Financial Advisors


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Financial Advisors

Financial Advisors


What’s Needed: Financial advisor degree programs have become more popular in recent years. However few employers require potential hires to have a bachelor’s degree in financial advising. Then again financial advisors must carry a four-year degree in a finance-related field in order to be competitive in the employment marketplace.

Aspiring professionals commonly receive bachelor’s degrees in the following fields:

  • Accounting
  • Economics
  • Financial analysis
  • Business administration
  • Mathematics

Financial advisors who wish to become the principals of their own firms or ascend through the ranks of upper management at existing financial institutions may need to earn graduate-level degrees in business administration or economics.

What you study:

Beginning in high school aspiring financial advisors should study the following core subjects:

  • Calculus
  • Statistics
  • Business and finance
  • Business law
  • Microeconomics

Video Overview

A quick introduction into a financial advisor career. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.

A Day in the Life

You smile as you think about what your client will do with the thousands of dollars that you just earned for him.

As a financial advisor you might work in a bank or investment firm with a number of other financial professionals. You’ll typically arrive an hour or so before your office’s 9 a.m. start time in order to catch up on client e-mails and voice messages that might have come in overnight.

You review all of these correspondences and note any important pieces of information. Since one of your clients noticed that a company in his stock portfolio had posted a solid earnings report and asked you to purchase additional shares as soon as possible you put in a buy order using extra funds that he had stored in a savings account. You smile as you think about what your client will do with the thousands of dollars that you’ve just earned for him.

You can picture your client’s satisfied smile through the phone.

Next you pick up the phone and call a client who had a complicated question about the tax implications of one of her foreign investments. You explain to her that the United States maintains tax treaties with many other countries. These ensure that investors based in one country don’t have to pay taxes on their investment returns in another country.

Since the U.S. has a tax treaty with Canada she doesn’t have to worry about being taxed twice on her investment in a hot new Canadian oil drilling company. Audibly relieved she thanks you profusely and wishes you a pleasant day. You can picture your client’s satisfied smile through the phone.

Throughout the morning you keep one eye on the financial markets and another on your e-mail inbox. You pride yourself on responding quickly to your clients’ calls and e-mails. After all that’s what earns you the repeat business that you enjoy.

Meanwhile you buy and sell your clients’ holdings whenever the opportunity arises. Some of your clients are conservative retirement-focused investors who stick to mutual funds and bonds. Others are risk-takers who always want to know about flashy new stocks in risky sectors like biotechnology and energy exploration. Most of your trading activities focus on these active clients.

Although you’re free to leave the office at 5 p.m. you stick around for another 90 minutes to make some personal calls to prospective clients.

Although you spend most of your days eating lunch at your desk and maintaining your focus on the markets today is different. You leave the office around noon and drive to a local Italian restaurant. You’re meeting a wealthy client today and this is her favorite eatery in town.

You arrive early at the restaurant and order your client’s favorite appetizer. She apologizes for being late but appears overjoyed at the sight of the perfectly prepared calamari dish on the table in front of her. Little touches like this keep your customers from moving their funds elsewhere.

After you’ve spent a leisurely lunch discussing the strengths and weaknesses of your client’s investment portfolio you return to the office for another round of market-watching and research. You look into a new dividend-paying exchange-traded fund that you think some of your more conservative clients would appreciate.

Although you’re free to leave the office at 5 p.m. you stick around for another 90 minutes to make some personal calls to prospective clients. In response to a recent drop in the market you’ve received a lot of inquiries from folks who want investment advice.

You reach a few of these prospects and explain a bit about what makes your investment strategies unique. You arrange a lunch meeting with one potential client and make a note to forward some prospectus documents to another. Once you’re done making your calls you leave and arrive at home just in time to eat dinner with your family. You’ve had a great day.

Certifications and Licensing

Since financial advisors generally buy and sell securities they must pass the "Series 7" exam and receive a General Securities Representative license. Those who operate their own investment and advisory firms must also register with the financial control board in their state. If a financial advisor sells insurance products or annuities he or she must register separately with the local insurance commission. This requires taking a state-approved insurance exam and receiving a license to sell insurance products.

The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards currently offers a certification program for experienced financial advisors. Individuals with more than three years of industry experience and a finance-related bachelor’s degree may take the CFP Board’s exam. Successful exam-takers receive a reputation-enhancing certification that improves their job prospects. In addition all certified financial planners must adhere to a strict code of ethics that is endorsed by federal regulatory authorities. In fact non-certified advisors may be viewed with suspicion by these authorities as well as by members of the general public.

Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time:

Most financial advisors work on a full-time basis. They generally work for banks’ in-house wealth management divisions investment firms insurance companies and credit unions. Most maintain regular schedules that match with normal business hours. However they may attend conferences and client meetings on the weekends or in the evenings.

Work location:

Financial advisors may also be self-employed. Although independent financial advisors also keep regular business hours those who work from home may enjoy more flexibility and family time. Since these self-employed individuals strive to maintain a steady flow of new customers they may need to make follow-up phone calls and visits outside of regular business hours.

Recommended Websites

The following websites may prove useful for anyone who wishes to become a financial advisor.

  • National Association of Personal Financial Advisors — The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors is a trade organization that provides continuing education and career-enhancement resources for new and established financial advisors. The organization’s website contains many tools for independent advisors who wish to bolster their public profiles and find new clients.
  • Association for Financial Counseling Planning and Education — This member-supported organization provides prospective financial advisors with the tools necessary to become certified in the field. It recommends accredited university programs for aspiring advisors and offers continuing-education resources as well as career advice.
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics — The U.S. Department of Labor offers a primer on the fast-changing job market for financial advisors. This rundown provides information about median earnings projected job growth education requirements and certification options.
  • American Institute of CPAs — Much of the information contained on this accounting trade organization’s website applies to aspiring financial advisors as well. The AIPCA’s online resources include career statistics job prospects and continuing-education resources. The organization also offers a primer on ethical standards for financial professionals.
  • Financial Planning Association — This full-service website offers a range of career-building tools for independent financial advisors. These include "practice management" resources certifications educational information and a full jobs board. The FPA specializes in helping current financial planners purchase or start their own practices.

Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
AKAnchorage$71760$36K – $112K1600.09%
ALBirmingham – Hoover$67930$40K – $180K3700.08%
ALDothan$54560$32K – N/A400.07%
ALMobile$81150$30K – $181K150