How To Become A Financial Advisor: Education, Skills And Certification (2024)

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Financial advisors provide individuals and companies with guidance on topics like mortgages, estate planning, investments and retirement. They take a big-picture view of clients’ income and expenses to help plan for budgeting goals related to significant life events, such as higher education, marriage and retirement.

As with many careers in finance, this work can be stressful. However, financial advisors earn relatively high salaries and enjoy an encouraging job outlook. This guide explores how to become a financial advisor, including requirements for education, experience and licensure.

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What Is a Financial Advisor?

Financial advisors help clients meet short-term and long-term financial goals through careful consideration of clients’ income, liabilities, investments and expenses. These professionals interact with clients of all income levels to assist with a broad range of goals, such as making timely mortgage payments or taking on significant expenses like higher education.

Financial advisors assess their clients’ financial health to understand their liabilities and risk level in meeting financial goals. Advisors then use this analysis to forecast trends and funding availability.


Day-to-day job duties for financial advisors may vary based on their chosen client base. When working with individuals or families, these advisors help prepare for events like marriage, retirement, attending college and having children. Financial advisors also educate their clients in areas like budgeting, taxes and insurance.

When working with organizations, financial advisors typically handle investment portfolios. They help companies raise funds through stocks, bonds and other investments. Financial advisors also monitor accounts to stay up to date on any changes, making adjustments and suggestions as necessary.

Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that financial advisors earn a median annual salary of $95,390—nearly $50,000 more than the median for all occupations. According to the BLS, the lowest-earning 10% of financial advisors make under $46,700, which roughly matches the national median salary of $46,310 across all occupations.

The BLS projects employment for financial advisors to grow by 13% from 2022 to 2032, which is four times the average projected growth for all occupations nationwide.

Skills for Financial Advisors

An individual should possess the following key skills if they plan to become a financial advisor.

Analytical Skills

Financial advisors analyze large data sets from multiple sources and draw conclusions from their findings. Along with hard numbers, these professionals must assess ongoing trends and economic shifts to identify the best pathways for their clients.

Communication Skills

Financial advisors deliver complex information to stakeholders who may not have familiarity with technical terms. Communication skills are key in providing findings and guidance in a clear, easily understandable way.

Interpersonal Skills

Finances can present stressful situations for clients. As such, personal advisors must be honest, trustworthy listeners and speakers who project confidence in their advice.

Math Skills

Perhaps above all, financial advisors must have strong math skills so they can present accurate data to their clients.

Sales Skills

Though financial advisors often find full-time employment within organizations, many work independently as consultants and contractors. Self-employed financial advisors must know how to market themselves to grow their client base.

How to Become a Financial Advisor

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Hiring managers typically seek financial advisors with business administration bachelor’s degrees or undergraduate degrees in other subjects like mathematics or social science. Bachelor’s programs generally take four years to complete, though some schools offer accelerated options. Some employers require advanced finance degrees, such as a master’s or doctorate, for higher-level roles.

Gain Experience

To develop experience, current students and recent graduates can seek internships with finance companies. Entry-level financial advisors receive on-the-job training from senior-level professionals in areas like creating portfolios and networking with clients. Developing familiarity and mastery of financial advisory tasks is key to advancing in the field.

Obtain Any Necessary Licenses

Depending on their line of work, financial advisors may need specific licenses for professional practice. For example, professionals who offer advice on certain investments or who buy and sell stocks for clients must earn securities licenses. When researching a specific line of financial advisory work, make sure to consider any necessary licenses that career path might entail.

How to Become a Certified Financial Planner

Certified Financial Planners (CFPs)® typically complete several years of professional experience as financial advisors before pursuing formal CFP credentials. While the term “financial advisor” covers a broad array of professionals, financial planners perform more specific tasks for their clients. CFPs have also completed additional education to further their mastery of the finance field.

Complete Education Requirements

Along with earning a bachelor’s degree, each prospective CFP must complete specific college-level coursework. Individuals can often take these classes at their current institutions as part of a bachelor’s program. Alternatively, certain professional credentials can fulfill these requirements. Applicants can also enroll in approved self-study programs.

Complete Required Work Experience

To qualify for CFP credentials, a candidate must have 6,000 hours of relevant professional experience, which amounts to about two years of work. Alternatively, a candidate may complete 4,000 hours of supervised apprenticeship work, which must meet more stringent content requirements.

Pass the CFP exam

The CFP certification exam entails 170 multiple-choice questions, split into two three-hour sections. As of 2023, the CFP Board reports an overall pass rate of around 65% for this exam. Experts suggest that each candidate should spend about 250 hours preparing for the exam.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About How to Become a Financial Advisor

How many years does it take to become a financial planner?

At a minimum, it takes about six years to become a certified financial planner. Along with earning a bachelor’s degree, CFPs must have about two years of professional experience and pass an exam.

How do I become a financial advisor?

To become a financial advisor, start by earning a bachelor’s degree in business, social science, statistics or mathematics. Completing an internship while earning your degree can help you network with potential employers.

How To Become A Financial Advisor: Education, Skills And Certification (2024)


How To Become A Financial Advisor: Education, Skills And Certification? ›

Pursue professional certification

What is the best education for a financial advisor? ›

Becoming a financial advisor requires at least a bachelor's degree. Some employers seek a bachelor's in accounting, business, law, or economics. Financial planner education includes coursework in taxes, investments, and risk management.

What makes you qualified to be a financial advisor? ›

In order to sell securities, financial advisors are required to pass licensing exams by FINRA. Having academic and professional training and education is a good indicator that your advisor is plugged into the world of finance and understands its complexities.

What is the best qualification for a financial advisor? ›

DipFA is the minimum level qualification you need to become a financial adviser, as laid down by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Financial advisers provide regulated financial advice to help people make the most of their existing wealth.

What math skills do you need to be a financial advisor? ›

Math skills: Constantly working with numbers means that financial advisors need to have excellent math skills. They must determine the amount to be invested, how much that amount will decrease or increase over time and how to create a balanced portfolio that includes a variety of investments.

How hard is the CFP exam? ›

That said, becoming a CFP is no cake walk. The certified financial planner exam is likely the hardest test you'll ever take, Dorsainvil says. "Think of the hardest exam you took in college then times it by 10." Preparing to take the CFP exam begins months or even years before you actually sit to take the test.

How do I start a career in financial advisor? ›

If you're ready for a career in finance, consider the requirements to be a financial advisor and follow these steps:
  1. Get a Job. ...
  2. Pass Necessary Licensing Exams. ...
  3. Undergo a Background Check. ...
  4. Build a Book of Business. ...
  5. Stay Current with Continuing Education.
Jun 18, 2024

How to stand out as a financial advisor? ›

They have a passion for the subject and are curious about their clients and the changes in the industry.
  1. Passion for Financial Planning and Wealth Management. ...
  2. Deep Analytical Ability. ...
  3. Ability To Market Yourself. ...
  4. Putting a Client's Interests First. ...
  5. Curiosity.

How difficult is it to become a financial advisor? ›

At a minimum, it takes about six years to become a certified financial planner. Along with earning a bachelor's degree, CFPs must have about two years of professional experience and pass an exam.

How to answer why you want to be a financial advisor? ›

"The main reason why I want to be a financial advisor is my passion for helping people and interacting with them. A person's financial decisions are very likely to influence their entire future, and I'd like to take the responsibility of helping them.

What type of financial advisor makes the most money? ›

High Paying Financial Planner Jobs
  • Investment Consultant. Salary range: $97,500-$155,000 per year. ...
  • Senior Wealth Advisor. Salary range: $112,000-$147,500 per year. ...
  • Financial Advisor. ...
  • Portfolio Manager. ...
  • Private Wealth Advisor. ...
  • Certified Financial Planner. ...
  • Financial Planning Consultant. ...
  • Pension Consultant.

Is 50 too old to become a financial advisor? ›

Financial Planners Is a Popular Second Career After 50.

What is a level 4 financial advisor? ›

Working within small businesses or large organisations such as banks, giving clients specialist advice on how to manage their money. Qualification level 4. Equivalent to higher national certificate (HNC). Typical duration 24 months.

What degree is best for a financial advisor? ›

A financial advisor with a thorough understanding of economics is better equipped to help their clients traverse the business and financial market cycles. In general, you can't go wrong with a major in business or economics; both will serve as a sound foundation for a financial planning or advisory career.

What level of math is used in finance? ›

Algebra is the foundation of many mathematical concepts. Students interested in finance will most likely learn linear, quadratic, and rational functions and exponential and logarithmic functions.

Is a financial planning degree worth it? ›

Knowing which career path is right for you is critical in getting the full value of a finance degree. If you want to focus your career on increasing the financial health of individuals, companies or financial institutions, a degree in financial planning or management can prepare you for success.

Which subject is best for financial advisor? ›

An economics degree, with courses in finance, can also offer a foundation for an aspiring financial advisor. Economics covers both global and broad macroeconomic concepts, as well as important microeconomic topics, such as monetary and fiscal policy.

What is the difference between a CFP and a CFA? ›

When it comes to CFA vs. CFP certificants, a CFA helps high net-worth clients and corporations grow their wealth, while a CFP helps individual clients prepare for their future and meet their financial goals.

What series do you need to be a financial advisor? ›

To obtain a Series 63 license, advisors have to take an exam and answer questions about highly specific state laws and regulations. This FINRA exam consists of 60 questions. Financial advisors are required to have both a Series 6 or 7 and a Series 63 license to operate within any given state.

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