How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree (6 steps)

How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree

How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree: You can become a certified financial adviser even if you didn’t go to college. Consider taking certification programs from recognized bodies like CFP and CFA. The Series 7 license from FINRA is commonly used, allowing you to sell various securities, but you need to pass the SIE exam first.

If you lack a bachelor’s degree, you can still become a CFA Institute Charter holder, but you must have two years of work experience to be eligible. These certifications can help you establish yourself as a qualified financial adviser.

In a study by Intelliflo in 2022, nearly three out of five Americans mentioned they needed financial guidance but didn’t know where to find it. Northwestern Mutual surveys also reveal a growing trend in people working with financial advisors, increasing from 22% in 2020 to 26% in 2021 and reaching 35% in 2022. This shift is especially noticeable among millennials, with 40% of them reporting that they currently have a financial advisor.

More and more people are seeking help with their finances. It’s a great time to think about becoming a financial advisor since it offers a good annual income of $94,170 and a strong job outlook, with a projected 5% increase each year, as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Also read: How to Become a Stockbroker Without a Degree (7 Steps)

How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree

But what if you don’t have a college degree, can you become a financial advisor?

“I’m here to help you become a financial advisor without spending a ton of money on a finance degree. I’ll guide you through the steps to enter this lucrative industry.”

  1. What is the role of a financial advisor?
  2. Is a financial advisor required to have a degree?
  3. What skills does a financial advisor need?
  4. What financial advisor certificates should you aim for?
  5. What securities licenses does a financial advisor need?
  6. What career options are open to financial advisors without a college degree?
  7. What are the steps to becoming a financial advisor without a degree?

1. What is the role of a financial advisor?

A financial advisor is a professional who helps individuals or businesses with investing and saving money. They help create financial plans, set investment goals, and offer guidance on the best ways to achieve those goals.

Here’s a brief overview of the day-to-day tasks that financial advisors handle:

Meeting with clients to discuss their financial goals: Financial advisors need to understand what their clients want to achieve with their money. They use both their knowledge of financial products and good communication skills to figure out the client’s goals.

Analyzing the financial situation of clients: The financial advisor looks at things like debts, investments, savings, and credit history during this examination. It’s important because it helps create a smart plan to help clients save and invest their money wisely. If the financial advisor works with a company, they also check the company’s financial statements.

Developing financial plans and investment portfolios: Once the financial advisor knows what the client wants and understands their money situation, they can start planning the best way to save and invest. This often involves creating a personalized investment plan for each client or business. [How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree]

Making recommendations for financial products: Once the financial advisor understands what the client wants and knows their financial situation, they can start suggesting specific financial products like stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. These recommendations aim to help the customer reach their financial goals.

Monitoring clients’ progress: Financial advisors regularly check in with their clients to see how they’re doing financially. This involves looking at the client’s financial portfolio and making any needed adjustments.

This list doesn’t cover everything – a financial advisor might have more tasks based on their expertise, experience, and the client they’re working with. But overall, a financial advisor’s main job is to advise clients on improving their financial situation.

2. Does a financial advisor need a college degree?

You don’t need a college degree to become a financial advisor. Many job opportunities and licensing organizations like NASAA and FINRA in the US don’t demand a degree. However, having a degree can give you advantages in a competitive job market. With a bachelor’s degree, you may need less work experience to take licensure exams, like the Series 7, providing you with a better chance in the job market.

Having formal certificates and degrees boosts people’s trust in personal financial advisors. Trust is crucial in this job, and it can be harder to establish without a college degree. How much a college education helps as a financial advisor also varies by country. In the US, our research found that employers in different states have different expectations for financial advisor job postings. [How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree]

Also read: How to Become an Actuary without a Degree (7 Steps)

In California and North Carolina, more than half of the financial advisor job postings (over 60%) required candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree. On the other hand, places like Texas, Florida, New York, and others had lower expectations, with only about 40% of job ads asking for a degree. On average, our research found that 53% of financial advisor positions in the US are open to candidates without a degree.

Here are the percentages and total numbers of positions held by financial advisors without a degree in the ten most populated states in the US.

Nº of no-degree jobsTotal jobs% of no-degree jobs

California 947 2,410 39.29%

Texas 778 1,499 51.90%

Florida 580 999 58.06%

New York 617 1,199 51.46%

Pennsylvania 468 883 53.00%

Illinois 607 1,075 56.47%

Ohio 298 489 60.94%

Georgia 403 796 50.63%

North Carolina 346 530 43.69%

Michigan 449 792 56.69%

Nº of no-degree jobsTotal jobs% of no-degree jobsCalifornia9472,41039.29%Texas7781,49951.90%Florida58099958.06%New York6171,19951.46%Pennsylvania46888353.00%Illinois6071,07556.47%Ohio29848960.94%Georgia40379650.63%North Carolina34653043.69%Michigan44979256.69%

Employment prospects for non-degree-holding financial advisors in the United States (2022)

How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree
Employment prospects for non-degree-holding financial advisors in the United States (2022)

3. Essentials skills a Financial Advisor should have

Financial advisors don’t have to have a degree by law, but they do need specific skills to do their job well.

Analytical skills

To help their clients, financial advisors need to understand and analyze tricky financial information. They often deal with details from credit reports, investment portfolios, and financial accounts. That’s why many financial advisors know about business, accounting, and data analysis.

Communication skills

Financial advisors have to explain things in a way that’s easy for their clients to understand. This means simplifying complicated financial ideas. They also work with clients who may find it hard to express their financial goals. Therefore, to truly grasp what each customer needs, financial advisors need to be good listeners who are skilled and caring. [How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree]

Risk management

In money matters, there’s always some level of risk. For example, things like market changes, which financial advisors can’t control, might impact even the most careful retirement plans. Financial advisors need to fully understand all the risks linked to the financial products they recommend to clients. They also must be good at managing their clients’ expectations about these risks.

Research skills 

Every client of a financial advisor is a bit different. This is especially true for financial advisors who help businesses. For example, the financial situation of a funeral home is very different from that of a hotel business. These two types of establishments react to changes in the economy in completely different ways. Financial advisors must understand the specific industries of their clients to give advice that suits their unique situations.

A thorough understanding of different financial products.

Knowing about various financial products is a crucial skill for a financial advisor. If they don’t understand the different options available, they can’t do their job well. This includes things like retirement plans, insurance policies, and investment options. To provide the best advice to their clients, financial advisors need to keep up with the latest changes and updates in the financial industry.

Optimizing taxes

Every financial advisor needs to know and understand the tax laws in the country they work in. When people think about financial advisors, they often think about optimizing taxes. Many find tax rules confusing, and even if they know there are ways to save on taxes, they might be afraid of making mistakes. That’s where skilled financial advisors come in. They ensure their clients use all the tax benefits, incentives, and opportunities available, helping them save both time and money. [How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree]

Financial modeling

To understand how different financial situations may impact an individual or a company, financial models are used. All financial advisors should be able to create these models. With financial modeling, advisors can show clients the potential outcomes of certain decisions, making it a valuable tool. It also allows advisors to test their recommendations under different conditions before suggesting them to clients.

Also read: How to become a millionaire without a college degree (10 Tips)

4. Certificates Financial Advisors should consider

Right now, you don’t need a specific education for this job. But if you want people to trust your financial advice, having proof of your experience is important. Even if you’re good at finance, having certifications from well-known finance programs can make your resume look more impressive. These programs are offered by respected universities in the finance field. So, even if you didn’t study finance formally, having these certifications can boost your credibility.

Let’s take a closer look at four certificates that are worth it for people who want to be financial advisors. The best part is, you can get these certificates even if you don’t have a degree.

  1. Certificate in Investment Performance Management 
  2.  Enrolled Agent
  3.  Financial Modeling and Valuation Analyst Certification 
  4.  Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor

1. Certificate in Investment Performance Management: The CIPM is a top-notch investment certification program by the CFA Institute, known worldwide. People with CIPM credentials are expected to have a good understanding of global portfolio management, attribution analysis, and investment performance assessment. The program is challenging and takes about 18 months on average to complete, but it’s quicker than earning a finance bachelor’s degree. Plus, having a CIPM can be just as attractive to employers and job seekers. [How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree]

2. Enrolled Agent: You can obtain this certification directly from the IRS. Being an enrolled agent gives you the power to represent taxpayers before the IRS. As mentioned earlier, tax optimization is a common task for financial advisors. To earn this credential, you need to pass a three-part exam evaluating your abilities in individual and business tax returns. Once enrolled as an agent, you can represent your clients before the IRS at all administrative levels.

3. Financial Modeling and Valuation Analyst Certification: Without a degree, you can obtain this certification program from the Corporate Finance Institute. It covers topics ranging from valuation to financial analysis and modeling. This highly practical certification program prepares students for a career in finance. Upon completion, students can choose between receiving a physical or digital certification.

4. Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor: Most financial advisors deal with taxes and retirement planning. They must grasp retirement planning early on. The College for Financial Planning offers the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor certificate, providing insights into retirement planning intricacies. Aspiring finance professionals can learn about employee benefits, tax laws, and strategies for investing in retirement through this certification.

Financial advisors have many valuable certification options to choose from. The four examples mentioned here are just a few relevant ones for those starting their career without a formal degree.

5. What securities licenses does a financial advisor need?

To demonstrate your finance expertise and industry understanding, getting certifications is crucial. Financial advisors don’t necessarily need certifications, but a license is essential. The specific requirements for becoming a financial advisor depend on the state, and the permits you need will vary based on the products and services you plan to offer. [How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree]

Let’s explore some internationally recognized licenses and how you can obtain them in the following sections.

Series 6 license from FINRAThe Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the group that looks after the investment field in the US. If you hold a Series 6 license, you can sell certain investment products such as mutual funds and variable annuities. To obtain this license, you must pass an exam conducted by FINRA. The test includes topics like federal securities laws, variable contracts, and investment products.

Series 7 license from FINRA: The Series 7 license is like a general-securities representative license. With this license, financial advisors can sell a wide range of securities, including stocks, bonds, and options. The test for the Series 7 license is managed by FINRA and covers topics such as derivatives, debt securities, and equity securities.

Series 63 license from NASAA: The Series 63 license, also known as the Uniform Securities Agent State Law Examination, allows financial advisors to sell securities products in their home state. This license is regulated by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA). To obtain this license, you need to pass a test administered by NASAA, which covers state securities laws and ethical standards in the securities sector.

Series 65 license from NASAA: Financial advisors who pass the Series 65 license, also known as the Uniform Investment Adviser Law Examination, can offer investment advice to clients and earn commissions from the sale of securities products. To obtain this license, you need to pass an exam administered by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA). The exam covers investment methods, portfolio management, and ethical standards. [How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree]

Registered Investment Advisor (RIA): A registered investment advisor, or RIA, is a company authorized by the federal or state government to offer financial advice. To operate, they must register with a regulator like the SEC and have a fiduciary duty to prioritize their client’s interests. You don’t need to start as a financial advisor; you can pursue the role of a registered investment advisor later in your career.

Getting these licenses can be tough, but with good preparation and understanding of the relevant concepts, passing the tests is doable. The main challenge, especially for those without a college degree, is gaining sufficient work experience to qualify for the exams.

6. What career options are open to financial advisors without a college degree?

Just like in many other careers, financial advisors have various specialized options, and your choices aren’t heavily dependent on having a college degree.

Here are common career paths for financial advisors:

Investment advisor

Investment advisers work for investment firms. They advise businesses, governments, and individuals about mergers, acquisitions, and initial public offerings (IPOs). They also help businesses raise money by selling securities. On average, a financial advisor in this role makes about $73,745 per year.

Asset managers

Asset managers handle the investment portfolios of individuals and institutions. They choose which stocks, ETFs, and other assets to buy or sell, aiming to help clients achieve their financial goals. If you’re considering a career in asset or wealth management, do your research as the differences between these fields might be slight. On average, asset managers make around $74,592 per year. [How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree]

personal financial advisor

A “personal financial advisor” is a general term for professionals who provide financial services to individuals. They assist clients with tasks like managing portfolios, making investment decisions, and addressing personal finance matters. A personal financial advisor usually earns around $74,760 per year.

Tax consultants

Tax consultants support both individuals and businesses with tax preparation, planning, and guidance. They help clients save money by legally minimizing their tax obligations, and they can be particularly sought after during tax season. On average, tax advisors earn $62,502 per year.

Financial planner

Financial planner financial planners stand out for their long-term focus compared to financial advisors. Financial planning involves creating a comprehensive plan that considers all aspects of an individual’s or family’s finances, including retirement planning, investing, saving, and budgeting. On average, a financial planner earns $65,613 per year.

Estate planners

Estate planners help people and families plan how their assets will be distributed after they pass away. They guide the creation of trusts, reducing estate taxes, and making other financial arrangements. On average, an estate planner earns $106,570 per year.

Insurance advisor

Insurance advisors help clients choose the right insurance plans. They assess the client’s needs, determine the type and level of coverage required, and then offer suitable insurance options. On average, an insurance advisor earns $88,884 per year. [How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree]

7. Steps to become a financial advisor without a degree?

How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree
  1. Choose a career path.
  2.  Outline your certification and licensing objectives
  3.  Earn a financial advisor certification.
  4.  Clear the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam.
  5.  Find a job or internship within a FINRA-member firm.
  6.  Acquire one of the Series Licenses from FINRA.

1. Choose a career path.

Not having a finance degree gives you the freedom to shape your career. You don’t need to write essays or attend lectures on topics that won’t benefit your chosen path. Instead, you can pick the specific area of the financial services industry that interests you the most and start your career in that direction.

You have many options to specialize in, so don’t stress about it too much right now. Just try to figure out in a general sense what type of financial advisor you’d like to be. This will help you narrow down your focus when looking into licenses and job opportunities later on. Think of it as setting a general direction for your journey in the financial advisory world.

2. Outline your certification and licensing objectives

You have many options to specialize in, so don’t stress about it too much right now. Just try to figure out in a general sense what type of financial advisor you’d like to be. This will help you narrow down your focus when looking into licenses and job opportunities later on. Think of it as setting a general direction for your journey in the financial advisory world.

You don’t necessarily need certification programs; you can gain the skills through self-study. However, self-teaching requires good time management, discipline, and knowing which resources are reliable. If you feel you lack these skills, it might be better to enroll in a certification program. There’s a lot of financial information out there, and some may not be of the best quality. A certification program could guide you more effectively than trying to learn everything independently. [How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree]

When it comes to licensing, you have various options, and I’ve covered the popular ones and their requirements. Your key choices include the Series 64 and Series 65 licenses from NASAA and the Series 6 and Series 7 licenses from FINRA.

I recommend focusing on the Series 7 Exam, especially if you don’t have a specific professional path that excludes standard assets like stocks, bonds, options, and futures. It’s a highly sought-after license among financial advisors, allowing you to sell a broad range of securities products, from funds to municipal securities, stocks, and bonds.

3. Earn a financial advisor certification

Getting certified is highly important if you aim to be a financial advisor without going to college. A financial advisor certification can greatly enhance your job prospects or help you start a successful finance consulting business. It demonstrates your commitment to the field, equipping you with the knowledge and skills needed to pass relevant licensure exams. This certification will enable you to sell various securities products like funds, trusts, municipal securities, stocks, and bonds.

Enrolling in a certification program provides a structured curriculum designed by experts in the field. This ensures you’re learning from reliable sources and saves you time searching for your study materials. For instance, the CIPM Program allows you to apply for the CFA Charterholder and take the CIPM Level I and II Exams. However, note that substantial work experience is required to pass the Level II Exam and become a CFA Charterholder if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree. [How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree]

If you’re interested in financial planning, I recommend exploring CFP-approved educational programs. These courses are often provided by colleges that also offer finance degrees. However, instead of a degree, you’ll earn a certificate that fulfills the requirements for the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) exam.

4. Clear the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam

To be eligible for the Series 7 and 6 exams, you need to pass the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam, a requirement from FINRA. Unlike the Series tests, you don’t need a sponsor from a FINRA-member company or SRO to take the SIE. The only condition is that you must be 18 years old.

I highly recommend prioritizing the SIE Exam in the coming months. Regardless of the specific license you plan to pursue, passing the SIE opens up more job opportunities. The best part is, you can take it without a college degree or any previous work experience. Don’t be discouraged by concerns about difficulty—it’s not as challenging as the Series 7 or Series 6 exams.

5. Find a job or internship within a FINRA-member firm

Getting hired as an advisor by a brokerage firm without official qualifications or a degree can be challenging. It’s a bit like a chicken-and-egg situation because obtaining the necessary credentials often requires prior work experience. The good news is that there are many internships and entry-level positions available, especially if you completed the previous step and performed well on the SIE exam. [How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree]

While you may not currently have the required licenses to operate as a “financial advisor,” you can start by applying for assistant positions or internships with banks, insurance companies, or investment firms affiliated with FINRA. This is a great way to gain experience and work towards obtaining the necessary qualifications.

Your best opportunity to secure an internship at a firm that is a member of FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) due to sponsorship opportunities. An internship at a FINRA-member firm is often more beneficial in the long run than a full-time paid job at a non-member firm. Sponsorship is crucial because it allows you to take the FINRA Series 6 and 7 exams. Your ultimate goal is to obtain a license, so accepting an internship and sacrificing a bit of income will be worth it if it brings you closer to that objective.

6. Acquire one of the Series Licenses from FINRA

You’ve likely completed a certification program, passed the SIE test, and started gaining some initial work experience, preferably at a FINRA-member firm. The only thing standing between you and starting to sell stocks, bonds, futures, and options is obtaining your license.

To sell and market investments professionally in the United States, having a securities license is a must; there are no exceptions to this rule. Passing one of the FINRA Series tests is inevitable. While there are several good options, such as the Series 6, Series 7, Series 63, and Series 65 exams, I recommend starting with Series 7 as it’s widely considered the most valuable. However, you can also begin with Series 6 or 63 and then progress to Series 7 later, although it’s more challenging to obtain. [How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree]

Don’t stress if you didn’t attend college—the Series 7 Exam doesn’t require a college degree. However, that doesn’t mean the test is a breeze. While the pass rate may be 65%, meeting the requirements can still be a challenge.

if you don’t pass the exam on your first attempt, don’t be discouraged—give it another shot. Keep applying for internships and entry-level positions, and you’ll eventually secure a sponsor. Once you’ve been sponsored and obtained the Series 7 license, you’ve officially become a financial advisor without a college degree. Now, you can work directly with clients, helping them make the most of their spending, improve their financial growth, and even sell stocks, bonds, futures, and options. Congratulations!

Conclusion on How to Become a Financial Advisor Without a Degree

In summary, you can become a financial advisor even without going to college. It’s helpful to get certifications from well-known places like CFP and CFA, not necessary but good for showing you know your stuff. The FINRA Series 7 license lets you sell different kinds of investments, but you need to pass the SIE Exam first

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