Certified Financial Planner: Career Summary, Job Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Research what it takes to become a certified financial planner. Learn about educational requirements, key duties, career outlook, and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Certified Financial Planner?

Certified financial planners look at their clients' financial portfolios and recommend or execute investment options. By considering their total income, expenses, and assets, a financial planner can determine what kinds of investments clients are able to make depending on the level of risk they're comfortable with. Financial planners will need intimate knowledge of their clients and their finances to make the best possible decisions in what to invest in, making people skills a must. They must also possess in-depth experience with the stock market and laws concerning investment.

The table below includes important details about becoming a certified financial planner.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree, though many prefer a master's degree
Education Field of Study Accounting, financial accounting, managerial accounting
Certification Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation earned by exam
Licensure Requirements Most states require licensure; requirements vary by state and area of expertise
Job Growth (2014-2024) 30% (all personal financial advisers)*
Average Salary (2015) $118,050 (all personal financial advisers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will My Duties Be as a Certified Financial Planner?

If you become a certified financial planner, your duties will include evaluating the financial condition of clients and recommending investment options that maximize their financial return. You look at their income, expenses, and total assets and weigh your suggestions against the level of risk your clients are willing to assume. Investments can include stocks, bonds, real estate, or life insurance. In addition, you might offer tax planning advice. Your specific duties can include recruiting new clients, interviewing new and existing clients, planning, executing, and explaining your investment decisions, monitoring the performance of client portfolios, and adjusting the mix of investments based on changes in client needs or market conditions.

Where Could I Work?

Your leading job opportunities are with banks and financial services firms, brokerage firms and insurance carriers, or you could establish your own business. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall employment was projected to grow 30% from 2014-2024. The financial needs of retiring baby boomers, a trend by companies to offer retirement savings programs over pension plans and expanding human longevity will combine to create demand for financial planning services. As of 2015, personal financial advisers earned an average annual income of $118,050, reported the BLS.

How Can I Get Certification?

Certification is voluntary but can raise your professional profile and reputation. The most recognized credential in the industry is the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation offered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. To be eligible for the CFP exam you need to have earned an accredited bachelor's degree in any subject and accumulated three years of work experience related to financial planning. The CFP exam tests your knowledge of risk management, the planning process and retirement, estate, and tax planning.

What Degree Should I Earn?

Degree programs in accounting or finance can prepare you for a career in financial planning, but degrees in business administration or economics are acceptable to employers as well. A bachelor's degree program in accounting enhances your numerical analysis and problem-solving skills and develops your ability to organize, record, and present financial information clearly and accurately. Financial accounting, managerial accounting, business law, and statistics are possible course topics.

Finance degree programs prepare you to solve business problems, allocate capital and manage portfolios through the use of quantitative analysis and risk assessment. Course topics often include banking fundamentals, international finance, cost management and tax planning.

What Are My Licensing Obligations?

In most states you need a license to sell securities, which you can obtain by passing the Uniform Securities Agents State Law Examination. The exam tests record-keeping, customer protection, and knowledge of the securities industry. If you sell real estate or insurance, you will also need a state license, which also entails passing exams. Real estate licensing exams cover basic real estate transactions and property law. Insurance licensing exams cover insurance fundamentals for the type of insurance you plan to sell and your state's insurance laws.

What Are Some Similar Careers?

Similar careers in financial advisement require a similar education but confer different responsibilities with different types of clients. Budget analysts, for example, are hired by various organizations to monitor their spending and plan budgets. Financial analysts monitor trends in the stock market and other investments to advise corporate and personal clients on what to do with their assets. Financial managers plan a company's investment strategies and develop long-term goals for its finances.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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