Financial advisors are not required to have university degrees. However, they are required to pass certain exams administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, which is responsible for governing business between the investing public and brokers to ensure advisors are qualified. A majority of advisors do in fact have bachelor's degrees in finance-related fields at a minimum. Those who want to further advance their careers tend to go the Master of Business Administration (MBA) route.
FINRA requires those interested in becoming licensed financial advisors to pass either the Series 65 exam by itself, or the Series 7 exam along with the Series 66. The type of financial advice you want to provide determines which exam fits your career goals. Passing the necessary FINRA exam is vital to becoming a successful financial professional, more so than having a degree.
Passing the Series 65 Exam does not qualify a professional to sell any securities but rather to provide clients with investment advice and financial planning. Also, those financial professionals with Series 65 licenses may only work on a noncommission basis by charging clients hourly fees for their services.
The Series 7 exam is the most general securities license available to those interested in becoming financial advisors. Passing the Series 7 allows financial professionals to sell any type of security other than commodities futures, real estate and life insurance. However, in addition to the Series 7, obtaining the Series 66 license qualifies a candidate as an investment advisor representative and as a securities agent.
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Generally speaking, it is not necessary to have a college degree to become a financial advisor. However, many firms will view it as a prerequisite for new hires, especially those with prestigious training programs. What is required are licenses and registration with FINRA, the financial services regulatory body. The main licenses are:
- Series 6: for selling packaged investment products like mutual funds or variable annuities.
- Series 7: a more comprehensive license that covers all products under Series 6 as well as all other securities such as stocks, bonds, and options.
- Series 63 (in most states): applicable securities laws of each state.
Many firms will sponsor new employees to obtain these credentials, after which they become formally registered with FINRA.