How to Become a Certified Financial Adviser

You can help clients build wealth as a financial advisor.

You can help clients build wealth as a financial advisor.

There are a number of laws and regulations that govern financial advisors, also called financial planners. You can’t just hang up a shingle because you’re good at managing money. You may end up working for yourself like most financial advisors, but you better check your state requirements before you go public with your services. When you do, you could earn about $64,750, the median income of financial planners in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS.

Get a bachelor’s degree in accounting, economics or finance. You’ll need it before you can earn official Certified Financial Planner (CFO) credentials. You can take the exam from the Board of Standards, but you won’t get the designation until you can show them a sheepskin.

Work for a certified financial advisor while you’re completing all the educational requirements. You’re going to need three years’ experience on the job or a two-year apprenticeship to get your license, even after you pass the exam.

Complete a program approved by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Courses vary in length and are available through a variety of online organizations and local schools. You need the hours to apply for the exam.

Take the exam, which are offered in various locations around the country three times a year: in November, July and March. The grueling 10-hour test is broken up into three separate sessions and will set you back $595. You also have to pay $100 to apply for your license and $325 each year to renew it.

Tip

You can bypass all the required educational hoops by applying for challenge status with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. If you already hold a law degree or a doctorate in economics, for example, you may be allowed to take the CFP test without any further coursework. If you’re a CPA or a Chartered Financial Analyst, you can also skip the preliminary studies.

Warning

There’s going to be a background check that includes a close look at your own personal finances when you apply for certification as a financial adviser. If you’ve had a bankruptcy in the past five years, you may have to petition the board for a waiver or you will be denied a license. You can’t get a CFP license if you’ve been convicted of tax fraud or have any financial related crimes on your record, and there’s a good chance you’ll be denied if you have any felony convictions.

2016 Salary Information for Personal Financial Advisors

Personal financial advisors earned a median annual salary of $90,530 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, personal financial advisors earned a 25th percentile salary of $57,460, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $160,490, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 271,900 people were employed in the U.S. as personal financial advisors.

Tip

  • You can bypass all the required educational hoops by applying for challenge status with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. If you already hold a law degree or a doctorate in economics, for example, you may be allowed to take the CFP test without any further coursework. If you’re a CPA or a Chartered Financial Analyst, you can also skip the preliminary studies.

Warning

  • There’s going to be a background check that includes a close look at your own personal finances when you apply for certification as a financial adviser. If you’ve had a bankruptcy in the past five years, you may have to petition the board for a waiver or you will be denied a license. You can’t get a CFP license if you’ve been convicted of tax fraud or have any financial related crimes on your record, and there’s a good chance you’ll be denied if you have any felony convictions.
 

About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

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