Financial Advisor: Career Information

Couple talking to financial advisor in living room
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When it comes to saving our money, we have choices. We can put it under the mattress, in the bank or we can invest it. The experts usually suggest a combination of the latter two (all will 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 goals may include retirement and education.

A financial advisor may provide investment, tax and insurance advice. While the primary part of his or her job is to advise people, he or she also spends a lot of time growing a client base. To do this, financial advisors must be skilled networkers.

Quick Facts About Financial Advisors

  • In 2015, financial advisors earned a median annual salary of $89,160.
  • More than 249,00 people worked as financial advisors in 2014.
  • Most work in the finance and insurance industry.
  • Financial advisors usually work full-time.
  • About a fifth are self-employed.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts job outlook will be much faster than the average for all occupations through 2024.
  • It is less stressful than other financial occupations.

A Day in a Financial Advisor's Life

These typical job duties come from online ads for financial advisor positions found on

  • "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

To work as a financial advisor, you will need to earn, at least, a bachelor's degree. Majors that offer good preparation for this occupation include finance, economics or accounting. 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. 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, you also need certain soft skills, personal characteristics that you cannot learn through formal training, to succeed in this occupation. 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, you need to evaluate all the data available.
  • Reading Comprehension: It is necessary to understand documents that describe various financial instruments.
  • Verbal Communication: You must be able to clearly explain the financial services you can provide to potential clients.
  • Service Orientation: A desire to help people plan for the 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 found on

  • "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"
  • "Strong knowledge of investment products and services delivered, operations supporting them and pertinent regulations affecting their delivery"
  • "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?

Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

 DescriptionMedian Annual Wage (2015)Minimum Required Education
Loan OfficerHelps people and businesses get loans from banks and other lending institutions


Bachelor's Degree
Credit CounselorGives advice about acquiring and managing debt to individuals and organizations$43,840Bachelor's Degree 
AuditorChecks an organization's financial records for signs of mismanagement$67,190Bachelor's Degree
FundraiserHelps organizations plan events and campaigns to raise money$52,970No Specific Educational Requirements, But Some Employers Prefer a Bachelor's Degree

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 (visited May 15, 2016 ).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited May 15, 2016).

Read About Other Financial Careers and Other Business Careers 

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