Financial advisors are licensed financial professionals that help clients meet their investment and other financial goals. Financial advisors recommend investments such as stocks and bonds, thus serving primarily as financial services sales representatives. They may also help families establish budgets, purchase life insurance products and set up trusts, when necessary. The length of time you must study to be a financial advisor ultimately depends upon your background.
Most companies in the financial services field require or at least prefer applicants with a bachelor's degree over those who have no degree. A bachelor's degree provides you with a wide range of math, communication and analytical skills that employers in this field generally consider to be valuable. What degree you pursue en route to becoming a financial advisor is ultimately up to you, but having a background in economics, finance or business can be helpful. Since most bachelor's degrees take about four years to complete, this will be the minimum time frame required to study to become a financial advisor, unless you have already completed your college education.
Once you apply to become a financial advisor and receive an offer of employment, you can obtain eligibility to sit for the Series 7 and Series 66 licensing exam. The former is the national licensing exam required by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA. The exam is an extensive test of all aspects of the financial services industry, along with its rules and regulations. The Series 66 exam qualifies you for practice as a financial advisor in your state. You can begin studying for these before you finish college, but it is likely that you will need to have several months of full-time study and preparation leading up to the exams, so it may not be possible to do so while in college. Some financial services companies will pay you to study full-time leading up to the exams. This takes approximately four months.
Even though you pass your licensing exams, you may not be entirely ready to set out on your own as a financial advisor. Some financial firms require that you continue to study and prepare once you are licensed by completing their education and training programs. For instance, some companies require an additional nine weeks of training learning how to properly prospect, develop your business marketing plan and complete other steps necessary to get up and running as a financial advisor.
Including college education, the amount of time it takes to become a full-fledged financial advisor is about five years. However, studying and education does not stop at the point the advisor becomes licensed and begins setting up his business. Instead, financial advisor training is an ongoing process. Many financial services companies offer life insurance products, for example, which requires additional licensing and training. Most states require continuing education once you obtain your insurance license. Studying to become a successful financial advisor is something that most advisors must commit to for a lifetime.