How to become a financial advisor

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AdvisorFinder Team
May 8, 2023
11 min read


In this guide, we will discuss how to become a financial advisor and decide if this is the right career path for you.

Being a financial advisor can be akin to being a 'financial therapist' in certain ways. As a financial advisor, you become a part of your clients' major life events like retirement, inheritance, and having a baby. Don’t be surprised if you are the first person your client calls you during a major life event - good or bad.

You are also responsible for assisting your clients in managing their fears, such as economic downturns and financial instability. Although this is what makes being a financial advisor gratifying, it is also the reason why becoming one is challenging.

As a financial advisor, your clients entrust you with confidential information regarding their finances. Building that trust means passing exams and holding yourself to the utmost standards of professionalism and integrity.

What do financial advisors do?

Financial advisors provide advice and guidance to individuals and businesses on managing their finances. They help clients develop and achieve their financial goals by offering personalized recommendations on investments, insurance, taxes, retirement planning, and other financial matters.

Financial advisors gather information about clients' financial situations, assess their risk tolerance, and develop strategies to meet their objectives. They monitor clients' portfolios, review investment performance, and make adjustments as needed.

Financial advisors also educate clients on financial literacy, help them navigate complex financial decisions, and provide ongoing support and guidance. They may work independently, for a financial institution, or as part of a team with other professionals, such as attorneys and accountants. The ultimate goal of a financial advisor is to help clients make informed financial decisions that align with their values and priorities.

To learn more about what advisors do, read our guide about services provided by financial advisors.

What are the responsibilities of financial advisors?

Financial advisors have a broad range of responsibilities to help their clients manage their finances effectively. One of their primary tasks is to assess their clients' financial goals and needs, taking into account their current financial situation and any other factors that may be relevant. Based on this information, financial advisors develop personalized financial plans to help clients achieve their objectives.

Another crucial responsibility of financial advisors is to educate their clients on financial literacy and help them make informed financial decisions. They stay up-to-date with industry trends and changes in the market to offer the best advice possible. 

Day in the life look like for a financial advisor

A day in the life of a financial advisor can be quite varied but generally involves a mix of client meetings, prospecting meetings, being involved in the community, administrative tasks, and market research.

One of the primary responsibilities of a financial advisor is to meet with clients to discuss their financial goals and provide advice and guidance. A typical day may involve several client meetings, which could include reviewing their financial plans, discussing investment performance, or addressing any concerns or questions they may have. Financial advisors are often their own bosses, so each advisor could have a very different day.

Education that helps people become advisors

Although it isn’t required, having a background and a bachelor's degree in a related field such as finance, accounting, economics, or business is helpful. After all, you are dealing with people’s finances and businesses.

Experience in the financial services industry can also be beneficial, such as working as a financial analyst or in a related role. Developing strong analytical and communication skills, as well as a solid understanding of financial concepts and markets, can help individuals succeed as financial advisors. Financial advisors must be able to communicate effectively and explain complex financial topics.

Certifications and licenses needed to become a financial advisor

Some of the common certifications and licenses to become a financial advisor include:

Series 7 - General Securities Representative Exam

  • SIE is a prerequisite
  • 125 question exam
  • 3 hours and 45 minutes to take the Series 7
  • $300 to take the Series 7
  • Passing score of 72%

Series 66 - Uniform Combined State Law Exam

  • 100-question exam
  • 2 hours and 30 minutes to take the Series 66
  • $177 to take the Series 66

Series 63 - Uniform Securities Agent State Law Exam

  • 60-question exam
  • 1 hour and 15 minutes to take the Series 63 exam
  • $147 to take the Series 63

Series 65 - Uniform Investment Adviser Law Exam

  • 130-question exam
  • 3 hours to take the Series 65
  • $187 to take the Series 65

Securities Industry Essentials® (SIE®) Exam

  • 75-question exam
  • 1 hour and 45 minutes to take the SIE
  • $80 to take the SIE
  • Passing score of 70%

The SIE®, which is administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), is required for individuals seeking to enter the securities industry. The Series 65 exam is specifically for investment advisers, while the Series 7 and Series 66 exams are more general securities exams.

Financial advisors must register with the SEC or state securities regulators. However, if you work for a larger firm, the firm typically registers with the SEC and the specific state securities regulators, as well as FINRA in some cases.

man wearing tie and glasses sitting in a library with a stack of books, papers flying all around him, man is studying a book

In addition to the exams listed above, there are many other educational programs, professional certifications and designations that financial advisors may get to add more depth to their education. Below is a list of other credentials and designations that are common among financial advisors and planners. However, this is by no means a full list; there are so many certifications!


  • 170-question final exam
  • two 3-hour test sections during one day
  • approx. $925 to take the CFP® exam
  • the CFP® final exam is offered only 3 times per year
  • about 65% of candidates pass the exam
  • 30 hours of continuing education credits every two years

Chartered Retirement Planning CounselorSM (CRPC®)

  • Topics: • Principles and Strategies When Investing for Retirement, Understanding Social Security, Military and Government Retirement Benefits, Identifying Other Sources of Retirement Income, Navigating Health Care Options in Retirement, Making the Emotional and Financial Transition to Retirement, Designing Optimal Retirement Income Stream, Achieving Income Tax and Estate Planning Objectives in Retirement
  • 85-question final exam
  • 3 hours to take the CRPC® exam
  • $1,350 to take the CRPC® exam
  • Passing score of 70%
  • 16 hours of continuing education credits every two years

Accredited Asset Management SpecialistSM (AAMS®)

  • Topics: The Asset Management Process, Risk, Return, and Investment Performance Asset Allocation and Security Selection Investment Strategies, Taxation of Investments, Investing for Retirement, Deferred Compensation and Other Benefit Plans, Insurance Products for Investment Clients, Estate Planning for Investment Clients
  • 80-question final exam
  • 3 hours to take the AAMS® exam
  • $1,350 to take the AAMS® exam
  • Passing score of 70%
  • 16 hours of continuing education credits every two years

Accredited Wealth Management AdvisorSM (AWMA®)

  • Topics: Investment Risk, Return, and Performance, Advanced Investment Products and Strategies, Considerations for Business Owners, Income Tax Strategies for High Net Worth Clients, Executive Benefits Planning for High Net Worth Clients, Estate Planning for High Net Worth Clients
  • 80-question final exam
  • 3 hours to take the AWMA® exam
  • $1,350 to take the AWMA® exam
  • Passing score of 70%
  • 16 hours of continuing education credits every two years

Salary expectations for financial advisors

The salary expectations for financial advisors vary greatly depending on multiple factors:

How advisors charge clients

Advisors who charge clients an AUM fee, assets under management, can expect to get paid somewhere around 1% of the assets they manage. For example, a financial advisor who manages $50,000,000 of client assets and charges a 1% fee results in $500,000 in revenue. This is not the advisor's salary, as it does not account for fees, taxes, and other expenses.

Advisors who charge a flat fee for their services may charge anywhere from $300 a month, $2,500 per quarter, or upwards of $10,000 per client per year.

If the advisor works independently or within a firm

Financial advisors who work within a firm typically split their revenue with the firm because the firm is covering the expenses associated with regulatory fees, software fees, marketing fees, and administrative fees. Financial advisors who work independently do not split their revenue, but they are responsible for the above expenses.


Some financial advisors start off making a salary, which is typical for new advisors working in large firms. However, they do not make as much in client-related fees like AUM fees described above.

Average income for financial advisors as of 2021 is about $125k. However, the income of a financial advisor can vary greatly depending on how the advisor charges their clients and if the advisor works independently or within a firm.

Being a financial advisor is a rewarding career

Those who choose to become financial advisors end up loving their career path. As a financial advisor, you have the opportunity to change people's lives and allow them to achieve their goals in life. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a financial advisor is seeing your clients' progress towards their goals. Whether it's saving for retirement, buying a house, or starting a business, you get to be a part of their journey and help them navigate any obstacles that may arise.

As an advisor, you also have the opportunity to educate your clients on financial literacy and empower them to make informed decisions about their money. This can lead to long-term financial security and peace of mind for both you and your clients.

In addition to helping individuals achieve their personal goals, being a financial advisor also allows you to contribute to your community by supporting local businesses and organizations. By helping your clients manage their finances effectively, you are indirectly promoting economic growth in your area.

Overall, being a financial advisor is much more than just managing money - it's about building relationships with people and making a positive impact on their lives. You get to build lasting relationships with clients and peers and typically get to have fun along the way. Additionally, your earning potential is vast alongside a good work-life balance.

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AdvisorFinder Team
May 8, 2023
10 min read