Registered Investment Advisor Certification and Training Programs

Completing a bachelor's or master's program in financial planning or a related field can prepare students to work as investment advisors. Programs at both levels offer the training necessary to apply for state or SEC credentials.

Essential Information

Bachelor's degree programs in financial planning prepare graduates for entry-level positions in the field, while an Master of Business Administration with a concentration in financial planning can offer advanced training for executive positions. Students learn about topics including investment regulations, risk, estate planning and taxes. Online courses are sometimes offered.

Bachelor's program applicants must have a high school diploma or GED. A related bachelor's degree, financial planning experience, letters of recommendation, entry essays and satisfactory standardized test scores are necessary for a master's. Program graduates also may obtain professional certification.

Bachelor's Programs in Financial Planning

Bachelor's programs in this field can prepare students for a number of positions, including financial planner, financial analyst, broker or retirement planning specialist. Graduates of financial planning programs should have the knowledge and skills to test for the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) designations.

Courses in a bachelor's program in financial planning typically cover several areas of finance, including taxation and investment and insurance brokerage. Samples of classes in a financial planning program include the following:

  • Introductory financial planning
  • Investment risks and methods
  • Planning for income and estate tax
  • Insurance and retirement planning

Master's Programs in Financial Planning

MBA programs with a concentration in financial planning can prepare students for executive-level positions in the financial planning industry. The capstone to this graduate program may draw heavily from casework, requiring students to explore case studies in areas like personal financial advisement and retirement planning. In this type of capstone, professional ethics are emphasized throughout the casework. Some schools also offer Master of Science in Financial Planning programs.

MBA programs feature advanced courses, and students should have a good understanding of basic financial planning theories before enrolling. Common courses might include the following:

  • Risk management
  • Advanced financial planning
  • Law and ethics of financial planning
  • Financial tax management and strategy

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for personal financial advisors, including investment advisors, were forecast to grow by 30% in the decade spanning 2014-2024 ( BLS figures showed a mean annual wage of $118,050 for personal financial advisors as of May 2015.

Registration Information

Aspiring Registered Investment Advisors should contact their state securities division to determine whether they must register within their state or with the SEC. This determination is based on how much money an advisor is working with.

Registration requirements vary by state, but applicants typically must pass a test, such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Series 65 exam or both the FINRA 7 and 66 exams. Those who already hold a professional designation, like CFP, may not need to take these exams. RIA renewal periods vary by state. Most states don't require continuing education or re-examination for renewal, but applicants likely will have to pay a renewal fee

Bachelor's or master's programs in financial planning are an option for those interested in investment advising. Curriculum normally includes units in personal financial planning, regulations and taxation.

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