How to Become a Financial Planner in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for financial planners. 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 Planner?

Financial planners advise individuals on how to manage their finances. As a financial planner, your job duties will include recommending, selecting, and monitoring investments for your clients, according to their needs and desires. You'll also be responsible for explaining to those clients the reasons behind each move and researching future investment possibilities for them. You may buy and sell financial products, such as insurance or stocks, for your clients. You could also advise your clients regarding mortgages, college savings, taxes, estate planning, and retirement savings.

The chart below can help you decide if a career as a financial planner might suit you.

Degree RequiredBachelor's, but master's can be beneficial
Education Field of StudyFinance, law, business, accounting, or economics
Licensure RequiredYes (if directly buying or selling stocks, bonds, or insurance policies or providing investment advice)
Job Growth (2014-2024)30% increase (for personal financial advisors)*
Average Salary (2015)$118,050 (for personal financial advisors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Research Financial Planner Career Duties

As a financial planner, you may assist clients with money management and help them meet financial goals, such as paying for a child's college education. Some of your duties would involve gathering information on your clients' income, investments, assets, and liabilities.

Once you have gathered this information, you would work on developing an individualized plan for each client. You would also help put plans into action, monitor progress, and make any necessary adjustments.

You may chose to specialize in a specific area of financial planning, such asset management or retirement. These areas of specialization may involve working with business owners and retirees.

Step 2: Earn a Degree

The minimum educational requirement for financial planners is typically a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's degree programs related to this career include accounting, business, economics, finance, and mathematics. Common courses offered through these programs cover topics such as money and banking, financial analysis, and investments.

A master's degree may be required in some instances. You may consider a master's degree program in financial planning, taxation, or asset and wealth management. Master's program courses can teach how to allocate funds, analyze risk, and perform estate planning.

Step 3: Obtain a Job

You may begin your career at a financial services company by participating in a financial advisor training program. Most financial service firms accept graduates within three years of completing a degree program. A training program can vary from several weeks to a few years. After completing a training program, you may serve as a financial planner, soliciting and growing your clientele.

Step 4: Get Licensed and Certified

As a financial planner, you would need to obtain certain licensure if your duties involve giving investment advice or selling stocks, bonds, or other related products. Sponsorship from your employer is required to register for licensure exams.

Exams administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) that are common for this career include the Series 7 - General Securities Representative and the Series 63 - Investment Representative. Passing these exams will allow you to operate as a licensed financial planner in your state.

You also have the option of obtaining certification to boost your credibility and improve your job prospects. The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) credential offered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) is a common designation for this career. Certification requirements include having a bachelor's degree, completing three years of relevant work experience, passing board exams, and adhering to a code of ethics.

Step 5: Participate in Continuing Education

Participating in continuing education is mandatory to maintain your CFP credential. To maintain this credential, you must complete 30 hours of continuing education courses offered through the CFP Board every two years.

The FIRNA also requires that financial professionals complete continuing education courses two years after receiving licensure. The Regulatory Element and the Firm Element are two mandatory continuing education programs offered.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

With a bachelor's degree, you may also pursue a career as a financial manager or financial analyst. Financial mangers direct an organization or business's finance activities, prepare financial documents, and analyze data. Financial analysts provide investment advice to companies and individuals.

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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