Becoming a certified financial counselor requires a bachelor's degree, at least three years of work experience in financial planning and certification from The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Working as a certified financial counselor opens up the opportunity for self-employment, and many counselors work out of a home office.
Financial counselors advise clients on their personal investments, retirement plans and short-term and long-term financial goals. An undergraduate degree in financial counseling and planning is required for students who wish to pursue careers as financial counselors. Currently, certification is offered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation is earned after the successful completion of an exam.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||30%*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$89,160*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Career Information for Certified Financial Counselors
Financial counselors are responsible for meeting with clients to discuss their personal investments, retirement strategies and financial goals. In order to make these assessments, a financial counselor must have a complete picture of the financial health of an individual. A financial counselor can then talk with a client about his or her short-term and long-term goals. Many financial counselors are self-employed and work from a home office.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), financial planning, which is related to financial counseling, is one of the fastest growing occupations. A 30% increase in the employment of personal financial advisors is expected for the 2014-2024 period. This large increase in employment is primarily attributed to the greater numbers of workers who will retire in the next ten years. Another factor driving the employment of financial counselors is the substantial number of people who are managing their own investments and retirement plans and, as a consequence, are in need of financial advice and counseling. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual salary of a personal financial advisor as $89,160 in 2015.
Educational and Certification Requirements
Undergraduate degree programs in financial counseling and planning are rare; however, some major universities do offer this degree. Students enrolled in a financial counseling and planning degree program should have an affinity for working with numbers and people. The curriculum reflects these two aspects and includes topics such as consumer behavior, statistics, economics, communication and accounting.
In some instances, students are required to complete a work experience component with a credit counseling firm, an insurance agency, a brokerage firm or a bank. Financial counseling degree programs that are registered with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards provide students with the preparation needed to sit for the certification exam.
The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards administers the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) exam. The exam covers a range of topics including employee benefits planning, investment planning, insurance planning, retirement planning and risk management. Only those candidates who have a bachelor's degree, at least three years of financial planning and counseling and a passing score on the certification exam are eligible for certification. Financial counselors with 1000 hours of relevant experience can become Accredited Financial Counselors after taking an exam offered by the Association for Financial Counseling, Planning and Education.
Financial advisors who directly sell or buy stocks, insurance policies, bonds or investment advice might want to look into becoming licensed or register with the Securities and Exchanges Commission.
Financial planners need a bachelor's degree, along with three or more years of industry experience before they can take the CFP exam. The Accredited Financial Counselors exam is offered to financial counselors with at least 1000 hours of industry experience. Over the coming years, jobs for financial planners are predicted to growth at a much faster than average rate.