What degree do I need to be a financial advisor?

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As the name implies, a financial advisor is one who gives counseling, suggestions, guidance, and recommendations on matters of money for his/her clients. Thus, it is a job wherein the advisor uses his/her education and knowledge to help individuals, couples and even small businesses reach their respective financial objectives. This is a people-oriented job as it entails face-to-face discussion with clients. You may prefer to be one of the 20% of advisors who are self-employed or work in a large financial institution replete with benefits and other perks.

Is there a difference between an advisor and an adviser? According to some texts, the words are not interchangeable in the financial services industry. The former term applies to being a practicing financial advisor. Adviser, according to Congress and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) refer to advisory matters referencing the law.


Now that we’ve established you want to be an advisor and not an adviser, we’ll look at education requirements. As you peruse the multitude of colleges and universities, you may wonder if this is a good career choice. The US Labor Department has projected a 27% growth rate through 2022 in this field; that’s an additional 60,300 new positions.

For starters, you’ll need a Bachelor’s Degree in finance from either a brick-and-mortar college/university or online program. A quick search online reveals numerous online finance degree programs for those seeking this route. Regardless of your choice, finance or financial planning courses are contained within the Bachelor of Business Administration programs. Typical coursework overs a range of topics such as accounting, economics, taxation, business law, and banking.

Beyond the undergrad degree is a graduate-level financial planning curriculum within a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. This degree usually takes up to two years to complete. However, many MBA candidates opt to obtain the degree through evening and weekend classes or online while employed. If a MBA is in your sights when job hunting, it’s worthwhile to inquire about their policy regarding advanced degrees. Should an employer pay for your MBA, there’s no obligation to be beholden to this company. Your MBA may provide more beneficial career possibilities worthy of pursuit.

Also, there are Doctor of Business Administration and Ph.D. programs offered at over 300 campus and online accredited colleges/universities in the U.S..  The prerequisites vary per institution; some programs may require prior employment in a related field of business.


Regardless of what your career choice is under the financial advisor umbrella, there are many types of charters and certificates one may add to your credentials:

  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP) – for general advising to taxes to estate planning
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)- investment expert
  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)- specialize in life insurance
  • Certified public Accountant (CPA)- focus is on tax preparation, tax strategies, and investment organization
  • Certified Fund Specialist (CFS)- mutual fund experts

This is not an all inclusive list. Most of these are completed as you hone your skills in a specific area of the financial realm.


The designations in the prior section influence your job prospects and salary. This a vast array of financial services’ companies and firms to consider when starting your career. Some of the familiar names are: Charles Schwab, Fidelity, Wells Fargo, Allstate, Merrill Lynch, Metlife, Prudential, and the list goes on…

The Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012, reported the average salary for personal financial planners at $91,000. Housed within all the major brokerage firms, there is a staff of mutual fund managers. Salaries and bonuses in this field can be extremely lucrative .


We live in a capitalistic society. The majority don’t have the knowledge, education or expertise to  manage their money proficiently. The young couple saving for the future or the soon-to-be retiree require guidince from an expert. This is the role of the professional financial advisor.

Related Resources:

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Financial Analyst?

For Further Reading: 

What Degree Do I Need to Be a Policy Analyst?