Becoming a Financial Advisor

Throughout the fall semester of Biomedical Professions, I discovered quite a bit about myself and my future career goals. I realized that while I enjoy helping individuals and holding responsibility, medical school is not my desired destination. I am a business-oriented person who would like to be influential in helping others make smart financial decisions, invest their money, and achieve their financial goals. Such are the responsibilities of a financial advisor. I want to learn how to handle my own money and steer others in the right direction. Having observed financial crisis in my family, the news, and the community, I think it is important that everyone know how to plan for retirement, college, emergencies, and save for special purchases. Therefore, I would like to pursue the financial planning degree, offered as a concentration within a Master of Business program. In order to become a financial advisor, there are specific training, academic, and nonacademic prerequisites one must meet.

            First, there are a number of accredited universities in the United States which offer a Master or Bachelor of Business program. My first choice, of course, would be Western Michigan University. To major in finance at WMU, 24 credit hours must be completed, including four required courses and four elective courses. The required courses include Introduction to Financial Markets, Business Finance, Computer Applications in Finance, and Investment Analysis. In addition, the student must complete the program requirements for the Bachelor of Business Administration degree which includes six advanced Haworth College of Business courses. The next university I would consider would be Michigan State University. The Department of Finance at MSU offers a Master of Science degree program with a major in finance. Applicants should have an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution, with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. A GMAT or GRE score from the last five years is also required, with a minimum score of 500 on the GMAT and 1050 on the GRE. Finally, students should have equivalents to the MSU courses: MTH 124 and STT 315. As I would enjoy staying in Michigan, my third choice for graduate school would be the University of Michigan. To be considered for admission, a student must have a four-year US Bachelor’s degree, a grade of a “C” or better in undergraduate mathematics, a GMAT or GRE test within the previous five years, and three credits of financial accounting. The curriculum includes 6 core and 4 elective courses. Next, Arizona State University, ranked #2 in the United States for their online graduate degree, offers an intensive 12 month finance program. The minimum requirements are a B.S. in a business-related field, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and a GMAT or GRE score. Finally, Penn State also offers an online graduate program for people who would like to Master in Finance. The requirements are a baccalaureate or other postsecondary degree, and satisfactory knowledge of business statistics, financial management, and microeconomics.

Many universities require nonacademic prerequisites as well. Michigan State University requires at least two years of full time work experience after earning the Bachelor’s degree, and two letters of recommendation. It is recommended that one letter be from a faculty member the student had as a teacher. Knowledge of personal computing, Internet, word processing, and spreadsheets are also a must. At Arizona State University, they state that no work experience is required, nor does it affect the application decision. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that speaking, analytical, math, selling, and interpersonal skills are desirable in financial advising positions. Penn State would like that an applicant sends them a brief one to two page resume, and a one page statement that outlines the applicant’s short and long-term professional goals. Like MSU, Penn State asks for two letters of recommendation, either academic or professional. Although the university websites do not list the following as necessary traits, it is pertinent that financial advisors be courteous and understanding because they deal with a wide variety of people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Additionally, being familiar with Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, Excel and other software, is a valuable asset. 

            Training is not a required prerequisite for a MS of Finance program, however, it is recommended and essential to prepare for licensing exams. One way to gain experience is to work for a bank or credit union. Here, one will learn about what being a financial advisor entails. Usually, after this, one works as an assistant to a financial advisor and works within the industry until acquiring the various certificates necessary to work independently. Some large investment companies offer complete training programs to financial advisors; smaller companies offer opportunities for one-on-one mentoring. Training prepares a financial advisor for the next step in their career, obtaining the necessary professional licenses. How one chooses to build a financial planning career decides which license they will need. For example, to sell securities, one must obtain a Series 7 license. To sell mutual funds, one must obtain a Series 6.  Since I would like to receive compensation for my advice, I would like to become a Registered Investment Advisor, therefore, I would have to pass the Series 66, 6 and 7 exam. Several financial planners become CFPs, or, Certified Financial Planners. To do so, one must take preparation courses at an accredited university, pass a two-day, ten-hour examination, have three years of work experience, and a four-year college degree. The certificate is offered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards and earns yourself credentials while advancing your employment opportunities.


In conclusion, a financial advisor must undergo graduate schooling, training, and professional license exams in order to acquire a management position or work independently as a financial advisor. The five universities outlined above offer intensive MS of Finance programs, with the exception of Western Michigan University. They each require a bachelor’s degree in business and a satisfactory knowledge of financial management gained from either work experience or undergraduate courses. They also require a Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score, which are standardized test scores used for admission to graduate school. Furthermore, universities may require letters of recommendation, work experience, and an outline of the applicant’s goals. Financial advisors can train with small or large investment companies, where they can accumulate work experience and broaden their knowledge by performing various tasks with clients. Finally, they can take their pick of a number of professional license exams, which give them an edge over their competition by establishing their high level of education, experience and ethics. Overall, becoming a financial advisor takes responsibility, competency and commitment.


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