How to Become a Financial Adviser

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

Illustration of a man giving a presentation to a man and a woman using an easel board depicting financial information

Unfortunately, financial literacy is at an all-time low across the Western world. Studies repeatedly find that we lack in this department, typically resulting in poor money decisions. It might not seem like a big deal when you are young, but as the years go by, you realise you are squandering a wide range of opportunities that will eventually hurt you in your winter years. From a spike in credit card debt to ballooning student loan debt on a worthless college degree, poor personal financial knowledge will always come back to haunt everyone in the end.

And that is where a financial adviser steps in. Young professionals or seniors with longer life expectancies are employing the services of financial advisers, which is lifting demand volumes for this position. Since many people are trying to save money with the salary they have and attempting to rein in their spending, graduates have an opportunity to embark upon a lucrative career path. It also helps that you have greater autonomy, flexible hours and the chance to make an incredible living.

For anyone searching for a career or someone who is considering changing jobs, thinking about how to become a financial adviser would be something to add to your long-term plans. So, what are the steps to becoming one anyway? We have compiled a comprehensive breakdown of the process.

What Does a Financial Adviser Do?

A financial adviser wears many hats when it comes to working with clients and their wallets A money expert, a retirement planner, a financial educator and perhaps a shoulder to cry on when clients realise how much debt they really possess – you can liken the role to a professional jack of all trades. A financial adviser essentially helps the public accomplish their pecuniary goals in life, whether it is ensuring they can send their child to university or they can retire in Venice to write the next great murder mystery.

Is it the Right Job for Me?

A financial adviser has a plethora of opportunities that can make the position quite attractive.

The most common benefits to the position are the unlimited earning potential and a flexible working schedule. Also, if you run your business, then you have freedom and control over the firm. On the other hand, the drawbacks to the position typically consist of having to build your own clientele, continually comply with government regulations and contend with a great deal of stress (sales quotas, market conditions and a constant hunt for prospects).

It is important to emphasise the good and bad when you are considering a career in finance or you are looking to change careers. While you may accentuate the positives, they may be offset by the negatives.

What Qualifications Do I Need?

Every jurisdiction and each company maintains different requirements, but there are some general things that you will notice when you are searching for employment opportunities in the industry.

For example, all brokerage firms require that financial advisers possess a bachelor’s degree – at a minimum. What major or speciality the organisation demands will vary, but you anticipate business, finance or marketing. Because the industry is ultra-competitive, a lot of companies are now asking all future applicants to hold a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA).

To pad your resume, increase your credibility and work in the sector, you need a couple of certifications and designations. Every country has its own series of certificates. In the US, the widely adopted certification is the Certified Financial Planner (CFP), which is issued by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFPBS). In the Great White North, Financial Planner Canada mandates a substantial education program that requires a national exam and three years of work experience, plus you need to complete 25 hours of continuing education courses each year. In Great Britain, you can attain a CFP with the Chartered Institute of Securities. Indeed, there are all sorts of finance certificates to consider.

Also, do keep in mind that each country has its own regulatory body that maintains a strict code of ethics and professional responsibility standards that all professionals need to adhere to.

What Skills Do I Need?

When you are in high school, teachers home in on the educational aspect of every profession. They concentrate on college and university degrees to help you land a job. It is evident by now that today’s generation is the most educated in history, but there is a major problem in the labour market: A soft skills gap. Reports have found that hiring managers are reporting a significant chasm in a diverse array of soft skills that can make it hard for new hires to fulfil the requirements of the job.

In addition to credentials, financial advisers need to have a stellar mix of hard and soft skills. The job is sales-oriented, so it is important to have more than just education and expertise, which a lot of current financial advisers already have. You need to stand out from the crowd.

Sorry, you will need to have more than a calculator and a pocket protector to excel as a financial adviser in today’s market. In this field, you should have these skills:

  • Interpersonal skills: This is also known as people skills, whereby you need to be able to engage with others.
  • Communication skills: A financial adviser needs to speak with colleagues and customers in person or over the phone – you cannot just talk to people through text messaging or email. A part of the job involves cold-calling, so communication is imperative.
  • Confidence: Typically, if you are good at your job and you are knowledgeable about finance, you will automatically be confident. That said, if you are more extroverted than introverted, then you will be more naturally confident.
  • Proactive attitude: As a financial adviser, you cannot just wait for clients to come your way. You need to seek them out and, once you have them in your grasp, you need to execute a sale.
  • Entrepreneurial skills: While you will not exactly be Willy Loman, a financial adviser will spend a lot of alone time in this profession. Because of this, it is important to be independent and entrepreneurial as you treat the position, even if you are employed by a firm, like it is your business.
  • Customer service skills: Is the customer always right? That may not be your policy, but you still need to act in the customer’s best interest and do what you can to ensure client satisfaction, whether it is promptly returning phone calls or offering regular updates on market conditions.
  • Enthusiasm: If you are bored by your job, then why would anyone want to work with you? That’s not how it works, so it is important to show some level of enthusiasm or dollars (or euros) and cents.
  • Organisational skills: Everything from facts and figures to a Rolodex of clients, every financial adviser needs to be organised. Otherwise, you will be overwhelmed and eventually lose crucial information that proves beneficial to your clients.

How Do I Land a Job?

Before you apply for a financial advising job at a firm, it is important to gather some experience. As noted above, this is actually a prerequisite to getting certification. Whether it is at a financial institution or in another role at a brokerage firm, putting some work experience under your belt helps.

With that out of the way, once you have the qualifications – education, experience and skills – the world is your oyster. Financial advisers continue to be in high demand, especially as millennials are becoming the largest demographic and require fiscal assistance. The data suggest that overall employment levels for the career will balloon approximately 7% for the next eight years.

When you initiate your search, closely examine job positions and determine the types of day-to-day duties. This can help you tailor your resume to that specific advertisement. Overall, you will have a general idea of what companies are searching for in candidates and what your daily role will be either on day one or a year into your tenure.

Where Should I Work?

Many industry studies have found that more than half of all financial advisers are employed by securities and commodity brokerage firms, banks, insurance carriers and financial investment houses. But the number of services that a financial adviser offers ranges from tax planning, estate planning, investment analysis, education planning and retirement modification. Therefore, you have plenty of options for places of employment.

And, also, you can work in your home office when you are self-employed.

How Can I Advance My Career?

A lot of seasoned financial advisers eventually become specialists in a particular field at a regional or national office. As the years progress, the job will reduce person-to-person interaction with clients and lead to more actively managing client accounts on behalf of the organisation’s other financial advisers.

You can even prepare for a management opportunity either as a branch sales manager or a branch manager at a bank. It all depends on the firm’s policies and the size of its office. Career experts further note that excelling at management could eventually evolve into product marketing management, which is a major stepping stone for anyone working in the finance industry.


What does your career path look like right now? Are you heading down a certain road that you have mapped out? Or are you still unsure if you should be a financial planner or an interior designer? It is not easy picking careers, especially in a global economy, when it appears every industry is ultra-competitive.

With this information, perhaps you can decide to crunch the numbers for a living or consider something else to invest your human capital.

Are you a financial adviser? Have you got any useful tips for those looking to break into this field? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!