How to Become a Personal Financial Advisor

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Contributor, Benzinga
May 15, 2020

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Interested in a career as a financial advisor? Or maybe you already work in the financial services industry and want to advance your career. 

Benzinga has you covered. Here’s your detailed guide on how to become a personal financial advisor. 

Financial Advisor Overview

Before you work toward becoming a financial advisor, it’s vital to understand what the role entails and what employers look for when evaluating applicants. You should have an idea of the average salary and job outlook for the profession to decide whether it’s the best fit for you.

Job Description

Personal financial advisors offer advice to help clients prepare for retirement and build wealth. They also advise the individuals they serve on college savings plans, estate planning, insurance, mortgages, taxes and retirement. 

Other job duties include: 

  • Conducting research to make sound recommendations to clients 
  • Monitoring the performance of client accounts and suggesting adjustments if needed
  • Reviewing performance reports with clients 
  • Researching investment opportunities for current and prospective clients 

You’ll work in an office setting and attend networking events on occasion to recruit new clients. Expect to work 40 or more hours per week. 

Salary Information

In 2018, the median pay for personal financial advisors was $87,850, notes the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This equates to $42.24 per hour. Your salary will depend on the sector of the market you decide to work in and the location of the company. 

Here are the average salaries by sector for the top employers of personal financial advisors: 

  • Commodity contracts, securities and other financial investments: $95,540
  • Company and enterprise management: $85,150
  • Credit intermediation: $76,590
  • Insurance carriers: $71,280 

Education Requirements

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to land a personal financial advisor role. It should be in finance, accounting, economics, math or a related field. But that’s only the first step to thrive in the field. Most employers require you to complete a rigorous training program that can span a year or more. A master’s degree is also worth considering if you want to quickly move up the ranks. 

Licensure may also be required if you’re selling stocks, bonds, insurance policies or other investment products. The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation can be obtained once you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree, completed 3 years of experience in the field and passed the CFP exam. 

Job Outlook

The demand for personal financial advisors is expected to grow by 7% through 2028. This is good news for the industry as this figure is 1 percentage point higher than what’s projected for many other professions. 

Steps to Becoming a Personal Financial Advisor 

Ready to pursue a career as a financial advisor? You can get started by taking these essential steps. 

Enroll in a Bachelor’s Degree Program

Take the first step toward becoming a personal financial advisor by enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program. Be mindful of the college or university you select. You want a reputable school that’s accredited and features degree programs in finance, accounting, economics or math.

Otherwise, you’ll spend 4 or more years earning a degree that’s not recognized by employers. This also means you could struggle to find decent employment or will have to start from scratch. 

Boost Your Knowledge with an Online Course

Consider continuing education courses related to investments, estate planning and taxation. They can help sharpen the knowledge and skills you’ll need to thrive in the workforce as a personal financial advisor. Plus, you can choose from many affordable options for all levels. 

Planning to get certified? You can also find online courses to help you prepare for the CFP exam so you can pass on the first attempt. 

Connect with Prospective Employers 

Give yourself a leg up on the competition by connecting with prospective employers while enrolled in college. Interact with recruiters at job fairs and networking events until they know you on a first-name basis. Also, leverage the resources provided by the career center at your school to find other networking opportunities. 

Best Universities for Becoming a Financial Advisor 

These are the best online finance degree programs for aspiring personal financial advisors. 

1. Penn State University World Campus


Consider an online bachelor’s in finance from Penn State University’s World Campus. This degree program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). It’s also a CFAⓇ Institute University Affiliation Program. Students learn the mechanics of capital management, investment and portfolio management and financial institutions. You will also acquire skills and knowledge to help you pass the CFP exam. 

2. Old Dominion University 


Old Dominion University also features an online Bachelor of Science degree in business administration. It’s a component of the Department of Finance at the Strome College of Business. The curriculum dives into banking, financial decision-making, financial management, international financial management, investments and portfolio management. Choose from the full program if you're starting from scratch. The degree completion program is also available if you already have college credit. Upon completion, you will be ready to work in an entry-level role as a personal financial advisor. 

Consider these courses to level up your knowledge or supplement what you’re learning in the classroom. 

1. How to Become a Financial Advisor or CFP by Udemy

Source: Udemy

Just $9.99 gets you a seat in this highly-rated course that will teach you how to launch a career as a financial advisor. Instructor Greg Vanderford breaks the course down into 3 core modules: 

  • Pathways and Fee Structures
  • Differentiating Your Business From the Competition
  • General Considerations

Register today for full lifetime access to 1.5 hours of on-demand video instruction. You will also receive a certificate of completion when you finish the course. 

2. Financial Planning Tutorials by Udemy

Source: Udemy

Even though you aren’t yet working as a financial advisor, you can learn best practices for being productive and achieving your professional goals. Register today for only $9.99 to unlock full lifetime access to 5 hours of on-demand video lectures and 30 downloadable resources. 

The course is facilitated by Jim Teteak, the director of operations at Rule the Room Financial, an organization that provides training for financial advisors and planners. 

Prepare for a Career as a Personal Financial Advisor Today 

Now’s the perfect time to start pursuing your career goals. Check out our recommended degree programs and courses to get started and select the most appealing options. Study hard as you progress through your bachelor’s degree program and consider completing an internship to gain invaluable real-world experience. Forge connections with faculty members, recruiters and anyone else you may meet along the way that can help you get your foot in the door as a financial advisor.

Southern New Hampshire University Online

SNHU Online Offers:

  1. Flexible schedules
  2. Affordable tuition
  3. Online tutoring
  4. Access to electronic research materials
  5. Specialized academic advising
  6. Supportive online community