Deciding to become a financial advisor means you'll be joining one of the fastest growing career fields in the United States. Financial advisors are a vital part of the business world, as they help clients assess their financial status and offer advice to help them meet their financial goals, both long- and short-term. In addition, a successful financial advisor must have knowledge of various retirement and investment strategies. To begin the financial advisor career, you'll first need to get a bachelor's or master's degree in business management. In this article, we'll take a closer look at what it really takes to become a financial advisor in today's market. 

Step 1: Obtaining a Degree

Individuals seeking a career as a financial advisor must first get a degree, but there are several paths that you can take. In general, completing a bachelor's or master's degree in business administration and specializing in finance or financial management is the fastest way to receive a relevant education. Common courses students must take include accounting, economics, investments and financial planning. In addition, learning how to analyze a variety of financial statements and analyze risk on investments is also a necessity, but you can learn these skills through a good business administration program.

Step 2: Obtaining a License

After graduation with a proper degree, potential financial advisors must get a state license before they can begin to work. The requirements for this license will vary depending on the state of residence and the type of advising you'll be performing. Financial advisors that sell certain insurance products, for example, must get a license from a state insurance board. If you're interested in becoming a personal financial advisor, you'll also need to register in the state in which you'll be working. Consult your state regulatory bodies or the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for more information on the licenses you need.

Step 3: Gaining Employment

Financial planners can either work for themselves or for a financial services firm. Either way, you'll need work experience if you want to become certified in the future. In most cases, beginning with a financial services firm will prepare you for eventually striking out on your own in the future. Most people seeking the services of a financial advisor choose to go with a firm or with a certified self-employed advisor. To make your career transition smoother, consider gaining employment with a firm for a few years to gain knowledge and experience before starting your own financial planning business.

Step 4: Continuing Education

To stay current on the industry and useful to your clients, you'll need to prepare for continuing education courses as a financial advisor. This means you might have to enroll in night and weekend courses while working full-time to keep up. Some of the courses you might take include retirement planning, tax planning, investment management and real estate planning. In some cases, colleges and universities offer these courses as a way to prepare financial advisors for certification, but they can also be taken simply to help you keep your skills up to date. In addition, people who want to continue working for financial management firms may decide to take continuing education courses towards their master's degree to be eligible for management opportunities within the firm.

Step 5: Becoming Certified

The last step for people who want to become a financial advisor is to obtain certification from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. The candidate must meet all the eligibility requirements and pass an exam to become certified. Eligibility requirements include a bachelor's or master's degree, and at least three years of work experience. This is why it's a good idea for new financial advisors to work for a firm until they complete the certification process. The exam typically tests for knowledge of subjects such as debt and risk management, retirement planning, liability planning and other topics relevant to financial advising.