How to Become a Personal Financial Adviser: Examining an Important Career in Accounting

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A personal financial adviser points at a laptop screen in a meeting with smiling clients.

The desire for financial security is universal. Employees want to feel assured that they will have enough money saved to enjoy a stable, comfortable retirement. Meanwhile, parents want to prepare the best possible life for their children and grandchildren, including money set aside for college tuition and an eventual inheritance.

To achieve financial stability, individuals need to save, budget and invest strategically, as well as use such tools as individual retirement accounts and tax-advantaged college tuition funds. Effectively using these tools to achieve financial independence often requires the guidance of a personal financial adviser.

People with an affinity for finances and a passion for service may find themselves drawn to discovering how to become a personal financial adviser. Pursuing an advanced degree, such as a Master of Accountancy, can help individuals gain the skills and expertise necessary to excel in this career.

What Does a Personal Financial Adviser Do?

Finding out how to become a personal financial adviser includes a general overview of the job’s responsibilities.

Helping Clients Meet Their Goals

The primary responsibility of the personal financial adviser is to meet with individuals or families and help them develop and implement strategies to achieve their financial goals. These strategies vary from one client to the next.

For example, young newlyweds may have questions about how to save for a down payment on a home or when to start a retirement savings account. An older couple, on the other hand, may approach a personal financial adviser about developing a prudent retirement budget, or leaving a financial legacy for their children.

While a personal financial adviser’s work typically focuses on long-term financial goals, they may also offer input on short-term financial decisions, such as whether or not a client should buy a business or invest in real estate.

Ultimately, the personal financial adviser’s role is to guide clients as they save and invest, looking out for their financial interests and clarifying how they can achieve their goals.

Tools of the Trade

To help clients achieve their financial objectives, a personal financial adviser may employ any number of tools and solutions. Some examples include:

  • General investment strategies (stocks, bonds and more)
  • Retirement savings accounts (IRAs, 401(k)s)
  • Education savings accounts (529 accounts)
  • Strategies to minimize tax burdens

Through tools such as these, personal financial advisers help their clients navigate major life events, from homeownership to retirement to estate planning.

How to Become a Personal Financial Adviser

Individuals who are interested in becoming a personal financial adviser can benefit from a combination of experience and academic study, as well as professional certification.


Becoming a personal financial adviser requires a bachelor’s-level degree in finance, economics, accounting, statistics or a related field. Most financial planning firms prefer advisers who have advanced degrees. Earning a master’s degree, such as a Master of Accountancy, may lead to opportunities for higher salaries or greater responsibility in this field.


Becoming a certified financial planner (CFP) can also lead to greater responsibilities and higher pay ranges. To receive this designation, individuals must log at least 6,000 hours of work as a financial planner working under the guidance of a CFP. Additionally, receiving this certification requires completion of a standardized examination.

Core Competencies

Through the pursuit of a robust education and strong workplace experience, personal financial planners can hone the skills necessary for long-term success. Essential skills for a personal financial adviser include:

  • Analytical skills. A significant part of the job is evaluating a client’s current financial standing, showing them the best path forward to achieving their goals.
  • Mathematics. Technical skills in mathematics and statistics are crucial for personal financial advisers as they guide sound financial decisions.
  • Sales skills. Often, a personal financial adviser serves as a salesperson for a specific investment tool or fund.
  • Interpersonal skills. The success of the financial adviser depends on their ability to earn the trust of their clients.

Personal Financial Adviser Salary and Job Growth

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for personal financial advisers is $87,850 as of May 2019. Note that actual salaries can be influenced by several factors, including:

  • Education level. Advisers with an advanced degree will usually command higher salaries than those without.
  • Experience. Advisers with more experience will usually earn higher rates of pay.
  • Job location. Pay may also vary by geography. Typically, large cities have more demand for financial advisers, so they offer more competitive salaries.

The BLS numbers show that the job market for personal financial advisers is projected to grow at a rate of 4% between 2019 and 2029, equal to the average growth rate projected for all jobs.

Discover How to Become a Personal Financial Adviser

Take a big step toward success as a personal financial adviser: Find out more about Rider University’s online Master of Accountancy program. The program offers concentrations in business analytics, finance and forensic accounting, as well as a generalist track for students who want to strengthen their skills in a variety of specializations. Discover how an online Master of Accountancy can help hone the core competencies required to guide clients toward meeting their financial goals.

Recommended Readings

What Is Fraudulent Financial Reporting? A Look at a Vital Accounting Issue

7 Careers in International Financial Management

5 Types of Auditing for Accounting Professionals to Consider


Business Insider, “A Man Who Left Work 10 Years Ago Says a Single Meeting with a Financial Planner Made Retirement ‘So Much Better’”

Certified Financial Planner Board, About CFP Board

Investopedia, Personal Financial Advisor

North American Securities Administrators Association, Exam Overview

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Personal Financial Advisors