Financial Counselor: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for financial counselors. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Financial Counselor?

Financial counselors advise clients on investments, expenditures, and financial portfolios. They may discuss retirement, taxes, college savings, mortgages and more with their clients. Financial counselors typically begin by learning their clients' long-term financial goals and discussing the means to achieve them. They must be able to explain the different investment options and advice they can provide their clients, as well as answer any of their client's questions about different options. These professionals may make recommendations for investments or have the authority to choose investment options for their clients. They also closely watch their clients' accounts and make any necessary changes, and constantly research new investment opportunities to help improve their accounts. Some financial counselors may specialize in a particular area, such as retirement. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Key Responsibilities Advise clients on investments,
Manage clients' financial portfolios,
Evaluate and prepare financial reports
Licensure/Certification Licensure required for certain positions
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 30% for personal financial advisors*
Average Salary (2015) $118,050 for personal financial advisors*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Education Do I Need to Work as a Financial Counselor?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most financial counselors need, at a minimum, a bachelor's degree in accounting, economics, finance, mathematics or another related business major (www.bls.gov). These bachelor's degree programs can help you learn how to manage budgets, leverage assets and use mathematical tools to perform financial analysis.

Because some employers may require you to hold a master's degree, you might consider earning a Master of Accountancy, Master of Taxation or Master of Science in Finance. Master's degree programs can provide you with an enhanced understanding of federal tax laws and procedures, investment management and risk management.

What Licenses and Certifications Do I Need?

Although not necessarily required, earning a professional certification can boost your credibility and improve your job prospects. The most common certification available is the Certified Financial Planner credential, offered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. Requirements for this certification include a bachelor's degree, three years of relevant experience and passing scores on the exam. Annual recertification is required to maintain this credential.

Obtaining certain licenses regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) may be mandatory for this position. Typically, if your duties involve buying and selling stocks, bonds, insurance or other investment products, you would need to be licensed in your state. Passing a FINRA exam is required to obtain licensure. Common exams include the Series 7 - General Securities Representative and the Series 65 - Investment Advisor exams.

What Jobs and Duties Might I Have?

Common job titles in this field include being a private banker and wealth manager. In these positions, you may perform consulting to individuals who have a substantial amount of capital to invest. You may oversee your clients' personal finances and use resources provided by your bank to manage your clients' portfolios.

As a financial counselor, your primary duties would be to advise clients on financial matters, such as investments, taxes, retirement and estate planning. Helping clients with income management to avoid risks and financial loss may also be part of your responsibilities.

Other duties may include auditing, compiling socio-economic data, evaluating financial performance and preparing financial reports. You may also be required to stay abreast of changes related to state and federal policies, as well as investment practices.

What Salary Can I Expect to Earn?

According to the BLS, personal financial advisors earned a mean salary of $118,050 as of May 2015. The salary for this position can vary depending on the industry in which you work, as well as your level of education and work experience. For example, in 2015 the BLS reported that financial advisors in the insurance industry earned a mean salary of $105,270, while those in securities and commodities exchanges earned $139,410.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several related careers that require a bachelor's degree, including financial managers, budget analysts and insurance underwriters. Financial managers typically work for an organization and oversee their financial activities. They work to help the organization reach their financial goals by monitoring investments and financial reports. Budget analysts create and oversee budgets for a wide variety of organizations. They can work in the public and private sectors. Insurance underwriters are responsible for determining the various terms for different kinds of insurance. Their decisions often affect the prices that consumers have to pay.

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