Posted by Kara Franklin ● July 6, 2023
Become a Financial Adviser in 4 Steps
Become a Financial Adviser in 4 Steps
Financial advisers are licensed professionals hired by individuals or businesses to provide – you guessed it – financial advice and financial planning services. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission defines a financial adviser as a person or firm that provides securities-related advice, reports, or analysis in exchange for compensation. But this general definition does not begin to explain this career’s scope of possibility.
The financial adviser (sometimes spelled financial advisor) job outlook is expected to grow 15% between now and 2031, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Compared to other jobs, this growth is much faster than average. The job outlook isn’t the only thing to get excited about. A personal financial adviser’s average annual salary is $94,170. Similarly, a financial analyst’s annual salary is $95,570. Bottom line? Pursuing a career under the financial adviser umbrella enables you to have both job security and financial freedom.
The road to becoming a financial adviser isn’t necessarily easy. Most states require you to earn one or more professional licenses, which involves a thorough examination process. You can get started on your licensing journey without a degree, but you may face limitations. If you want to work for a company or securities firm, you will want a bachelor’s degree to be a competitive applicant.
Bachelor’s degrees may also be required for a financial adviser to be awarded specific designations and certifications. Such awards appear as letters after a financial adviser’s name (e.g., John Doe, CFP, CPRS). Earning designations is typical in the financial industry to gain more clients and reach the highest income potential. Consumers are more likely to trust certified financial professionals because it signifies their high-level training and experience.
First things first: decide which type of adviser you want to be. This affects the type of licenses you’ll need. Once you understand which licenses and designations you'll want, you can follow a clear path to a future with a high-earning career.
1. Choose What Type of Adviser You Want to Be
Financial adviser is a broad term, and there are numerous job titles that fall under it. For example, a personal financial adviser may be a financial planner, an estate planner, a wealth or portfolio manager, a tax specialist, or a financial risk manager—just to name a few. The different types of financial advisers mainly vary in two ways: licensure and specialty.
Most states require a person to have a Series 65 license before providing financial advice as a service. If you want to sell insurance or securities products, you will have to obtain licenses beyond the Series 65. You can earn commissions from these sales and increase your earning potential. There is even the chance to work as a part-time life insurance agent and increase your income by $50,000 per year.
Choosing a specialty in the financial industry is regularly encouraged. Ask yourself what kind of client you want to work with and what you want to help them work toward. Do you want to help clients build their wealth? Do you want to help small businesses navigate tax season? Do you want to assist clients with retirement planning or estate planning? The answers to these questions can lead you to your speciality.
2. Know Your Licensing Requirements
To understand your licensing requirements, you’ll want to identify what type of financial advice you’d like to provide. If you are interested in helping people budget to meet financial goals or assisting with taxes, you may only need the Series 65 License. If you want to help people buy and sell stocks or other securities products, you’re going to need additional licenses.
Here is a quick breakdown of common licensing requirements.
Series 65 – Uniform Investment Adviser
The fundamental requirement to become a financial adviser is to pass the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) Series 65 exam. Most states require you to pass this exam prior to acting or promoting yourself as a financial adviser.
Series 6 License – Investment Company and Variable Contracts Products Representative
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Series 6 License grants the authority to buy and sell certain financial products: mutual funds, variable products, unit investment trusts (UITs), and municipal fund securities.
If you want to provide investment advice for these securities products, or sell and trade these products, you must earn this license. You will need to pass multiple exams, including the Securities Industry Essentials exam (SIE Exam) and the Series 6 exam, to become licensed. Many states also require you to pass the Series 63 exam, known as the Uniform Securities Agent State Law Exam, prior to registration.
Series 7 License – General Securities Representative
The FINRA Series 7 License grants the authority to buy and sell all securities products: public offerings and/or private placements of stocks and bonds, rights, warrants, money market funds, exchange-traded funds (EFTs), real estate investment trusts (REITs), options on mortgage backed securities, government securities, repos and certificates of accrual on government securities, direct participation programs, venture capital, hedge funds, and mutual funds, variable products, unit investment trusts (UITs), and municipal fund securities.
If you want to sell and trade these products, you must earn this license. Like the Series 6 License, you will also be required to pass additional exams: the SIE exam, the Series 7 exam, and the Series 63 exam (in most states).
If the Series 7 License really catches your eye, check out our blog for more career paths with the Series 7!
Series 63 – Uniform Securities Agent
Many states require a securities agent to pass the Series 63 exam prior to registration. It is to determine the exam candidate’s knowledge of state securities regulations.
Securities Industry Essentials – Introductory Exam
The FINRA SIE exam is the pre-requisite to the Series 6 and Series 7 exams.
Some financial professionals sell life insurance and annuity products. To sell insurance products, you will have to become a licensed insurance agent. This involves passing a state exam for the type of insurance you want to sell. Some states also require pre-licensing education prior to taking the exam. You can check your state’s requirements for insurance agents on the license requirements page.
3. Find Your First Job
Once you know your licensing requirements, you’ll want to begin job hunting. This process will look a little different depending on which license(s) you want. For example, you can’t take the Series 6 or Series 7 licensing exams without being sponsored by a FINRA-member firm.
Finding a job with a large financial institution or brokerage will be beneficial here for a couple of reasons. First, large financial institutions typically pay for the prelicensing education you need to pass the exams. This will be considered on-the-job training, and you most likely will be paid during the process. Second, you'll have a job with a reputable company and resources to gain traction and have success right away. Without those resources, newly licensed individuals spend a majority of their time marketing their financial services to find new clients, and it can take time to build a network.
If you only need a Series 65 license, you do not need a sponsor to take the exam. As soon as you pass the Series 65 exam, you can search for a job with a firm or choose to be self-employed.
Your future success is waiting on you. Start your Series 65 prelicensing education today.
4. Get Certified
Once you pass your exams, become licensed, and find your first job, you may want to become certified in your specialty. While earning a designation is not required, it is strongly encouraged within the industry. You’ll have more knowledge, bring in more clients, and be more competitive in the field.
Some of the most prestigious designations, such as the Certified Financial Planner (CFP), require you to have a college degree and close to three years of job experience. With designations like the CFP that require additional examinations, you may be working full time while studying for the exams. Earning additional designations is not for the faint of heart, but you’re rewarded with a high-paying career, job stability, flexibility, and opportunity.
After earning your credentials, you may be required to complete continuing education requirements to maintain it. A.D. Banker has several courses that count as continuing education for a Certified Financial Planner, including CFP-Board approved ethics courses.
Other possible designations include:
- Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
- Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
- Chartered Life Underwriter/Chartered Financial Consultant (CLU/ChFC)
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
- Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA)
- Financial Risk Manager (FRM)