What Are Financial Securities Licenses?

Series 7 and Series 63 are the most common financial securities licenses

Whether you want to act as a registered representative (RR) or an investment advisor, the first step is obtaining the proper securities license. Determined by several factors, the required license depends on which investments are to be sold, the method of compensation, and the scope of services that will be provided.

Key Takeaways

  • To market and sell investments, an individual must obtain a securities license.
  • What license you need is determined by what kinds of products you sell, the type of compensation, and what kind of services you provide.
  • The Series 7 license has the broadest reach, allowing holders to sell various securities.
  • FINRA licenses include Series 6 and Series 7.
  • The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) oversees the licensing of Series 63, Series 65, and Series 66.

FINRA Licensing

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) oversees all securities licensing procedures and requirements and performs disciplinary and record-keeping functions. This self-regulatory organization administers many exams for representatives and supervisors to become licensed financial professionals.

Each license corresponds to a type of business or investment, and three general licenses are commonly obtained:

Series 6

The Series 6 license is the limited-investment securities license. It allows its holders to sell "packaged" investment products such as mutual funds, variable annuities, and unit investment trusts (UITs). The Series 6 exam is 90 minutes long and covers information regarding packaged investments, securities regulations, and ethics.

This license is also required for insurance agents that sell variable investment products. Principals who supervise representatives holding a Series 6 license must obtain the Series 26 license in addition to the Series 6.

Series 7

The Series 7 license is the general securities representative (GS) license. Those who carry this license are officially listed as "registered representatives" by FINRA and referred to as stockbrokers. Many insurance agents and financial planners also hold the Series 7 license to facilitate transactions inherent in their businesses. Principals of general representatives must also obtain the Series 24 license. 

Series 7 authorizes licensees to sell any individual security, including common and preferred stocks, call and put options, bonds, and other fixed-income investments. The only types of securities or investments that Series 7 licensees are not authorized to sell are commodities futures, real estate, and life insurance.The Series 7 exam is the longest and most difficult, covering all aspects of stock and bond quotes, put and call options, spreads and straddles, ethics, margin, and related regulations.

Series 3

The Series 3 license authorizes representatives to sell commodity futures contracts, considered the riskiest publicly traded investments. Representatives that carry the Series 3 license specialize in commodities. The Series 3 exam is approximately 150 minutes long and covers all commodities transactions, options, hedging, margin requirements, and other regulations. An offshoot of this license is the Series 31 license, which allows representatives to sell managed futures (pooled groups of commodities futures similar to mutual funds).

Exam Comparison

Series 6 vs. Series 7 vs. Series 3
 Exam  Purpose  Time Limit Questions Passing Grade  Cost
Series 6  Investment Company and Variable Contracts Products Representative Exam 1 hour 30 minutes   50 70%  $75
Series 7   General Securities Representative Exam 3 hours 45 minutes  125 72% $300
Series 3   National Commodities Futures Exam  2 hours 30 minutes  120 70% $140
Source: FINRA.org Qualification Exams 2023

The Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam is a FINRA exam for prospective securities industry professionals. To obtain a license following the SIE, the individual must be associated with a member firm to take licensing exams.

NASAA Licensing

Not all securities licenses are administered by FINRA. The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) oversees the licensing requirements of three:

Series 63

The Series 63 license, known as the Uniform Securities Agent license, is required by each state where licensees conduct business. All Series 6 and Series 7 licensees must carry this license. The provisions of the Uniform Securities Act are included in the 75-minute exam.

Series 65

The Series 65 license is required for individuals providing financial advice on a non-commission basis. Financial planners, advisors, stockbrokers, and other registered representatives that provide investment advice for an hourly fee fall into this category. The exam is a 180-minute test covering the rules and regulations for registered investment advisors and various investment vehicles and disciplines, economics, ethics, and analysis.

Series 66

This Series 66 is the newest exam offered by NASAA. It combines the Series 63 and 65 exams into one 150-minute exam. This test contains no investment material, as the Series 66 license is only available to candidates already Series 7 licensed.

Exam Comparison

Series 63 vs. Series 65 vs. Series 66
 Exam Purpose Time Limit Questions Passing Grade Cost
Series 63  Uniform Securities Agent State Law Exam  1 hour 15 minutes 60 72%  $147
Series 65  Uniform Investment Adviser Law Exam  3 hours 130 72%  $187
Series 66  Uniform Combined State Law Exam  2 hours 30 minutes 100 73% $177
Source: FINRA.org Qualification Exams 2023

Salary and Job Advancement

Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents connect buyers with sellers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for these individuals was $62,910 in 2021 and this sector is projected to grow 10% through 2031. Candidates commonly register their securities licenses with an approved broker-dealer, who holds licenses and oversees transactions, commonly in return for a portion of commission income.

Personal financial advisors help individuals manage their money and plan their financial future. The median annual salary for personal financial advisors was $94,170 in 2021 with employment projected to grow 15 percent from 2021 to 2031.

Licensed professionals may work with or for registered investment advisors (RIAs). A registered investment advisor (RIA) is any person or firm that is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or a state securities authority. The location of the RIA's principal office, as well as the number of assets under management, determine whether the RIA must register with the SEC.

How Do You Get a Securities License?

The Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam is a FINRA exam for prospective securities industry professionals. To obtain a license following the SIE, the individual must be associated with a member firm to take a qualification exam.

What Is a Series 7 Securities License?

The Series 7 license or general securities representative (GS) license allows the holder to sell almost all individual securities, including common and preferred stocks, call and put options, bonds, and other fixed income.

Do You Need a College Degree To Get Series 7?

A college degree is not required to obtain a Series 7 license, however, a sponsoring company may have educational requirements.

What Jobs Can You Get With a Securities License?

A securities license allows you to market and sell investments. Depending on the license you obtain, you might have a job as a registered representative, stockbroker, or investment advisor.

The Bottom Line

The majority of financial and investment companies that hire or train new advisors have a mandatory licensing program included in the training package. The company commonly mandates which licenses must be obtained to sell products and services.

Article Sources
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  1. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. "Investment Company and Variable Contracts Products Representative Qualification Examination (Series 6)."

  2. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. "Series 6 – Investment Company and Variable Contracts Products Representative Exam."

  3. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. "Series 26 – Investment Company and Variable Contracts Products Principal Exam."

  4. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. "Series 7 – General Securities Representative Exam."

  5. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. "General Securities Representative Qualification Examination (Series 7)."

  6. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. "Series 3 – National Commodities Futures Exam."

  7. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. "Series 31 – Futures Managed Funds Exam."

  8. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. "Securities Industry Essentials Exam."

  9. North American Securities Administrators Association. "Series 63 Exam Content Outline."

  10. North American Securities Administrators Association. "Series 65 Content Exam Outline."

  11. North American Securities Administrators Association. "Series 66 Exam Content Outline."

  12. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents."

  13. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Personal Financial Advisors."

  14. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Information for Newly-Registered Investment Advisers."

  15. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "General Information on the Regulation of Investment Advisers."

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