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What to know about financial advising career paths

(StatePoint) If you’ve decided to pursue a career in financial advising, there are a few things you should know about the many opportunities within this fast-growing field.

Whether you are just starting out or you are looking to make a career change, understanding the typical career path will help you chart your professional development. It will also help you evaluate the different types of positions and specialties within the financial advisory field so that you can decide where your interests and expertise best fit.

Research from the CFP Board Center for Financial Planning has found a common five-step advisory career progression within leading financial planning firms: analyst, associate advisor, service advisor, lead advisor/managing director and principal/partner.

Each of these positions involves a specific set of responsibilities, degrees and required skills. At the entry-level, analysts support a firm’s data maintenance and financial plan preparation, while principals/partners are responsible for managing a large team of advisors, contributing to firm growth, and servicing the most complex and largest client relationships. Some firms may require you to obtain professional certifications, such as the Certified Financial Planner designation, to attain certain positions. The unique skill set you develop while pursuing CFP certification provides a critical foundation to build a successful career in this growing field.

You can also choose to specialize in different areas of financial advising. Deciding which specialty to pursue depends on your interests and qualifications:

  • Financial planners give strategic advice to clients on their finances. They take a comprehensive look at a client’s entire financial picture to make recommendations for meeting short- and long-term personal and financial goals.
  • Accountants counsel clients on tax matters and help them prepare and submit tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Attorneys support financial planners with estate and tax planning expertise and may be asked to provide advice directly to a client or to prepare legal documents needed to implement the client’s financial plan.
  • Estate planners provide clients with specific advice on managing their assets at the time of their death, as well as counsel on estate taxes.
  • Insurance agents are state-licensed individuals who sell or give advice on life, health, property and/or casualty insurance products. Many financial planners are licensed to provide these services, but some may refer clients to an insurance agent instead.
  • Investment advisers provide securities advice to clients. They must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission or state securities agencies.
  • Brokers buy and sell securities products, such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds. They must register with a company member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and pass FINRA-administered securities exams.

These specialties are not mutually exclusive, allowing you to choose several focus areas to service different client needs.

You can find a detailed guide to financial advisory career paths at CFP.net/The-Center-for-Financial-Planning/Initiatives. Information on becoming a CFP professional is available at CFP.net/Get-Certified/Certification-Process.

Learning more about the financial advisory field now will help you maximize your long-term career opportunities in the future.