How to become an investment advisor?

1 min read by Unbiased team Last updated July 4, 2024

Explore what investment advisors do, the qualifications required, and how to gain practical experience and training to succeed in this rewarding career.


  • Investment advisors in the US earn an average salary of $80,000 annually.

  • Passing the Series 65 exam is a prerequisite to becoming a registered investment advisor.

  • A bachelor's degree in finance, economics, or a related field is typically also necessary.

What does an investment advisor do?

Investment advisors play a crucial role in managing and growing clients' wealth. They provide tailored financial advice on investments, retirement planning, and other financial matters. Additionally, they design and manage investment portfolios to meet specific goals, create comprehensive financial plans, and analyze market trends and economic data to make informed recommendations.

Investment advisors help clients understand their risk tolerance and suggest suitable investment strategies. They offer advice on tax-efficient investments, educate clients about their investments and the markets, and continuously monitor and adjust portfolios to keep them aligned with clients' objectives.

Investment advisor vs financial advisor: what’s the difference?

While the terms "investment advisor" and "financial advisor" are often used interchangeably, there are subtle differences between the two roles. 

When comparing an investment advisor vs financial advisor, investment advisors focus mainly on managing investments and offering advice on securities and portfolio management. They're typically registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or state regulators. 

Financial advisors, on the other hand, offer a broader range of services. They might help with insurance, estate planning, and overall financial planning, in addition to investment advice. 

What are the benefits of being an investment advisor?

Becoming an investment advisor has many perks, including the satisfaction of helping clients reach their financial goals. The financial services industry offers significant opportunities for career growth and increased earning potential as you gain experience and build a client base.

Another major benefit is flexibility, allowing many advisors to set their own schedules and work independently. Additionally, the ever-evolving financial markets make this a dynamic and stimulating career for those who enjoy continuous learning and staying informed about market trends.

How much do investment advisors earn in the US?

Even with the right investment advisor qualifications, earnings for investment advisors in the US can still vary widely based on experience, location, and the size of their client base. On average, investment advisors earn about $80,000 annually. Entry-level advisors or those working in smaller firms might start around $50,000 per year. However, experienced advisors with a strong client base can earn between $150,000 and $200,000 or more annually. 

What qualifications are required to become an investment advisor?

To become an investment advisor, you'll need to attain certain educational and investment advisor qualifications. Typically, a bachelor's degree in finance, economics, business, or a related field is necessary. Some positions might even require a master's degree. 

Beyond education, you'll need to pass the Series 65 exam, officially known as the Uniform Investment Adviser Law Examination, to register as an Investment Advisor Representative (IAR). In some cases, the Series 66 exam (combined with the Series 7 exam) might be required. 

Earning advanced certifications, such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) or Certified Financial Planner (CFP), can enhance your credentials and open up more career opportunities.

What skills are required to become an investment advisor?

Success as an investment advisor requires a mix of skills: 

  • Ability to analyze financial data and market trends.

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills to explain complex financial concepts to clients.

  • Building and maintaining strong client relationships.

  • Proficiency in financial software and tools.

  • Problem-solving skills for developing strategies to meet clients' financial goals.

  • Attention to detail for ensuring accuracy in financial planning and investment management.

How to become an investment advisor

Understanding the steps involved, including time and financial investment, can help answer the question, "How do I become an investment advisor?"

The cost of a bachelor's degree ranges from $15,000 to $45,000 per year, depending on the institution. Licensing exams and study materials can add another $500 to $2,000 to your expenses. 

Typically, a bachelor's degree is completed in about four years. Studying for and passing the required licensing exams can take several months to a year. 

To become an investment advisor, you should first obtain a relevant degree, gain experience in related roles, pass the necessary licensing exams, and consider earning advanced certifications.

There are several recommended steps that you can take in becoming an investment advisor:

Get experience

Gaining practical experience in the financial services industry is crucial for aspiring investment advisors. Starting in entry-level positions such as a financial analyst, research assistant, or junior advisor can provide invaluable insights into the industry and help you develop the necessary skills. 

Investment advisor training schemes

Training schemes offered by financial firms can be highly beneficial for those aspiring to become investment advisors. These programs provide structured training, mentorship, and hands-on experience. 

Participating in a training scheme can accelerate your learning and career progression, offering a clear path to becoming an investment advisor. The guidance and support from experienced professionals in these programs can be invaluable as you develop your skills and knowledge.

Find an apprenticeship

Starting an apprenticeship is another excellent way to gain experience in the role of an investment advisor while completing your studies. Working under the guidance of seasoned professionals, you'll acquire practical knowledge and develop essential skills. Apprenticeships often lead to full-time positions and provide a strong foundation for your career. 

How long will it take to become an investment advisor?

The timeline to become an investment advisor varies depending on your education, experience, and career path. On average, it takes about four years to complete a bachelor's degree. Studying for and passing the required licensing exams typically takes several months to a year. Gaining relevant experience in the financial services industry can take an additional one to three years. Overall, the process from starting your education to becoming a fully licensed and experienced investment advisor can take five to eight years.

Can I become a self-employed investment advisor?

Yes, you can become a self-employed investment advisor. Once you have your investment advisor qualifications, this path offers the freedom to set your own hours, choose your clients, and shape your practice. The advantages include greater control over your earnings and work-life balance. However, it also means you’ll need to build a client base from scratch, handle all administrative tasks, and ensure compliance with regulations. 

What is career progression like for investment advisors?

Career progression for investment advisors is dynamic and rewarding. Typically, you start as a junior advisor or analyst, gaining experience and building skills. As you develop expertise, you can become a senior advisor, managing more complex client portfolios. With additional credentials like a CFA or CFP, you might advance to partner or start your own practice. Leadership roles, such as managing a team, are also common. 

Want to work with Unbiased?

Becoming an investment advisor is a rewarding career path that offers personal satisfaction and professional growth. With the right education, skills, and experience, you can guide clients to achieve their financial goals while enjoying the flexibility and dynamic nature of the financial markets. Whether you choose to work for a firm or venture into self-employment, the opportunities in this field are vast and promising.

Unbiased Pro can deliver potential clients directly to your inbox, equip you with the necessary tools to convert leads and support you in establishing a flourishing business as an investment advisor.


Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.