How Do I Become a Financial Planner?

If you are good at mathematics and have an analytical nature, you might wonder how to become a financial planner. A financial planner is a personal financial advisor who has earned certification as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). With people from all socioeconomic classes, not just the most wealthy, trying to make smart investments and save money for retirement and children’s college funds, financial planning is an important and rapidly-growing field.

Financial planners are also known as personal financial advisors, though they have earned additional credentials that other personal financial advisors have not. Ultimately, their professional goal is to help clients manage their money successfully. Financial planners must be good listeners, talking to clients about their financial resources and goals. They must use their knowledge of investment strategies to determine how their clients should save or invest their money to reach goals such as profiting from stocks or saving money for retirement.

To begin preparing for a career as a financial planner, candidates should first earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Although a few colleges have begun to offer programs in financial planning specifically, any business or related major that includes coursework in economics, finance, accounting or mathematics can appeal to potential employers. Regardless of degree requirements, aspiring financial planners should be sure to complete courses in risk management, investments, and financial laws, such as those involving estate planning and taxes. To improve their job prospects and earning potential, some candidates pursue a graduate-level degree in finance or business administration as well.

The major distinction between financial planners and other personal financial advisors is the CFP certification from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Earning certification is an achievement that reflects that a professional has at least three years of experience as a financial advisor, has successfully completed a 10-hour examination and has formally subscribed to a code of ethical standards. Financial planners may also need to seek licensure to participate in certain business-related activities, such as selling stocks or insurance policies, though exact licensure requirements vary by state.

Personal financial advisors as a whole earn a median salary of $64,750 per year, not including bonuses, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Actual wages often vary by employer, education, experience and location. Those professionals who have put in the years of experience and undergone the lengthy certification process to become a Certified Financial Planner may have a significantly higher earning potential, with top earners making six-figure salaries. Collectively, personal financial advisors can anticipate a highly positive job outlook, with an expected 32 percent increase in job opportunities over a ten-year period. The BLS anticipates only 14 percent job growth throughout all occupations over that timeframe. If you enjoy working with numbers and interacting with clients and aren’t afraid to work under pressure, knowing how to become a financial planner could be the start of a lucrative new career in the fast-paced field of finance.

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