year

  • Retail: $145,000 per year

This highlights the broad range of CFO compensation across different industries, driven by factors such as the profitability of the industry, the complexity of the financial operations, and the specific demands of the role.

What is the average CFO salary by company size: 2023?

In 2023, the average CFO salary showed notable variations according to the size of the company. For example, a CFO in a private company with less than $20MM in annual revenue typically received an average cash compensation of $194,354. This figure reflects industry standards for such roles and company sizes. CFOs at private companies with annual revenue between $21MM and $99MM earned an average base salary of around $237,983. This reflects the competitive compensation packages offered in this segment of the industry.

In public companies, the median base salary for a CFO in the United States was $362,030, with a median total compensation package of $506,386. These figures reflect the increased complexity and responsibilities associated with leading the financial operations of larger, publicly traded companies.

What is the average Chief Financial Officer salary: 2024?

In 2023, Salary.com reported the median annual CFO salary in the United States to be $433,088. CFOs in the bottom 25th percentile could expect to earn $328,098 per year, while those in the 75th percentile could anticipate $555,618 per year.

The geographic location also significantly influenced CFO salaries, with areas having a higher cost of living, such as San Francisco, commanding higher compensation than less expensive regions. For instance, the average CFO salary in San Francisco, California, was $451,070, with total compensation reaching $724,006.

2023 Startup CFO Salary Report

In 2023, startups persisted in enticing CFO talent with generous equity grants due to their inability to match the salaries of larger corporations. For instance, CFOs in startups may receive equity grants ranging from 0.1% to 3% of the company’s value, with the possibility of higher percentages for early-stage companies.

For companies that have raised less than $1 million, it is common for CFOs to be granted equity ranging from 1% to over 4%. These equity grants typically come with vesting schedules to ensure CFOs contribute value over time, often including a four-year vesting period with a one-year cliff.

What is the outlook for CFO pay?

Looking forward, CFO pay is projected to maintain its strong position, as many cfo expect. Forecasts indicate a persistent demand for financial executives with strategic skills. Compensation packages for CFOs are anticipated to continue evolving, incorporating more performance-based bonuses and long-term incentive plans.

The digital transformation of finance functions, the global nature of businesses, and the need for agility and adaptability in leadership will likely influence the growth in CFO pay. As businesses become more global and complex, CFOs with international experience and the ability to manage cross-border financial operations might see higher pay prospects.

CFO Salary: Men vs Women

Even with the increasing number of women in CFO positions, a gender pay disparity prevails, with evidence indicating that men typically earn more than their female counterparts in similar roles. However, recent compensation data challenges traditional beliefs about gender-based pay levels, showing no significant difference in the average total compensation of male and female CFOs over time.

In the latter years of the sample period studied (1992-2020), female CFOs earned more on average than male CFOs. This reflects a positive trend towards pay equity, but there’s still a long way to go to close the gender pay gap completely.

The country with the Highest Chief Financial Officer is…

In terms of the highest CFO salaries, the United States is at the forefront. The top figure being £880,000 / €1,023,000 in the United States. The second highest-paying country for CFOs is Switzerland, where CFOs can expect to earn an average salary of about $314,000.

However, it’s important to remember that these figures can fluctuate based on various factors, including company size, industry, economic conditions, and the individual’s experience and skills in average jobs.

What are the US states with the highest CFO pay

Within the United States, some states provide higher CFO salaries compared to others. For instance, the average CFO salary in San Francisco, California, is $451,070, with total compensation reaching $724,006. These figures reflect the high cost of living and economic opportunity in major cities.

However, CFO salaries can vary widely across the country, with regions like Keya Paha, Nebraska, necessitating nearly double the salary required in places like San Francisco due to differences in the cost of living and economic opportunity.

Who Are the Famous CFOs?

Numerous CFOs have gained recognition through their outstanding performance and leadership. For instance, Ruth Porat has been the CFO of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, since May 2015 and has previously worked at Morgan Stanley as the executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Other notable CFOs include Luca Maestri, who joined Apple in 2013 as vice president of finance and corporate controller and became the company’s CFO in May 2014. Brian Olsavsky has been the senior vice president and CFO of Amazon since June 2015, after holding finance leadership roles at Fisher Scientific and Borden Chemical.


In conclusion, the role of the CFO is not only pivotal but also complex, requiring a mix of hard and soft skills, strategic thinking, and financial acumen. Their compensation reflects this complexity, varying by company size, industry, and location. While base salaries for CFOs are substantial, total compensation often includes bonuses and equity grants, particularly in startups.

Looking ahead, the CFO role and its compensation are likely to continue evolving, influenced by factors such as the digital transformation of finance functions, the global nature of businesses, and the need for agile and adaptive leadership. Despite some positive trends towards pay equity, the gender pay gap in CFO salaries remains an issue that requires further attention and action.

Frequently Asked Questions

What size company needs a CFO?

Typically, a company would not hire a CFO until they reach an annual revenue of $50 million. If you plan to hire in-house, consider bringing a controller on board first if your revenue is between $1 million and $10 million.

How much does a CFO of a private equity firm make?

A CFO of a private equity firm can make a median of $1.45 million in equity compensation, and have a total median cash compensation of $463,000. So, their earnings significantly depend on equity pay, with additional cash compensation contributing to the total.

What percentage of revenue should a CFO be paid?

A CFO might expect to receive between 1% and 3% of a company’s value, with the possibility of receiving more depending on the company’s stage or the CFO’s entry point. Consider the company’s situation and stage to determine appropriate compensation for a CFO.

What is a typical bonus for a CFO?

A typical bonus for a CFO can range from 30 to 60% of the base salary, but some can potentially double or triple the base salary, depending on the organization and performance. The median actual bonuses were 122% of the target in 2023, but varied between organizations.

What does a CFO do?

The CFO oversees a company’s financial operations, guides its economic growth, and makes strategic decisions related to finances, ultimately playing a crucial role in the company’s success.