How do I become a financial advisor?

4 mins readLast updated January 20, 2023by Kate Morgan

Joining the financial advice sector can be an exciting career move — though it’s not easy. It will involve further education, experience gathering ,and hard work, and you’ll need the right mentality to achieve success for your clients. Here are all the questions you need to ask and answer if you’re wondering how to become a financial advisor.

What does a financial advisor do?

This is an important question with a multi-faceted answer.

  • Investments 

  • Insurance 

  • Estate planning 

  • Retirement planning 

  • Financial education, budgeting 

  • Systematically measuring and reflecting on financial goals 

  • Tax planning (tax return preparation, maximizing reductions, minimizing taxes in retirement) 

  • Debt management (paying off existing debt, creating plans to avoid future debt) 

And more. As an advisor, you help your clients understand their finances more deeply and completely.

Clients want honesty, expertise and effective communication from their advisors at all times, so you’ll need to be able to provide all three in spades.

You’ll be paid well for your expertise, especially when you have a few years of experience.

According to Indeed, the average advisor with one to two years of experience takes home $63,210 a year.  

What qualifications do you need as a financial advisor?

It’s strongly recommended that any person who wants to become a financial advisor has some standard qualifications.

Most firms hiring advisors will expect their new employees to have, at minimum, a four-year bachelor’s degree in a subject such as business, marketing, or finance. 

Once you’re an advisor, you’ll start your formal training, and the examinations you sit will depend on your specific role.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) requires advisors to sit certain exams if they’re involved in the direct sale of investment products, including: 

  • The SIE (Security Industries Essentials) Examination 

  • The Series 7 GS (General Securities Representative Qualifications) Examination 

  • The Series 65 Uniform Investment Advisor Law Examination 

  • The Series 63 Uniform Securities State Law Examination [only necessary if you want to be able to practice across different states] 

With all that in mind, you might be wondering how long it takes to become a financial advisor.

To reach full qualification, including your certification exams, will take approximately seven years.

It’s a lot of hard work, study, and responsibility, but these examinations are designed to help you excel (and to ensure your clients are provided with the best standard of financial advice).  

the average advisor with one to two years of experience takes home $63,210 a year

What behaviors and skills will you need as a financial advisor?

If you want to convert leads into clients and keep these clients, attaining true success as a financial advisor, you’ll need more than your qualifications.

You’ll also need to demonstrate valuable soft skills and behavioral competencies.

The transferable skills that will be most important to you are: 

  • Confidence and competence – Your clients want to feel safe with you, relaxed in the knowledge that you know what you’re doing and that you can grasp complex financial issues  

  • Proactivity and communication – 99.9 per cent of clients like to be updated regularly and will appreciate proactive, open communication 

  • Client-focused care – Putting the client's needs first and demonstrating genuine interest in their welfare is essential to building a trusting advisor-to-client relationship 

  • Teamwork and collaboration – You’ll need to meet and consult with your clients regularly, always enabling them to feel valued and heard 

  • An ability to take a holistic approach – A holistic approach is more tailored, looking at a client’s entire situation (investment history, credit, spending, life goals, and so on) 

  • Sales and marketing – This will be particularly essential if you’re planning to strike out on your own as an independent advisor. You’ll need to be able to sell and market your services 

  • Attention to detail – A methodical approach is a must when handling something as important as other people’s finances  

How do you become a financial advisor?

In terms of the practicalities of your career pivot, there’s no definitive path to becoming a financial advisor in the US.

It’s not always a requirement for you to have a degree, but many firms will expect this.

The traditional route into the profession is usually the most successful, and there are five steps to follow if you plan to go down this route:

1. Get a bachelor’s degree – Many firms don’t specify a desired subject, but as mentioned above, business, marketing, and finance are ideal.

It’s also helpful to have studied things like taxation, risk management, and investment over the course of your education. 

2. Find a job and complete further training – Most firms will expect new graduates and employees to initially work alongside a seasoned financial advisor (usually for at least a year). 

3. Complete a background check – A background check is integral to the registration process.

It may take a few weeks to clear, and you may be restricted in your activities until it’s done. 

4. Attain the correct licenses – You’ll need to sit the necessary examinations for your preferred role and gain the proper licenses and qualifications, as outlined earlier. 

5. Attain CFP accreditation – Being accredited as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) could be a major boost to your career but requires a bachelor’s degree.

You must also have three years of work experience, pass an exam, and agree to the organization’s professional ethics code.  

Becoming a financial advisor requires dedication and motivation. It’s a popular field, currently employing over 200,000 people in the US alone, but it could be a very strong career move for the right person.

If you have plenty of financial acumen and a love for helping to improve the lives of others, a career in financial advice could be perfect for you. 

Content writer

Kate Morgan

Kate has written for leading publications and blue chip companies over the last 20 years.