How to Become a Financial Advisor
Personal financial advisors provide advice on investments, insurance, mortgages, college savings, estate planning, taxes, and retirement to help individuals manage their finances. As mentioned in an article from US News, a quality advisor will listen to your goals, look at your current finances and recommend how best to move forward with your money. Employment of personal financial advisors is projected to grow 30 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. As the population ages and life expectancies rise, demand for financial planning services will increase. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for personal financial advisors is $89,160 (as of May 2015).
1. Decide if becoming a financial advisor is right for you.
As a financial advisor, you can choose to work in a firm or be self-employed. Many financial advisors begin their careers in companies, but you can choose to become self-employed afterwards. Self-employed financial advisors have the flexibility to create their own schedules, which allows them to balance their work and personal lives.
The primary goal for a financial advisor is to provide sound advice to those who may not fully understand their finances and need an expert’s help when making decisions. Helping your clients make the right investment choices is key to having a successful career as a financial advisor.
However, being a financial advisor can be stressful. For example, it can be difficult to oversee accounts for a large number of clients. Moreover, you must be self-motivated to sell your services and build your reputation, especially if you are self-employed.
2. Complete your undergraduate degree.
Most employers require their financial advisors to at least have bachelor’s degrees. If you want a professional certification such as a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) or CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), having a bachelor’s degree is a basic requirement for licensing. Many financial advisors choose to pursue bachelor’s degrees in accounting, economics, finance, marketing, or business.
A CFA focuses on investing in large-scale corporate situations, while a CFP works with individual clients to achieve their personal financial goals. A CFA conducts investing in larger settings, normally for large investment firms. CFPs are not focused only on investments. They also help clients achieve specific long-term financial goals. A CFA focuses on wealth management for a corporation, while a CFP focuses on wealth management and planning for individual clients.
3. Gain some work experience.
After graduating from college, you should look for relevant internships or find an entry-level job with a bank or brokerage position. This kind of first-hand experience will give you a good idea of what the job requiresas well asthe different career paths that financial advisors can take.
4. Get licensed.
Many states require financial advisors to obtain one or more licenses before beginning to work.
The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards offers certification for financial advisors. Candidates must have at least three years of work experience to be eligible to take the certification examination. Upon completing the exam, applicants must also complete an ethics review to earn the certification of Certified Financial Planner (CFP). Maintaining the CFP credential requires completing 30 units of continuing education every two years.
To obtain a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) license, you must pass exams administered by the CFA as well as gain four years of work experience. Enrolling in and completing the Institute’s CFA Program shows employers and clients that you have mastered a broad range of practical portfolio management and advanced investment analysis skills.
5. Advance your career.
Some employers may prefer that their financial advisors hold graduate degrees, such as a Master of Science in Finance or a Master of Business Administration, in order to advance to a management positions. Most of these master’s programs allow students to specialize in specific areas, such as financial management.
Ready to see if a career as a financial advisor is right for you? Check out this video from PathSource to hear what a real financial advisor has to say!
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