According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, a bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement to become a personal financial advisor. Prospective financial advisors can pursue degrees in financial planning, accounting, economics or finance. Master's-level programs that focus on financial planning also exist and may help with career advancement.
Certificate programs are available to prepare employed financial advisors for certification. Job options for graduates of a financial advising or planning program include investment advisor, financial advisor, financial planner, stock broker or accountant.
Common topics in these courses often are:
- Managing assets
- Selecting insurance
- Basic accounting
- Retirement planning and taxes
- Employee stock options
Certification and licensure options for financial advisors also exist. Those buying or selling financial products or insurance have to get licensed. Although it is not required, financial advisors may pursue certification as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). This credential requires work experience and a bachelor's degree as prerequisites.
Overview of Financial Advisor Courses
Introductory Financial Advising
In an introductory financial advising course, students learn about the duties of a financial advisor, which include helping clients make saving and investment decisions, as well as valuation and asset management. Course topics include trading, pricing of securities in financial markets, sources of capital and risk management. Some courses may include insurance basics. Students use these skills to help individuals and businesses plan their financial strategies.
Accounting is an important class for prospective financial advisors because it teaches students to record business transactions, understand accounting cycles and evaluate inventory, payroll, shareholder equity and liabilities. Accounting courses provide a foundation in financial statement analysis, cost behavior and profit analysis. This course provides students with accounting basics but does not prepare them for careers as accountants.
Financial advisors use risk management principles in order to give sound financial advice to clients. Risk management courses generally cover disability, life and medical insurance and introduce students to the importance of risk management in the global financial market. Topics like investment risk, market risk and probability theory are examined. Students learn how to read insurance policies and advise clients on insurance issues.
Students learn basic investment concepts, types of investment vehicles, investment risks and returns, bond and stock valuation and asset allocation. Other special topics of instruction include efficient market theory, portfolio management, investment taxation, securities market, security analysis and growth stocks.
Retirement and Employee Benefit Planning
Students learn about social security plans and other types of retirement plans. Additional subjects of instruction include qualified and non-qualified retirement plans, IRAs, disability insurance, employee benefit plans, stock options and group life insurance. Students may need to complete accounting or math prerequisites before enrolling in this course.
Estate planning issues, methods of property transfers, estate planning documents, gift taxation and gifting strategies are covered in this class. Students learn about liquidity needs, estate tax calculations, valuation, powers of appointment and marital deductions. Coursework may include analysis of case studies.