Becoming a Financial Counselor: Salary & Job Description

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A financial counselor's median annual wage is about $81,000. Is it worth the educational and licensure requirements? Read real job descriptions and see the truth about career prospects to decide if becoming a financial counselor is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Financial Counselor

A financial counselor provides information and guidance regarding finances to various types of clients. Read more about a career as a financial counselor and see if it is right for you.

Pros of Being a Financial Counselor
Faster than average job growth (27% growth estimated for 2012-2022)*
Relatively high wages (about $61,000 higher than national average)*
Some advancement opportunities available*
Ability to work independently (20% were self-employed in 2012)*

Cons of Being a Financial Counselor
High competition for jobs*
May have to work overtime (nearly 25% work more than 50 hours per week)*
Additional licensure may be required for some positions*
Some employers may prefer applicants with a graduate degree*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Financial counselors help clients understand insurance policies, mutual funds, stocks, bonds and tax returns. By analyzing a client's accounts and financial needs, they can help strategize a financial plan for the future. These workers must know how to seek new customers, in addition to maintaining their old clientele.

If licensed, financial counselors can also sell stocks, bonds and other investment products to their clients. Some financial counselors can also be private bankers to clients with notable wealth. They may work with a client's team of accountants, lawyers and financial analysts in order to manage the client's funds. Financial counselors may work in investment companies, banks, securities/commodity brokers and insurance carriers. They may also work for themselves in independent financial consulting firms.

Career Prospects and Salary

According to the BLS, the favorable expected job growth may be due to the financial needs of workers looking to retire in the 2012-2022 period. Because people are living longer, they want to manage their own savings for retirement. These people require the services of financial counselors who can give them sound advice for investments and retirement. In May 2014, the BLS stated that financial counselors made a median annual salary of about $81,000. The BLS also noted that competition will be strong for this job, give its high wages and minimum educational requirements.

What Are the Requirements?

Most financial counselors are required to have at least a bachelor's degree, although some entry-level positions are open to those individuals with only a high school diploma.

While you aren't limited to any one field of study, you will likely want choose a degree program in finance, business, math, law, economics or accounting. Because financial counselors need to analyze clients' funds and advise them on current financial trends, courses in risk management, investments and taxes are also beneficial.

Licensure

If you're interested in becoming a financial counselor who sells insurance polices, stocks and bonds, then you also need to be licensed according to your specialty. If you sell insurance, then you need to be licensed by the state. Each state licensing board has its own lists of requirements for these financial counselors, which can be found through the North American Security Administrators Association.

Useful Skills

In order to be successful as a financial counselor, you might need to have the following characteristics:

  • Strong analytical skills
  • Good math skills
  • Excellent communication skills (both written and verbal)
  • Sales ability
  • Attention to detail

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers tend to seek applicants with the necessary educational backgrounds and licenses. All applicants needed to be familiar with financial services terms. They also needed to have good communication skills. Below are some actual job postings from CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com from March 2012:

  • A financial consulting company in California asked for a financial consultant who had a series 7 and 63 (securities agent licenses). They preferred a candidate with extensive experience in the financial services and advisory industries. The applicant was required to know various banking and brokerage services like mutual funds and wrap accounts.
  • A financial services firm in Wisconsin looked for a branch credit counselor who had a high school diploma or the equivalent, though an associate's or bachelor's degree was preferred. They required a candidate with prior experience in a service career and would be able to receive a NFCC and FCRA certification at the end of a training period.
  • A capital management company in Minnesota needed a financial consultant who could analyze capital generation, perform internal reporting and do complex accounting. Several years of experience in financial services was required, and an applicant with a master's degree in finances was preferred.
  • A money management firm in Massachusetts asked for a financial counselor that had a bachelor's degree and a CFP certification. The applicant needed to understand complex topics in wealth management.

How to Stand Out

Since financial counselors usually only have a bachelor's degree, you may be able stand out by getting a graduate degree. Another way you can stand out is by receiving voluntary certification from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. You can receive a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification by completing various requirements in education and examinations. Some employers also prefer employers with a specific license.

Other Career Paths

Insurance Sales Agents

Insurance sales agents offer insurance policies that can protect clients' from financial loss. While a bachelor's degree holder is preferred for these jobs, a high school graduate who has experience in sales can also qualify. Insurance sales agents also must be licensed to work. The BLS states that expected employment for these workers might grow 22% for 2010-2020. They made a median annual salary of about $47,000 in May 2011.

Accountants and Auditors

These workers analyze financial data and help businesses and individuals pay their taxes on time. They can perform other duties like information technology consulting, budget analysis and financial planning. These workers need to have a bachelor's degree, and some workers choose to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

The BLS expects that accountants and auditors will enjoy a 16% employment growth for 2010-2020. This may be due to the fluctuating changes in financial laws and the need for professionals who can analyze them. In May 2010, the median wages for these workers was about $63,000 per year.

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Full Sail University

  • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • B.S. - Music Business

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Northcentral University

  • PhD in Business Admin - Financial Management
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Financial Management
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Advanced Accounting

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Purdue University Global

  • MS in Finance - Financial Planning
  • BSBA in Financial Analysis
  • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate

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Grand Canyon University

  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education

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Liberty University

  • MS: Accounting
  • MBA: Strategic Management

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Saint Leo University

  • BA: Business Administration - Management
  • BA: Business Administration - Logistics
  • AA: Business Administration

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Regent University

  • M.A. in Financial Planning & Law
  • Master of Business Administration - Finance and Investing
  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting
  • Bachelor of Science in Business

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