How to Become a Financial Advisor: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a financial advisor. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements and find out how to start a career in the financial world.

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Do I Want to Be a Financial Advisor?

Financial advisors conduct meetings with clients to assess their current financial status and give advice on investment strategies. They also assist with taxes and insurance decisions. In addition, they might help by monitoring their clients' accounts to determine whether changes need to be made. Financial advisors often work full-time and then attend meetings during weekends and evenings to find additional clients.

Job Requirements

A bachelor's degree in business administration or a finance-related field is generally adequate preparation for pursuing this career. Licensing is required for those who sell insurances and bonds directly to clients. The following table contains the main requirements for financial advisors:

Common Requirements
Degree Level At least a bachelor's degree is required*
Degree Field Business, finance, economics, accounting or mathematics are all acceptable majors; not all employers require a specific degree field*
Licensure and Certification Various licenses are required for financial advisors who buy or sell stocks, bonds, insurance and other investment advice; voluntary certification is available*
Experience No experience is required for entry-level positions; several years experience may be necessary for advisors seeking certification*
Key Skills Financial advisors must have analytical and mathematical skills; strong interpersonal skills are also helpful when interacting with clients and selling one's services*
Computer Skills Experience with client management, document organization and financial analysis software may be useful**
Additional Requirements Advisors may sometimes have to meet with clients during evening and weekend hours*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor's Degree Program

Aspiring financial advisors may begin their training by enrolling in a bachelor's degree program in business administration or a specialized field like finance, accounting or financial management. Business administration programs typically cover subjects like accounting, finance, marketing and operations management. Finance-focused programs typically explore concepts such as risk management, financial planning and investments.

Success Tip:

  • Develop marketing skills. Since financial advisors may be self-employed, focusing on marketing skills can be beneficial. Advisors often connect with clients by marketing their services through seminars or networking meetings. Courses in marketing may help students when they begin to form marketing strategies in the course of their careers.
  • Take advantage of career development resources. Career support resources may be available to students through their university. These resources included job search assistance; students can find guidance on resume and cover letter writing, as well as interviewing for jobs. Students may also find valuable networking and job connection opportunities.

Step 2: Obtain Licensure and Become Registered

Many states require that personal financial advisors obtain one or more license before beginning to work. Although licensure requirements vary depending on the type of asset an advisor handles, most include successful completion of a qualifying examination. For example, financial advisors who solicit or sell securities like corporate bonds are required by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) to pass the Series 7 licensing exam (www.finra.org).

Depending on the amount of money under management, financial advisors must register with either the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the respective state agency (www.sec.gov). This allows the public to review a financial advisor's qualifications prior to conducting business.

Step 3: Get Work Experience

Financial advisors may be self-employed or employed by firms in the financial sector. A financial advisor is responsible for meeting with a client and giving him or her advice based on current financial information. For instance, a financial advisor may assess clients' current income and expenditures to help them prepare for retirement or for their children's education.

Step 4: Consider Obtaining Certification

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards offers voluntary certification for financial advisors (www.cfp.net). Candidates must have completed a bachelor's degree program from an accredited institution and have at least three years of work experience to be eligible to take the certification examination, which tests a variety of subject areas. Upon completing the exam, applicants must complete an ethics review to earn the designation of Certified Financial Planner (CFP).

Maintaining the CFP credential requires submitting annual dues and completing 30 units of continuing education every two years. This requirement includes education in both financial planning and professional conduct.

Step 5: Consider an Advanced Degree

Some employers may prefer that an employee holds a graduate degree, such as a Master of Science in Finance or a Master of Business Administration, in order to advance to a managerial position. Most programs offer specializations or allow students to tailor their education towards a specific path like financial management. Pertinent courses may include fixed income analysis and financial accounting.

Success Tip

  • Become involved with student clubs. Students may find groups devoted to finance or related topics, such as investment management, while completing graduate programs. These clubs can be a great way to improve interpersonal skills, collaborate with like-minded students from many different backgrounds and build lasting connections.
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