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How to Become a Financial Advisor

Financial advisors make sure average people know how to invest their money and make the most out of their assets. If you are familiar with the stock market, are interested in finance, and want to help others with their finances, you might want to become a financial advisor.

Below we will break down what it means to be a financial advisor, what skills you need to succeed, and what steps you need to take to get to the finish line.

What Is a Financial Advisor?

A financial advisor is a finance professional that works with individuals or corporate clients to help them plan for the future and optimize their assets. They are typically people who have worked in other sectors of the finance world or who have experience managing funds.

Financial advisors may work independently or as personal financial advisors, or as part of a financial services firm. Depending on where they work, they may offer different kinds of advising services.

What Does a Financial Advisor Do?

Financial advisors do a lot more than trade your assets. Here are just a handful of examples of different things financial advisors do for their clients.

Financial Planning

Financial advisors are best known for their financial planning responsibilities. They work with clients to make sure they are making the kind of short-term and long-term planning necessary to reach their financial goals. Financial planning includes planning for large purchases like homes, as well as long-term planning like retirement planning. Planning involves giving advice, analyzing assets, and managing accounts and investments.

Portfolio Management and Risk Management

Trading on behalf of their client is the portfolio management aspect of a financial advisor role. Any kind of investment involves risk, so one of a financial advisor’s biggest responsibilities is to understand their client’s risk and manage their investments accordingly. Risk will vary depending on the client’s age and financial goals.

Tax and Estate Planning

Many financial advisors work with clients to plan their annual taxes, making sure they are IRS compliant and taking advantage of all possible tax breaks and advantages. Estate planning is a one-time plan financial advisors work on in the event of their client’s death. Estate plans are what is included in a person’s will, including plans for assets and who will inherit them.

Essential Financial Advisor Skills

Finance Expertise

Financial advisors must have a very strong understanding of finance and the American stock market. In order to invest well and manage risk according to their clients’ risk tolerance, advisors must have a firm understanding of the markets and their volatility.

Analytical Skills

Financial professionals, whether investment bankers or financial consultants, need a certain level of analytical skills to succeed. Because financial advisors invest in the complex market, they need to have strong analytical skills to predict and anticipate risk, cause and effect, and possible changes.

Likable and Trustworthy

Financial advisors are, at their essence, sales professionals. Before making investments or making plans with their clients, they have to get their clients in the first place. Securing clients that trust you to invest their hard-earned money is no easy task. Financial advisors have to work hard to project trustworthiness and likeability. Financial advising is just as much about relationship management as it is about trading and planning.

Financial Advisor Salaries and Job Outlook

Financial advisors can rest assured they will be able to make a solid living. That said, financial advisors can earn more or less depending on the kind of advising they do, personal or organizational.

According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, a Personal Financial Advisor makes a median annual salary of $87,850. Financial Managers or Financial Consultants for firms or corporations can expect higher pay, with a median annual salary of $129,890.

Career prospects for financial advisors are looking up. As life expectancy continues to increase and the overall world population ages, the demand for financial planning and financial services will also increase.

Job opportunities for personal financial advisors are expected to increase at a rate of seven percent by 2028. This is a faster than average rate of growth for any profession.

A subset of personal financial advisors are self-employed, so there is a lot of flexibility to experiment with where to establish your business. You can relocate to a city or a state where there is a higher demand for personal financial services and estate planning, for example.

For financial advisors that work in financial services firms, the job outlook is still trending up. It’s possible that as the country emerges from the current recession, people will seek out additional financial services to better plan for future uncertainty.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Financial Advisor?

There is no one exact path that you must take to become a financial advisor. There are many ways to get to the same profession, though they all involve a solid, foundational education and some sector-specific job training. A full-time bachelor’s degree program takes four years to complete and you can start as an entry-level financial services professional with that.

Additionally, to be eligible to take several certification and licensure exams, you will have to work as a financial advisor for between four and seven years.

How to Become a Financial Advisor: A Step by Step Guide

Below is our guide for how to become a financial advisor, taking into account different pathways and continuing education opportunities that can help you get there.

Step 1: Get Educated

There are no rigid educational requirements aspiring financial advisors must meet. Most financial advisors have at least a bachelor’s degree in business, finance, math, economics, or a related liberal arts field. It’s a good idea to seek out internships in the summers or during the semester if your schedule allows. Internships at banks or financial services firms can help students gain hands-on experience in the field before pursuing it as a profession.

Though you do not need a master’s degree to become a financial advisor, some choose to get a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) or a Master’s of Science in Finance to deepen their academic knowledge in the field. Financial services is one of the top career paths for MBA graduates.

Step 2: Get a Job in the Finance World

Typically, finance professionals will spend a few years working in entry-level positions in a corporation, learning the ropes to learn what it takes to invest, manage risk, and become finance experts.

Step 3: Get Certified

Though you don’t need to get a certification to work as a financial advisor, you should consider pursuing one. It is a competitive field where advisors compete for the same potential clients. Some clients will seek out advisors with specific certifications, especially if the certification is specialized.

The most common licenses are the Series 65 and Series 66 licenses, both administered by the North American Securities Administration Association (NASAA).

The Series 65 license is a state license for investment advisors required by nearly all 50 states. The exam for the Series 65 is the Uniform Investment Advisor Law exam.

The Series 66 license is required if you want to become an investment advisor representative who makes investments on behalf of large entities. The exam is called the Uniform Combined State Law Examination.

If you are already well into your career as a financial advisor/financial planner, you may consider a couple of additional certifications.

First, you might pursue the CFP label to become a Certified Financial Planner. The Certified Financial Planner Boards, or the CFP Boards, is a board examination for financial advisors with at least seven years of professional experience.

Second, you might also pursue the CFA charter to become a Chartered Financial Analyst. To be eligible for this designation, you have four years of professional experience and pass three tough exams.

Should You Become a Financial Advisor?

Financial advisors are the world’s leading experts on the markets, finding the best ways to optimize personal and corporate assets. They are also skilled financial planners who help others manage their finances and make the most of their wealth.

With a growing job market and increasing demand for financial services, you can expect relative job security. If you are a finance nerd who gets a kick out of following the markets and want to help others reach their financial goals, financial advising is the perfect field.


How do I get started as a financial advisor?
To get started as a financial advisor, get a bachelor’s degree in finance or a related field, and get an internship in finance. Then dive into an entry-level role and work your way up, pursuing necessary certifications along the way.
Is it hard to be a financial advisor?
Financial services is a competitive field where skilled and tenacious finance professionals excel. Becoming a successful financial advisor may be challenging, but it is by no means too difficult or impossible. Just do your research, follow the steps, and work hard to get to where you want to be.
How do financial advisors get paid?
Financial advisors typically have base salaries and fees that they charge clients. Then, they take a percentage of their clients’ investments. This means that as financial advisors amass more clients and secure clients with larger portfolios, they will earn more money.
What degree is required for a financial advisor?
You should have a bachelor’s degree to become a financial advisor. Financial advisors do not need to have degrees in finance. They may also have degrees in business, economics, math, or any other field, as long as they have a strong understanding of the markets.
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