Exploring Careers: How to Become a Financial Advisor

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Have a knack for saving money and investing wisely? Enjoy keeping up with the latest happenings in the stock market and finance industry? Do you have a desire to help others reach their financial goals?  If so, a career as a financial advisor may be right up your alley! 

In this article, we’ll break down the basics of what it takes to pursue a career as a financial advisor. Keep reading to learn more about:

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What does a financial advisor do?

In short, financial advisors help their clients make decisions about their money. Their duty is to provide businesses or individuals advice when it comes to saving, investing, and reaching their financial goals.

Generally, advisors work directly with clients to craft personalized financial plans that take their unique financial situation into consideration. The stock market may be the first thing that comes to mind, but financial advisors assist their clients in areas like retirement planning, education savings, real estate, tax strategies, insurance, budgeting, and more. 

Some advisors choose to specialize in a certain area or work only with a specific client type, such as retirees or individuals with a certain net worth. The majority of advisors are employed by large organizations such as banks, brokerages, or investment firms. However, smaller, independent boutique firms or the self-employment route are becoming increasingly popular as more and more job hunters seek flexibility at work

General duties of a financial advisor

Curious what the day-to-day duties in this career field are like? Many financial advisors do some combination of the following on an average day:

  • Meet with clients in-person, virtually, or via phone call to discuss financial goals 
  • Assess clients’ financial standing, needs, and risk tolerance
  • Formulate strategies that allow clients to meet their goals, whether it’s getting out of debt, buying a house, saving for retirement, or anything in between
  • Educate clients on financial products, investment opportunities, and potential risks
  • Monitor clients’ accounts and keep them updated on their investments’ performance
  • Keep up-to-date with financial sector news and research investment opportunities for clients

Advisors may also be licensed to buy and sell stocks and bonds, sell insurance, or offer tax advice. 

How to become a financial advisor

Pursuing a career as a financial advisor isn’t as simple as tracking stock prices and telling your friends where to invest their money. Here’s what you’ll need to do to get a job in this industry.

Education requirements

Most employers in the finance industry will require advisors to have a bachelor’s degree at a minimum. Specific degree requirements may vary, but finance, marketing, or business-related degrees are typically preferred. 


Learn how to craft the perfect resume even when you lack job experience in our blog “How to Write a Resume with No Experience”.

Licensing requirements

Beyond a degree, financial advisors will also need to be licensed to do certain things.

What license(s) you need will depend on what products you want to provide and how you will be compensated for your services. Generally, a license is required to sell investment products. According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, “To become registered, securities professionals must pass qualifying exams administered by FINRA to demonstrate their competence in the particular securities activities in which they will work. An individual must pass the exams prior to engaging in those areas of the business.”

Passing these exams require the licensee to have a great deal of knowledge around the rules, regulations, and best practices of the financial sector. This is where having a degree in a finance-related field will come in handy, even if your employer doesn’t require it. To find out more about the exams financial advisors can complete, visit FINRA’s website.

State requirements

Some states also have specific requirements pertaining to professionals offering services in the financial sector. Be sure to check with your state government to learn more about additional licensing or exam requirements.

On-the-job learning

Once you land your first financial advisor role, you’ll go through several months— or even years— of on-the-job training. Here, you’ll learn the ins and outs of financial planning, managing client relationships, and building your portfolio. 

This hands-on training is crucial to becoming a Certified Financial Planner.

To be a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), you’ll need to meet several requirements:

  • Education: You must complete coursework on financial planning through a CFP Board Registered Program AND hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. 
  • Exam: You’ll need to pass the CFP exam.
  • Experience: To become certified, you must complete either 6,000 hours of professional experience related to the financial planning process or 4,000 hours of apprenticeship experience. 
  • Ethics: For this requirement, you’ll need to sign the Ethics Declaration, and the CFP Board will conduct a background check.

Certification is not a requirement, but it is a distinction that can carry weight with employers and clientele alike. The CFP certification is among the most popular credential programs available to financial advisors, but it is not the only one. Be sure to research the certification options available in your desired specialty.

Regardless of the route you take, your first years as an advisor will be crucial to your career. This is where you’ll develop a broad skill-base and discover what aspects of the job you like most, giving you the opportunity and flexibility to drive your career in the direction you want. 

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Skills a financial advisor needs to be successful

If you’re questioning if you have what it takes to be a successful financial advisor, here are a few characteristics that people in this role often have.

1. Interpersonal skills

As a financial advisor, you’ll be frequently working with clients and other contacts in the financial industry. Being an effective communicator with a sociable personality is a must. 

2. Analytical thinking

Every client that walks through your door will have a unique financial situation and goals. It’s important for financial advisors to be able to analyze each situation and craft solutions to their client’s problems. 

3. Detail orientation

One zero can make a world of difference in the financial sector! Financial advisors must have an eye for detail to do their jobs effectively. 

4. Stress management

Being a financial advisor can be stressful. After all, the financial well-being of others rests in your hands. Top this off with long hours, and it can be a recipe for high-stress environments. While the rewards of this career far outweigh the downsides for many, it’s important that financial advisors are able to successfully manage the stress that will inevitably come with the job.

5. Organizational skills

You may be managing hundreds of clients. Keeping all of their records, meetings, and needs in order is crucial. 

6. Time management

It’s no secret that being a financial advisor can be a time-consuming job. It’s not uncommon to work late hours or on weekends to accommodate your clients’ schedules. Being able to manage your time will not only bring you success in your career but also allow you to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Getting started as a financial advisor

Financial advisor landed in the top 25 of the U.S. News & World Report’s100 Best Jobs” list for good reason. It can be a challenging—yet rewarding— career path for those with a knack for finance and helping others. 

Feel like a career as a financial advisor is the right move for you? Explore potential employers with JobSage to find the perfect fit. 

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