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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. These financial workers, who advise individual or corporate clients about making investments, must register with their state securities division or the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Read on to learn about these degree programs, including required courses, the employment outlook for graduates and SEC registration regulations.

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Essential Information

Bachelor's degree programs in financial planning prepare graduates for entry-level positions in the field, while master's programs offer advanced training for executive positions. Students learn about topics including investment regulations, risk, estate planning and taxes. Programs at both levels offer the training necessary to apply for credentials with the SEC or with their states as investment advisors. Graduates also may obtain professional certification.

Bachelor of Science 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. Before applying to an undergraduate program in financial planning, students should have earned a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) credential.

Program Coursework

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

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.

Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Concentration 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, retirement planning, estate planning and tax planning; in this type of capstone, professional ethics are emphasized throughout the casework. Distance-learning options are frequently available for MBA programs in financial planning. Some schools also offer Master of Science in Financial Planning programs.

Education Prerequisites

Applicants to these MBA programs generally must have a bachelor's degree in financial planning or a related field, in addition to submitting scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), letters of recommendation and entry essays. Some programs seek applicants who also have financial planning experience. Students coming from a background in a field other than financial planning may be required to take prerequisite courses before beginning their MBA programs.

Program Coursework

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 27% in the decade spanning 2012-2022. which is much faster than average ( This growth was expected to be driven by the retirement of the aging population and decreases in pension funds. BLS figures showed a mean annual wage of $91,620 for personal financial advisors as of May 2013.

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