What Is the Best Degree Path to Becoming a Financial Advisor?

If your math and analytical skills are as good as your sales and interpersonal skills, then a career in the exhilarating world of finance might be in your future. The career of a personal financial advisor pays well, is rapidly growing and allows so much flexibility that one-fifth of professionals in it work for themselves. With the right college education, it could be yours.

A Financial Advisor’s Role

Personal financial advisors are the business professionals who meet with individuals to understand their financial situations and advise them on making the best possible decisions involving taxes, insurance and investments. They often sell stocks and bonds and act on making the investments their clients have chosen, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.

Preparing for a Career in Finance

For most employers, a bachelor’s degree is a must-have qualification for financial advisor candidates. There isn’t one right degree path to this career, though some schools are beginning to offer specialized financial planning degree programs. Finance, in particular, is a good choice for aspiring financial advisors. Not only is the name of the major also in the job title, but finance happens to be among the top 10 highest paying degrees in business. Other popular majors for aspiring financial advisors include economics, mathematics, accounting, business or even law, according to the BLS. What’s most important is building a solid background in coursework involving taxes, estate planning, risk management and, of course, investments.

Earning Licenses and Certification

Not just anyone can call themselves a financial advisor. To protect consumers, finance professionals are subject to a variety of licensing requirements. For example, investment and personal financial advisors may need licenses – in some states, multiple different types of licenses – not only to work as financial advisors, but also to sell insurance, stocks, and bonds. Additionally, personal finance firms must be registered with either state regulators or the Securities and Exchange Commission, the BLS reported.

While not required, achieving certification is an excellent way for experienced personal financial advisors to prove themselves, enhance their résumés, and improve their job prospects. The Certified Financial Planner credential from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards can help professionals with an undergraduate college education, three years of professional experience and a commitment to ethics set themselves apart from the crowd.

Personal financial advisors earn a median salary of $67,520 per year, almost double the median annual wage for all occupations, according to the BLS. In industries like investment activities, professional and technical services and securities and commodity contracts intermediation, personal financial advisors earn even higher salaries. They also enjoy a positive outlook, with an expected 27 percent increase in job opportunities over a decade. These business and finance professionals also enjoy above average rates of upward mobility and flexibility, helping to earn the career the fifth slot on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Business Jobs list and the 25th spot on its 100 Best Jobs list.

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris