Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Financial Advisor

Everything you need to know about becoming a financial advisor

If you’ve ever thought about becoming a financial advisor, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’ve always dreamed of a career in finance or you’re the go-to person for friends who ask you about budgeting, you’re probably wondering if this could be the right career path for you. To help you better understand the work of a financial advisor and what it takes to become one, we compiled a handy guide to answer some of the most common questions people have about the field.   

What are the education requirements for becoming a financial advisor?

Like with any potential career, it’s good to know what employers expect from their candidates. We used real-time job analysis software to examine more than 42,000 personal financial advisor job postings.1 The data revealed that 82 percent said they were looking for candidates with a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Candidates who major in Business, Accounting or Finance are typically preferred.

Do financial advisors need to earn certifications outside of college?

Another important factor to consider is whether you’ll need or want to earn additional professional certifications to boost your financial advisor resume. According to our analysis of financial advisor job postings, here are the top certifications employers were seeking:

These certifications may require additional work experience before you’re qualified to earn them, so be sure to do your research ahead of time so you know exactly what you’ll need.

What is the earning potential for financial advisors?

According to Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the 2016 median annual salary for personal financial advisors was $90,530.2 That’s well above the 2016 median annual salary for all workers, $37,040. This doesn’t mean you’ll walk into a $90,000-per-year job fresh out of school, but it does show that there is the potential for substantial compensation down the road.

What is the job outlook for financial advisors?

Of course, if you’re going to invest the time and energy into earning a Finance degree and certifications, you’re going to want to make sure the job market for financial advisors is strong. The good news is that the BLS projects employment of personal financial advisors to grow by 14 percent from 2016 to 2026. That’s double average projected growth in employment for all occupations.  While nothing is guaranteed, there’s plenty of reason for financial advisors to have an optimistic job outlook. 

What does a financial advisor do?

A financial advisor advises clients toward financial goals by making careful decisions with money. Financial advisors regularly meet with clients to understand what their financial goals are and the investment strategies they may take to reach them. This includes assessing the client’s current financial situation and giving them recommendations on how to achieve their goals.  

The clients that financial advisors work with will depend on their focus area—some have a strong focus on retirement planning while others are well-versed in areas like tax law. With this variety of focus areas comes a variety of client types—financial advisors work with both individuals and organizations. 

Beyond retirement and tax law, financial advisors may also specialize in insurance, mortgages, investments and more. Certified Financial Planners are generalists, working with all of the above to address many needs of an individual.

Day-to-day tasks of a financial advisor, according to the U.S. Department of Labor include:

  • Interviewing clients to determine their current income, expenses, insurance coverage, tax status, financial objectives, risk tolerance or other information needed to develop a financial plan
  • Answering client questions about details of investment strategies
  • Reviewing client accounts in the event of major life changes like marriage, children or employment shifts
  • Recruiting and maintaining a client base
  • Monitoring financial market trends
  • Researching investment opportunities on behalf of their clients

Where and when do financial advisors work?

Financial advisors have a variety of options for their work settings. Many are employed by large organizations, while others may choose to work at a small firm or independently as their own boss. Financial advisors in small or independent firms will likely spend more of their time as salespeople as they need to recruit clients and market their services to stay afloat. This push for building a client base often leads to financial advisors spending a significant amount of their time attending networking events and giving presentations to potential clients—which can mean working on nights and weekends.

What characteristics do the best financial advisors possess?

Temperament, attitude and ability all play a large role in how well you’d handle the work. People with the following traits and characteristics may be well suited for a career as a financial advisor:

1. Teaching ability

Financial management and retirement planning is a pretty complex subject for most people. Add in the fact that clients are making potentially stressful decisions that impact their livelihood and you’ll start to see exactly why teaching ability comes in handy—people need reassurance that they’re making the right choices. Financial advisors need to have strong communication skills and an ability to explain the services and strategies they offer. If an advisor can understand and affirm the client and communicate the details of how and why they can help their client, they will do well.

2. Ethical

Having the client’s needs front and center is vital to succeed as a financial advisor. If you can gain and keep trust with clients while working with something as personal and valuable as their finances, you will do well. Putting their needs above your own and staying transparent is the core of ethics in this industry. Put yourself in the client’s shoes—would you rather hear an honest but tough assessment of your financial plan or a thinly veiled sales pitch? Trust makes for loyal clients. 

3. Organized

Between researching investments and accounts and meeting with clients, it’s important to stay organized. Not only with time management, but having orderly and clear paperwork saves time and hassle for a better experience for you and your clients.

Dive deep into finance

You’re now equipped with a ton of valuable information about becoming a financial advisor. But that’s just scratching the surface. If you want the inside scoop from someone working in the field, you’ll want to check out our article, “What I Wish I Knew Before Working in Finance.”


1Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 42,566 financial advisor job postings, June 01, 2016 – May 31, 2017).

2Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.


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Annie Jones

Annie researches and writes student-focused articles with Collegis Education on a variety of topics for Rasmussen College. She is passionate about learning, writing, and encouraging students toward success.

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