Financial Advisor: Job Description

Make Money Helping People Manage Theirs

Couple talking to financial advisor in living room
••• Hero Images / Getty Images

When it comes to saving our money, we have choices. We can put it under the mattress or in the bank, or we can invest it. The experts usually suggest a combination of the latter two and always discourage the first option. Who are these experts? They are financial advisors whose job is to help their clients plan for their short and long-term financial goals. These include buying a home, paying for their children's education, and retirement.

A financial advisor may provide investment, tax and insurance advice. He or she also spends a lot of time growing a client base.

Quick Facts About Financial Advisors

  • Financial advisors earn a median annual salary of $90,640 (2017).
  • More than 271,900 people work in this occupation (2016).
  • Most work for financial firms; almost one-quarter are self-employed.
  • Jobs are usually full-time and many also include overtime hours.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted financial advisors' job outlook will be much faster than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026, and therefore designates it a "Bright Outlook" occupation.

A Day in a Financial Advisor's Life

These typical job duties come from online ads for jobs found on Indeed.com:

  • "Recommend investment products and services that are suitable for prospects and clients based on their objectives, resources, time horizon, risk profile, and preferences"
  • "Execute and negotiate follow through of implementation vehicles including insurance, investments, tax planning, debt management, estate planning, and other tasks quoted to client"
  • "Decide how to build your practice by choosing your clients and the markets you want to pursue"
  • "Solicit clients actively via telephone, mail, referrals, etc."
  • "Maintain proper documentation following preset guidelines established by compliance and management"
  • "Comply with all industry rules and regulations"

How to Become a Financial Advisor

Financial advisors need, at least, a bachelor's degree. Finance, economics, and accounting are college majors that offer good preparation for this occupation. Earning an MBA (Master's of Business Administration) or a master's degree in finance could help you eventually advance into a management position.

If your job includes selling financial products such as stocks, bonds, and insurance policies, you will need licenses to do so. See the Directory Of Securities Laws & Regulations on the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) Web Site for licensing information. Financial advisors who manage their clients' investments must register with either the state or the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), depending on the size of the firm for which they work.

Many people who work in this field earn the Certified Financial Planner credential from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board). To do this, they must pass an exam after first earning a bachelor's degree and acquiring three years of experience in financial planning.

What Soft Skills Do You Need?

In addition to a degree and license, financial advisors also need particular soft skills, personal characteristics that you won't learn through formal training but instead were born with or acquired through life experience. Here are the most important ones:

  • Active Listening: You must be able to listen to and understand your clients' financial goals.
  • Critical Thinking: To figure out how to help your clients meet their goals, your ability to evaluate all the data available is essential.
  • Reading Comprehension: It is necessary to understand documents that describe various financial instruments.
  • Verbal Communication: Excellent speaking skills allow you to clearly explain all the services available to clients.
  • Service Orientation: Financial advisors must want to help people plan for their futures is important.

    What Will Employers Expect From You?

    In addition to skills and experience, what qualities do employers look for when they hire workers? Here are some requirements from actual job announcements on Indeed.com:

    • "Well organized with the ability to manage time effectively while managing multiple priorities"
    • "Ability to influence people"
    • "Possess a commitment to professionalism, honesty and a strong work ethic"
    • "Has demonstrated the ability to ask for the appointment, qualify for opportunity, and close business within 2 to 3 calls"
    • "Work independently as well as function as part of a team"
    • "Proficient computer skills, especially Microsoft Office applications"

    Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

    Among the factors that will determine whether being a financial advisor is a good fit for you are your interests, personality type, and work-related values. This career is suitable for individuals with the following traits:

    Interests (Holland Code): ECS (Enterprising, Conventional, and Social) 

    Personality Type (Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator [MBTI]): ENTJINTJENTP, INTP, or ESTP

    Work-Related Values: Independence, Achievement, Recognition

    Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

     DescriptionMedian Annual Wage (2017)Minimum Required Education
    Loan OfficerHelps people and businesses get loans from banks and other lending institutions

    $64,660

    Bachelor's Degree
    Credit CounselorGives advice about acquiring and managing debt to individuals and organizations$44,710Bachelor's Degree 
    AuditorChecks an organization's financial records for signs of mismanagement$69,350Bachelor's Degree
    FundraiserHelps organizations plan events and campaigns to raise money$55,640No Specific Educational Requirements, But Some Employers Prefer a Bachelor's Degree

    Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,   O*NET Online (visited October 15, 2018).

    Read About Other Financial Careers and Other Business Careers