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How to Become a Financial Advisor and What Degree You Need to Start

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People have obvious reasons to care about money, yet not everyone knows how to manage it properly. Financial advisors are there to help people manage their money, and hopefully, make it passively work to grow for them. There are many different types of financial advisors, so we will look at how to become a financial advisor, the various career opportunities, expected salaries, and the useful skills that make for a successful career within the industry.

 

 

Photo by Roberto Júnior on Unsplash

 

 

What Does a Financial Advisor Do?

Financial advisors help individuals and businesses make decisions regarding their money. They begin by understanding the needs and goals of the person or business and then devise plans and strategies to help them accomplish such goals through money management. Some financial advisors learn general information and can help in a variety of ways, whereas others specialize in tax law or retirement, for example.

 

Some affinity for numbers augurs well for this career path, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to love math. Financial advisors are strategic problem solvers and can assess the big picture and drill down to the details to organize plans of action.

 

 

How to Become an Advisor

There are many different types of financial advisors (which we will look at later), but first, let’s see what steps you need to take to become a financial advisor.

 

 

1. Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

 

Earning a bachelor’s degree in a field like finance, accounting, economics, business or statistics is required to become a financial advisor. Coursework in these majors should include topics like risk management, investments, taxes and estate planning.

 

While a bachelor’s degree is the main requirement, students may wish to continue their education and get a master’s degree because some high-end firms will require or prefer further education.

 

For those wishing to study either their bachelor’s or master’s online, University of the People offers both degrees in Business Administration. The perks of the completely online program are flexibility, accessibility, low cost and quality education.

 

Regardless of where you are from, you can log online and start learning today and be one step closer to earning your degree. Plus, the program is tuition-free, so you can get your bachelor’s degree for an estimated $4,060 (one application fee and course assessment fees).

 

 

2. Get an Internship

 

While you’re in school, either part-time or during breaks, it is advised to get an internship in the field. While school offers theoretical and foundational knowledge, nothing compares to practical experience in the workplace. Not only will an internship offer you useful experience, but it will also help to expand your network and potentially put in place relationships that will help you land your dream job down the line when you have earned your degree.

 

 

3. Obtain Necessary Licenses

 

There are different types of certifications and licenses that financial advisors earn which typically come into play after about three years of work experience. Such certifications require extra coursework, training and the passing of an exam. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) suggests obtaining one of the following:

  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
  • Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)

 

4. Get a Job

 

Upon graduation, you will have the necessary knowledge and skills to obtain a job within the industry. Most schools, like University of the People, have the resources to help you do so. From helping you with writing a resume to preparing for an interview, you should feel confident in knowing that you can enter the field and start your career.

 

Along with networking in real life, attending job fairs and the like, you can also leverage the power of social media and use tools like LinkedIn to connect with professionals in the field to see what opportunities may be available.

 

 

5. Return to School, Maybe

 

Perhaps you want to work at a firm that prefers to hire graduate students, or you want to challenge yourself to learn more. Whether you’re looking for your second degree or you’d like to gain more certifications, more school is always an option. Furthermore, you can opt to earn more certificates, especially after you’ve worked and know more about what specialty you’re interested in focusing on.

 

 

Degree Options

Did you know that you don’t necessarily need a bachelor’s degree in business, accounting or finance to become a financial advisor? Maybe you’ve already studied Computer Science, but now you want to try to enter a different field. You can always apply for your master’s or a second bachelor’s degree to change your direction in life to become a financial advisor!

 

 

Is This Career Right for You?

Financial advisors are people with keen business sense and overall analytical skills. They must be able to understand and read data to glean useful insights, have strong critical thinking skills, somewhat enjoy numbers, and be able to make educated decisions.

 

Furthermore, financial advisors are oftentimes client-facing roles; therefore, strong communication skills are important. Financial advisors should be patient and able to explain complicated situations to clients in general terms so that they can understand and trust the advisor’s decisions. This also means that financial advisors should maintain integrity, confidentiality, fairness and remain righteous as they deal with other people’s money.

 

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

 

 

Types of Financial Advisors

There are different types of financial advisors. Each type has a different expertise and function. Let’s take a look at the main kinds of financial advisors and consultants:

 

 

1. CFP:

 

These are financial advisors that have completed and received their Certified Financial Planning licensure. The CFP board oversees this certification and holding this financial advisor certification represents expertise and professionalism.

 

 

2. Accountant:

 

An accountant helps individuals and businesses organize and submit their tax returns. In America, all accountants must hold a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification from the state they practice in.

 

 

3. Attorney:

 

Some attorneys provide financial planning services. Generally, these attorneys help individuals with their estate planning, trust funds and taxes. An attorney may work with a financial planner to offer advice regarding these matters.

 

 

4. Investment Advisor:

 

Investment advisors are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to offer advice about how and where to invest one’s money.

 

 

5. Stockbroker:

 

Stockbrokers must be registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and pass exams in order to be able to buy and sell financial securities like stocks and bonds on behalf of their clients. Generally, stockbrokers earn a commission off of the transactions they make.

 

 

6. Insurance Agent:

 

Many financial planners either work with an insurance broker or have their license to sell insurance products like life, health, property insurance, etc.

 

 

Career Opportunities and Outlook

According to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the industry of financial advising and planning is a solid field of choice. In fact, in looking at the expected job growth from 2016-2026, this profession is projected to grow by 15%, which is must faster than average. The median pay in 2018 for a personal financial advisor was $88,890, and the salaries can be much higher depending on one’s education, employer and location.

 

Another reason why the financial planning and advising industry is so highly sought after is because it’s both challenging and rewarding. Especially with the innovations of financial technology tools and updates, the field is constantly undergoing changes, as well as regulatory adjustments, which means even after you graduate and work in the field, you never stop learning!

 

 

The Bottom Line

The path for how to become a financial advisor requires time investment in your education and in developing your business skills. Those who like to communicate with people, enjoy money management and are strategic problem solvers will definitely feel comfortable in this profession. Although it is a stressful industry because you have to take care of other people’s money, it brings with it a fast-paced and rewarding environment.

 

To become a financial advisor, you must first earn your bachelor’s degree in a field related to finance, like Business, Accounting, Statistics, etc. Then, you should aim for an internship to gain hands-on experience and lead you into your entry-level job from which you can continue to rise up the ranks with hard work and perseverance.