How to Become a Financial Advisor

Financial advisor speaking with clients in their home
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To fill their ranks of financial advisors, the major Wall Street firms at one time would run extensive financial advisor training programs. These programs were mainly for recent college graduates. However, many of these programs have been dismantled to save costs. Entering the field thus is becoming more difficult. Instead, firms increasingly rely on recruiting experienced financial advisors from competitors.

Education Requirements

A minimum of a bachelor's degree is expected for a financial advisor. Coursework in finance, accounting, or economics is helpful, though not required. Strong quantitative and problem-solving skills are vital, but so are verbal and sales skills. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can increase your chances of employment, depending on the firm and the situation, as might a degree in legal studies or law. 

Becoming a Financial Advisor

When securities firms do train new financial advisors, they usually seek experienced financial services industry professionals, who are looking for a career change. Moreover, becoming a financial advisor often requires intensive networking aimed at finding an established individual practitioner or a team willing to take on an apprentice, to help in serving or expanding their book of business

Also, cultivating an influential workplace sponsor with influence and the right connections can be a ticket to entering the financial advisory field from other positions in financial services. 

Previous certification and experience as a financial planner can be especially useful background for someone interested in making the transition to becoming a financial advisor. Indeed, a growing number of financial advisor teams and practice groups are seeing the value in bringing financial planning specialists on board as members.

Note that many financial advisor practices, including those in the employ of leading securities firms, effectively develop into family enterprises, with children or other relatives of the founder or lead advisor being brought in to assist with, and eventually inherit, the practice. 

Certification

Becoming a financial advisor requires passing the Series 7 exam offered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and meeting continuing education requirements. You must be sponsored by a FINRA member firm, such as your employer, to sit for the Series 7 exam. In some firms, for certain senior financial advisor positions, and in some states, one or more additional credentials may be required.