What Are the Educational Requirements for a Financial Advisor Career?

As a financial advisor, you'll help your clients to establish a financial plan of action by evaluating their debts, assets, income, investments and retirement goals. A bachelor's degree is required for entry-level positions. However, a master's degree and certification can improve your job prospects. Read on to find out more about the education required to work as a financial advisor. Schools offering Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Degree Program Options

A number of undergraduate degree programs can prepare you to start a career as a financial advisor. You can choose to major in business, finance, accounting or economics. Many colleges and universities offer concentrations in finance or financial planning within their Bachelor of Business Administration degree programs.

To begin your career, you'll need to have a strong understanding of tax law, risk management, investing strategies and estate planning. Management-level positions or job opportunities with large investment firms may require you to have a master's degree. Both bachelor's and master's degree programs can help prepare you for the optional Certified Financial Planner (CFP) examination administered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (www.cfp.net)

Important Facts About Financial Advisors

On-the-Job Training Training period often required
Concentrations Math, business, accounting, economics
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree minimum; education in the financial field required
Key Skills Analytical and critical thinking, interpersonal, mathematical background, salesmanship, clear written and speaking communication
Work Environment Self-employed, financial investment companies, credit intermediation, securities and commodities contracts intermediation firms
Similar Occupations Budget analysts, financial analysts, financial managers, insurance sales agents, insurance underwriters, securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents

Bachelor's Programs

Programs leading to a bachelor's degree in finance provide instruction in the contemporary theory and practices of financial management. You'll develop a basic understanding of different types of investments, and learn to choose the best options for your clients. You'll also complete group projects, examine computer simulations of financial scenarios and evaluate comprehensive case studies. In addition, some programs give you the option to specialize in an area, such as financial markets, real estate, banking, investments or corporate finance.

The curriculum commonly includes coursework in the following areas:

  • Accounting
  • Business law
  • Economics
  • Insurance
  • Investment analysis
  • Retirement planning
  • Taxation
  • Options and futures trading
  • Banking
  • Statistics

Master's Programs

Available as a Master of Science degree program or as a concentration in a Master of Business Administration degree program, a graduate-level financial planning curriculum will help you to develop an in-depth understanding of financial planning strategies, analysis models and investment research techniques. You can usually expect this type of degree to require two years to complete, and some prerequisite courses may be necessary if your undergraduate background was not in finance. As part of the program, you may need to complete a thesis project under the guidance of a faculty advisor.

Courses provide advanced instruction in the following topics:

  • Asset management
  • Income taxation
  • Portfolio management
  • Estate planning
  • Risk management
  • Charitable giving
  • Financial counseling and communications
  • Wealth management
  • Retirement planning

Professional Certification

Although certification is not required to begin working as a financial advisor, it can demonstrate your level of training and experience to prospective employers and clients. The CFP credential is a common certification sought by professionals in the field. It shows your expertise in financial planning processes, including retirement, investment and estate planning.

All CFP certification candidates must hold at least a bachelor's degree in a finance-related subject area, complete courses approved by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, pass a certification examination and have three years of related professional experience. There's also a code of ethics that you will have to agree to follow. As a certified professional, you'll be required to complete 30 hours of continuing education credits every two years in order to stay up to date with investment trends and advancements in the industry.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), personal financial planners can expect favorable job prospects due to the 15% employment growth expected over the 2016-2026 decade. This rate, which is much faster than average, is expected to result in 40,400 job openings over that period. Most of this growth is due to the aging population's need for financial planning advice. As of May 2018, the BLS reported an average wage of $121,770 for personal financial planners. The middle half of workers earned between $57,290 and $157,710.

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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