Becoming a financial consultant is one of the most interesting and lucrative career opportunities, simply because any job which has to do with money and finance always carries a high premium. At the same time, it is a very competitive and tough job, you need to have professional qualifications, have an aptitude for numbers and be analytical and logical in your thought process.
There are several categories of financial consultants and you have the option of being a salaried or self-employed professional. Over time, it has been found that nearly 30-30% of finance professionals are self-employed, so this is a good avenue for those interested in being their own boss. The different categories of financial consultants are financial analysts, personal financial advisors, portfolio managers, fund managers, risk managers, ratings analysts, private bankers or wealth managers to name a few. If you are interested in these fields, read through the guidelines described below.
Education and qualifications required. The minimum requirement for becoming a financial consultant is a bachelor's degree. It is also preferable that you get a master's degree in finance or business administration or go in for professional accreditations. For each of the categories of financial consultants described above, the minimum qualifications and training required are listed here. Financial analysts, in addition to a graduate or masters degree, should have trained qualifications in accounting, finance, statistics or economics. Other preferable qualifications or specializations are required in any or all of these subjects: methods of financial analysis, corporate budgeting and accounting procedures, risk management, option pricing, bond valuation, etc. Project work or any kind of apprenticeship in any of the above-mentioned subjects is also welcome, since it proves that you have a practical understanding and have been able to put theory into practice in actual business situations.
Personal financial advisors must have a graduate degree in finance or business administration; with additional training in areas such as economics, math, law, taxation, investment and estate planning, risk management; insurance, financial planning, etc. These are both value-enhancing and preferable qualifications.
Licensing and accreditation. Financial analysts need to be licensed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA); the category of license required will depend upon individual specialization. Personal financial advisors require several kinds of licensing such as series 7 or series 63 or 66 to practice, in addition to licensing by respective state boards if they wish to offer insurance services.
Certifications. There are supplemental certifications which you can earn as financial consultants, though these are not mandatory. However, such certifications enhance your professional standing and reputation and are useful in the context of building up your client list. Certifications that are available are: Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Financial Planner (CFP certification), Fellow in Risk Management (FRM), etc. Getting these certifications involves having a basic business of finance or other graduate degree, specified periods of work experience and passing the appropriate examinations within the prescribed time and number of sittings.
Other skills required. If you want to learn how to become a financial consultant or financial advisor, know that it's more than just getting a degree. In addition to the educational and professional qualifications discussed above, financial consultants should have the following skills as well - communication, analytical and cognitive abilities, a logical thought process, problem resolution, customer service, and in terms of personal qualities, be self-confident, mature, self-starters, creative and innovate in their approach to work. Familiarity with and an interest in financial markets, government policy, global economics, taxation and law is an added advantage. Continuing education credits in finance which can help you learn these aspects of the field are available through a number of reputable schools.
By following the suggestions mentioned in this article, you can well be on your way to becoming a financial consultant. This is a job, which, in the long run brings attractive rewards and job-satisfaction.