The COVID-19 pandemic has led many workers to consider changing careers, perhaps for greater pay or flexibility. For those with an interest in personal finance and helping others, a career change into the financial advice industry could be an attractive option, particularly given that financial advisors generally report having a strong sense of wellbeing and that they have the potential to earn significantly more than the national median income. And with all of the ways that aspiring advisors can enter the profession, career changers have many factors to consider, including the type of work and career path they would ultimately like to pursue. Because the various financial advice career tracks come with different education and certification requirements, this decision will influence the career changer’s path as they pursue their first job in the industry.
For aspiring planners who want to work directly with clients but who don’t yet have leads of their own or experience with business-development strategies, one option is to start at a firm that assigns clients to advisors (so that the advisor can focus on practicing their financial planning advice skills as they learn how to generate new clients for the firm). Career changers who already have business-development experience (or who have access to many potential clients) might instead prefer to find a firm where they will be responsible for pursuing their own clients. Still, other career changers might want to eventually start their own firm; while this may allow for the greatest autonomy, this option also comes with the greatest financial risk (as the advisor will be entirely responsible for making up income lost after leaving their previous job!). For career changers who want to work in the industry but do not want to work directly with clients, pursuing a career track that allows them to construct financial plans and develop recommendations (without presenting them to the client) could be the best option.
After deciding which career path best suits them, a career changer can pursue the education and credentials that will help them stand out to potential employers and clients. For many, the first step will be to complete a broad financial planning education program to gain the technical knowledge needed to be a successful advisor. There are also designations (e.g., the CFP certification) and specialized training programs that can serve as a signal to future employers and clients that they have the skills and dedication to be effective advisors. Next, constructing a plan that makes the transition as smooth as possible (e.g., scheduling out time for classes, training, and job hunting; and budgeting the financial costs of a transition into financial advising) can help the advisor manage a potential salary reduction (for those pursuing an employee position) or foregone income (for those starting their own firm) as they get up to speed in their new career.
Ultimately, the key point is that while a career change into financial planning can be a fulfilling decision, it is important to plan in advance to ensure a smooth transition, from considering what kind of role in the industry is of interest to the education and credentials needed for that career track. Because with proper preparation, the career changer can increase the chances that they will not only have a good first job in the industry, but also have a successful long-term career in financial advice!