How to Become a Financial Advisor: What Beginners Need to Know

photo of a financial advisor working a desk representing becoming a financial advisor

If you’ve ever thought about becoming a financial advisor, you’ve come to the right place. Maybe you are the person in your friend group who has a handle on their own finances and is quick to offer help to those who are struggling and asking for advice. Maybe you’ve looked around the world and noticed that one of the biggest struggles for people is how they budget and handle their finances, and you want to do something about it.

Whether you’ve set your sights on finance or you simply notice that you’ve always had a knack for investing and saving, you’re probably wondering if this could be the right career path for you.

To help you better understand what it takes to become a financial advisor, we compiled a handy guide to answer some of the most common questions people have about getting into the field.

What are the basics I need to know about being a financial advisor?

A financial advisor advises clients toward financial goals by making careful decisions with money. Financial advisors regularly meet with clients (individuals or organizations) 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.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2020 median annual salary for personal financial advisors was $89,330. That’s well above the 2020 median annual salary for all workers, $41,950. 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. It is a career that continues to grow, as financial advisors project a 5% growth over the next decade.

How to become a financial advisor: The steps ahead

Take these steps to get yourself started on the path to becoming a financial advisor.

1. Evaluate your skills

The first step for practically any project is to take a solid inventory of the situation—and that’s no different with career planning. Before you can take your first steps toward becoming a financial advisor, you’ll want to first see how you stack up. To help with that, let’s dive into some of the key skills of a financial advisor.

Financial skills: While this may feel obvious, the first area that you’ll need to evaluate is your skills with finances. The BLS specifically mentions the following key hard skills for being an advisor:1

  • Researching and recommending investments for clients
  • Financial planning for specifics like education or retirement
  • Offering tax advice
  • Developing short- and long-term financial goals
  • Buying and selling financial products, such as stocks, bonds, annuities and insurance

If you’ve noticed that you already have a natural knack for spending, saving and investing money, that is a great start on the path towards becoming an advisor. Of course, many of these skills and abilities can be developed in a Finance degree program.

Interpersonal skills: Technical know-how isn’t the only thing that matters for this role. Another huge piece of the puzzle for financial advisors is interpersonal skills. Advisors help clients tackle hugely consequential financial questions, and that means you need to build trust and connections with clients.

Dan Alder, financial advisor and editor at LEVVVEL, says that a connection with your customers is at the forefront when it comes to working in this field long term. According to Alder, patience is often an overlooked, yet valuable, interpersonal skill for financial advisors.

“As a financial advisor, your advice isn’t always guaranteed for application,” Alder says. “People have different views and judgments.”

Working with those who may initially have a different opinion about what they should do is a critical part of the job, and if you are confident your advice will help them, it is important to hold fast to your convictions and practice patience. “Realization is a boomerang,” Alder says. “It comes back but without any notice. This is why you have to wait.”

Entrepreneurial skills: Entrepreneurial skills are some of the most important skills a financial advisor can have, states Pamela Sams, a financial advisor at Jackson Sams Wealth Strategies. “You are building a business, not just being a financial advisor.”

Whether you are starting from scratch or working for a larger firm, you’ll need the skills to sell potential clients on your vision for the best way to optimize their finances.

Like all great entrepreneurs, being a successful financial advisor starts with being a great communicator. Sams says, “From how to prospect to how to convey strategies to your clients, great communication skills are one of the best attributes for an advisor.”

It is one thing to be skilled with finance, but it is another to be able to convince others to trust your skills in finance and then have the wherewithal to execute your plan.

2. Pursue an education

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 57,000 personal financial advisor job postings.2 The data revealed that 67 percent of job postings were seeking candidates with a Bachelor’s degree or higher. The BLS mentions specifically that having a degree in finance, accounting, business, mathematics or law is a strong foundation for starting in this career.1

At Rasmussen University, you can complete a fully online Bachelor’s degree in Finance in as few as eighteen months.3 Even better, if you’re interested in pursuing a Master’s degree, the Accelerated Master’s Pathway option for this program can help qualified students save time and money on their graduate education.

3. Gain experience by working in finance

As the age-old saying goes, experience is the best teacher. While an education is the first step in preparing you to become a financial advisor, you cannot beat the skills you will develop on the job. In fact, it is most common for newly hired advisors to go through a period of on-the-job training that often lasts more than a year. While working under more seasoned advisors, this time can be essential for learning how to do your duties and build a client network.

4. Add to your resume with certifications

Your education as a financial advisor can be an ongoing process, and depending on what you want to specialize in, there are certifications available to you. According to our analysis of financial advisor job postings, here are the top certifications employers are seeking:2

Since these certifications may require additional work experience or sponsorship before you’re qualified to earn them, they are generally pursued after time spent working or training in finance.

Is a career as a financial advisor right for you?

Now that you have a clearer picture of what it takes to become a financial advisor, does this still sound like a good fit for you? This financially focused career takes more than just being a shrewd investor and financial planner—you’ll also need a strong mix of “soft” transferable skills to succeed.

At Rasmussen University, you can develop that foundation of skills in a supportive, flexible and fully online program. Visit the Finance degree page to learn more.

11Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed December 2021] Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary. (analysis of 57,310 financial advisor job postings, September 01, 2020 – August 31, 2021).
3Completion time is dependent on the number of transfer credits accepted and the number of courses completed each term.
Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is a registered trademark of Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.

About the author

Patrick Flavin

Patrick is a freelance content writer at Collegis Education. As a former educator, Patrick is passionate about helping students find the professions that fit their skills, talents and interests.

Patrick Flavin

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