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Financial Advisor Education Requirements and Career Info

Financial advisor education and training prepare students for careers helping people and organizations plan for their financial futures. Students can also increase their financial advisor qualifications with a number of licenses and certifications.

Financial Advisor Career Overview

Financial advisors, or personal financial advisors, inform and offer suggestions to their clients about a wide range of financial options and issues. Financial advisors help their clients plan for specific financial events in their lives and discuss different ways to help their clients reach their financial goals. This may involve researching and discussing various investment opportunities, savings accounts for things like college or retirement, mortgage options, or different insurance policies with their clients. Other job duties may include:

  • Monitoring accounts
  • Marketing their services
  • Answering clients' questions
  • Buying and selling financial products

Financial advising is generally full-time work and mostly takes place inside an office setting. According to the BLS, it is common for financial advisors to work over 40 hours a week and they may need to work some evenings and weekends.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Finance, accounting, business
Other Requirements Training, licensure, certification
Annual Mean Salary (2018)* $121,770 (personal financial advisors)
Estimated Job Growth (2016-2026)* 15% (personal financial advisors)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Financial Advisor Education Requirements

Financial advisor requirements generally consist of a college education, training, and professional licensure or certification. Outside of these financial advisor qualifications discussed in detail below, those pursuing the career should have analytical, math, sales, and interpersonal skills.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Although there is not a specific financial advisor degree, most financial advisors need at least a bachelor's degree. Aspiring financial advisors may pursue degrees in areas like finance, business, accounting, mathematics, economics, or even law. Some helpful college courses for financial advisor training may include topics in estate planning, taxes, investments, and risk management. There are some financial advisor schools that offer online courses and training in financial advising.

It is not typically required, but students may wish to pursue a master's degree in areas such as business administration or finance, to increase their chances of advancement. Professional certification, discussed in more detail below, can also lead to advancement.

Step 2: Complete On-the-Job Training

Financial advisors usually undergo on-the-job training that may last for a year or more. Entry-level advisors are typically matched with senior advisors to observe the day-to-day job duties and to begin developing a client base. Advisors also generally use this period to begin creating investment portfolios.

Step 3: Earn Licensure and Certification

Licensure requirements for financial advisors vary based on what the advisor aims to sell. For example, those selling insurance need to meet state board licensure requirements, while those who buy or sell bonds and stocks may need the proper license(s) and registration with state regulators or the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Professional certification, such as the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, can also increase financial advisor qualifications. The steps for becoming a certified financial counselor include earning a bachelor's degree, completing at least 3 years of work experience, and passing the CFP exam.

Financial Advisor Salary

The average annual salary for personal financial advisors in 2018 was listed at $121,770, per the BLS. Most of these advisors worked in securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and made an average salary of $129,950 for the same year. According to the BLS, the highest paid personal financial advisors were those in real estate and they made an annual salary of $161,860 in 2018.


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