What Classes Are Required to Be a Financial Advisor?

If you're interested in becoming a financial advisor, you can either pursue a degree in financial planning or another finance-related area. Read on to learn more about financial advising degree programs and common course requirements. Schools offering Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

How Can I Become a Financial Advisor?

A bachelor's degree is the standard educational requirement to become a financial advisor, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some schools offer undergraduate degree programs or concentrations specifically in financial planning. Most employers will also accept a degree in a closely related area, like business, accounting, finance, or economics. Countless schools offer both on-campus and online degree programs in all of these areas. All related bachelor's degree programs will generally allow you to take classes in subjects you'll need to learn about to become a financial advisor.

Before entering the workforce, you'll also need a professional certification by at least one finance industry governing body, and maybe more if you sell stocks and bonds. Sitting for these examinations generally requires a bachelor's degree, and the subjects you'll be tested on also make up the common course curricula for most finance-related degree programs.

Finance is a highly competitive field. Though not required, having a master's degree in a field like finance or business can help financial advisors gain business or nab senior-level positions.

Financial Advisor RequirementsBachelor's degree required, master's optional
Common Associate's Degree Course TopicsFinance and economics basics
Common Bachelor's Degree Course TopicsInvestment portfolio management strategies
Master's Degree ProgramsIn-depth studies of financial assets
Licensure RequirementsProfessional certification exams for financial advisors and brokers

Are There Any Associate's Degree or Certificate Programs?

A two-year degree is generally not sufficient preparation to become a financial advisor. Nevertheless, there are many community colleges offering Associate of Science and Associate of Business degrees as well as various certificates that will educate you in topics relevant to financial advisement. Interested students can either earn their associate's degrees in an area like finance, economics, or risk management, or pursue an undergraduate certificate in finance as part of their associate's degree studies. Certificate programs in finance and related areas may require approximately 12 credits of foundational courses in areas like business math and principles of finance.

What Will I Learn in Bachelor's Degree Programs?

Many schools have bachelor's degree programs specifically in financial planning or offer concentrations in financial planning as part of a finance degree curriculum. Even if the school you're attending or considering doesn't have a financial planning program, a finance degree will also give you the classes you need to enter the workforce as a financial advisor. Financial planning and related bachelor's degree programs are offered both on campus and online, and often include either a mandatory or optional financial advisement internship.

Required courses in these programs teach students how to understand different investment strategies, assess economic climates, and develop sound financial plans based on a client's specific needs. Studies in financial planning often start off with courses in foundational topics, such as mathematics, micro and macroeconomics, marketing, accounting, and business law. As you progress in your degree program, you'll study areas crucial to being a shrewd and well-informed financial advisor. Common courses may include:

  • Estate planning
  • Insurance and risk management
  • Tax law
  • Portfolio management
  • Ethics and regulations in finance
  • Money markets
  • Consumer investment planning
  • Asset and property transfers
  • Global financial markets

What Are My Master's Degree Options?

If you're looking to advance your education in finance beyond the undergraduate level, many accredited universities offer Master of Science or Master of Business Administration degrees in finance or financial management. Many such programs offer an option to declare a concentration in wealth or investment management. These degree programs generally require completion of twelve courses that give students an in-depth understanding of different investment options and market analysis methods. Common topics covered in required courses include:

  • Stock and bond valuation
  • Equity markets
  • Derivatives theory
  • Financial valuation
  • Corporate finance
  • Investment psychology
  • Offshore investment markets
  • Family trust planning

What Are the Licensing Requirements to Become a Financial Advisor?

Licensure for financial advisors is regulated by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, an accredited industry governing board that grants certification upon passing a written examination. The exam tests your knowledge in financial planning-related areas like estate planning, tax law, risk management, ethics, regulations, and portfolio analysis. In order to sit for the exam, you'll need both a bachelor's degree and proof that you took relevant finance classes in college. Many schools that offer financial planning degrees have their programs registered with the Certified Financial Planner Board.

Depending on the products you offer to your clients, you may also need to obtain a state license - this is required to sell stock shares and insurance, for example - or register with the Securities Exchange Commission. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a Congress-endorsed nonprofit group, offers qualification exams in numerous securities.

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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