How to Become a Financial Advisor



If you want to become a financial advisor, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for it:


• You're interested in helping people prepare for their financial futures

• You have an interest in controlling your own level of income

• You're willing to endure the possibility of low earnings

• You enjoy meeting new people

• You're trustworthy and have a high level of integrity

• You're skilled in balancing the needs of clients with personal sales goals


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a financial advisor. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Financial Advisor

Although the formal educational requirements for this profession (not including licensing requirements) may vary by employer, and is set at their discretion, you typically need a bachelor’s degree to enter this profession.


A degree in a field such finance, economics, accounting, business or mathematics is good preparation for a career as a financial advisor. Courses related to investments, taxes, estate planning, and risk management are also helpful for this career.


Earning a master’s degree in an area such as finance or business administration can be quite helpful for attracting new clients, and helpful if you eventually plan on moving into a management position with a financial product brokerage.


Success Tip: College and university courses and programs in financial planning are becoming more and more available in Canada and the United States. Check for these programs and courses in your area!





General Job Description

In a broad sense, a financial advisor is responsible for helping their clients achieve financial security. To do this, they must analyze a client’s net worth, financial resources as well as lifestyle needs and goals. They can then make financial product recommendations based on their understanding of the information the client has given them. These products may include those related to life insurance, health insurance, wealth accumulation, and savings.


In addition to selling financial products, financial advisors must develop long-term relationships with clients and are there to help them plan for each stage of their lives.


The terms “financial planner” and “financial advisor” are often used interchangeably, although designation as a Certified Financial Planner requires more advanced training and education, and may include a course of study, an examination and 3-5 years of work experience.



Typical Job Duties

• Meet with clients, by phone or in person, to discuss their financial needs and objectives

• Help clients determine the ideal maturity date for their investments

• Maintain detailed and current client records

• Make financial product recommendations based on client’s needs and objectives

• Arrange or execute purchase or sale of stocks, bonds and other investment products on behalf of clients

• Recruit new clients on an ongoing basis through various marketing activities

• Monitor industry trends likely to affect clients' investments

• Keep abreast of current investment products and markets trends





Licensing Needed to Become a Financial Advisor

As financial advisory is a regulated industry, you need to be licensed in order to become a financial advisor. The licensing requirements for Canada and the United States include:


Canada: Licensing Requirements 


In Canada, the Canadian Securities Course is required to sell securities and mutual funds, or the Canadian Investment Funds Course to sell mutual funds.


The Canadian Securities Institute (CSI) also offers the Financial Management Advisor (FMA) designation to applicants who have completed the Canadian Securities Course, Professional Financial Planning Course and Wealth Management Techniques Course.


CSI also offers the Personal Financial Planner (PFP) designation to financial advisement professionals who have completed a recognized educational route offered by the institute.



United States: Licensing Requirements


The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the regulatory authority in the United States. All financial brokers must be licensed and registered by FINRA, pass their qualification exams and satisfy continuing education requirements in order to maintain their license.


Those who want to become financial advisors who directly buy or sell stocks, bonds, insurance policies, or specific investment advice need a combination of licenses from FINRA, which may vary based on the products they sell.


Financial advisors who choose to sell insurance products need licenses issued by state licensing boards. State licensing board information and requirements for registered investment advisors are available from the North American Securities Administrators Association.



Skills Needed to Be Successful

To be effective in a career as a financial advisor, you need to posses a certain set of skills. These skills will allow you to perform your job duties with competence; you will need them in order to develop and maintain a profitable client base.


• Able to develop rapport with customers

• Able to apply listening skills in order to determine client needs

• Able to understand complex financial documents such as wills, insurance policies and financial statements

• Knowledge of financial products (knowledge may be acquired during on-the-job training)

• Entrepreneurial and marketing skills

• Able to balance the needs of clients with the range of financial products being offered

• Excellent presentation skills



Personal Characteristics Needed

In order to enjoy performing the duties of a financial advisor, you need to have certain traits. Taking enjoyment from your duties as a financial advisor is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which usually leads to having a long and successful career.


• Enjoy helping people financially prepare for their futures

• Respect for client confidentiality

• Enjoy getting to know the needs and goals of clients

• Willing to keep up to date with advancements in the industry, including financial products and regulations

• Able to endure the possibility of low earnings, especially while beginning a career as a financial advisor

• An interest in having control over your own income level

• Enjoy meeting new people

• A keen interest in building a business

• Willing to ‘cold call’ and ‘door knock’ to develop your client base

• An interest in life insurance, health insurance, wealth accumulation, and savings products



Who Employs Financial Advisors?

Financial advisors may be employed by small financial planning businesses or are self-employed. Others are employed on a full-time basis or contract their services to larger firms and organizations such as:


• Trust companies

• Banks and other lending institutions

• Stock brokerage firms

• Insurance agencies

• Legal firms

• Accounting firms

• Mutual fund companies

• Private financial planning companies



Financial Advisor Jobs - Current Opportunities

Our job board below has "financial advisor" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.




Career Advancement Possibilities

Financial advisors that are experienced, highly knowledgeable, skilled, and demonstrate initiative put themselves in position for career advancement opportunities. Those that demonstrate these attributes have the opportunity to grow their business by expanding their client base, or move into positions of greater responsibility, such as:


• Sales manager

• Associate manager

• Senior Associate manager

• Regional manager

• Financial Centre manager

• Regional Vice President



How Much Do They Earn?

The salary level of financial advisors can vary greatly depending on factors such as whether they are compensated by commission or salary, whether or not they receive bonuses, their job performance, whether or not they are self-employed, the size and type of their employer, their level of experience and many other factors.


According to the Canadian Securities Institute, the majority of investment and financial advisors earn fixed salaries during their initial training period. Following their initial training period, compensation is typically based on commission or fees generated from client assets under administration.


Financial Advisor Salary - Canada: According to the 2017 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Other Financial Officers occupational group earn an average salary of $77,878 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (July 15, 2019).


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median income level of American workers in the Personal Financial Advisors occupational group is $67,520 per year. The lowest 10% of yearly earnings are below $32,280, and the top 10% are above $187,200 per year.



Similar Careers in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to "financial advisor", as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Budget Analyst

Credit Counselor 

Insurance Agent 

Investment Analyst 

Sales Representative




Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a financial advisor.


Occupations in Alberta: Financial Planner.” (March 30, 2017). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 21, 2019.

Business & Financial: Personal Financial Advisors.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 21, 2019.

Investing:Should you change careers and become an investment advisor?” Dan Bortolotti (July 30, 2018). MoneySense website. Retrieved November 21, 2019.


Please Note: Much of the information for this career guide was gathered from actual job postings, which due to the brief nature of their online presence, are not listed here as sources.



Scholarships for Becoming a Financial Advisor

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a financial advisor can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for working in this field:


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