Financial advisor internships offer a great opportunity to get experience before earning a finance degree and fully entering the workforce. Internships enable aspiring financial advisors to learn the ropes firsthand, and the knowledge and “on-the-job” training can be beneficial during a later job hunt. Internships also benefit financial firms by providing additional help to address pressing demands. This article shares ways you can find a financial advisor internship and the steps you can take to secure it.
Before you start your search, think about whether you’d be willing to consider something other than a summer internship. Some universities and companies offer co-op positions throughout the year. Fall and spring internships are also available at some financial services firms. These longer-term internships are often easier to secure because there is less competition. So, if you go for one of these positions, you could already be an intern when the majority of students are applying for summer opportunities.
Another benefit of longer-term internships is that they look good on your resume. They can also, on occasion, lead to a job offer from the same firm because they have had more time to evaluate your work and see your skills and knowledge.
Once you decide what kind of internship you’d like, a good place to start the search is at your college or university career center. These centers often have a list of financial services firms who are specifically interested in hiring interns. The career center can also help you determine where you would like to work when you graduate and in what capacity, which can help you hone your search.
Another avenue for finding open internships is searching the websites of major financial services firms. Some of the most well-known, such as Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, advertise for internships on their sites. Others have their own special programs for college students. Vanguard, for example, has a College to Corporate Advice Internship Program.
Independent finance associations such as CFP® Board, NAIFA, and the Society of Financial Services Professionals have career listings that include internships. For less specialized sources, visit internships.com, Glassdoor.com, LinkedIn, and indeed.com and do a keyword search for internships as a financial advisor.
And, here’s a great tip for internet searches that can save you time if you are interested in interning close to home or your university: simply go to Google and type “finance internship” or “financial advisor internship.” It will return listings of all the internships available in your area or state, including those that are advertised by financial firms or on all the major job search sites, including internships.com. You even have options for where and how to apply.
Like any career opportunity, you need to stand out in a sea of online applications so you can get an interview. Here are three good tips that can help you meet that goal:
Although these tips can’t guarantee you an interview, they can get you closer to one. If you don’t get an interview on the first try or first few tries, do not become discouraged. Look for other opportunities and keep applying. This article on getting a finance internship has additional advice that can help.
If you’ve been notified that you have an interview for a financial advisor internship, there are a number of things you can do to make sure you come through it with flying colors. Here are a few that have worked successfully for others:
A final note: personality is key to landing a financial advisor internship. Companies really aren’t interested in hiring robots; therefore, you can stand out from the crowd by demonstrating that you’re passionate about something other than work. Help the company get past your interview “game face” by letting them learn more about you as a person. Situations that demonstrate your ability to lead or be an active member of your community are great examples to cite in your resume, application, and interview.
The questions shouldn’t stop once you’ve gotten hired. Read our article on the five valuable questions you should ask your employer during your financial advisor internship to learn more.
With the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) mark, you have a credential that can set you apart in the financial services industry. Earning the CFP® designation opens the door to unique professional opportunities for those with a bachelor’s degree who want a career in personal finance and planning. So, what kind of CFP® jobs are available to you after you’ve earned the credential and what kind of firms are hiring? Let’s take a look.
A financial planner helps clients organize their finances and estimates the results of their savings and investments so they can see how well prepared they are to meet long-term financial goals. Financial planners also have certain areas of expertise, such as retirement planning or education funding planning. They assist with budgeting, cash flow planning, and saving for college and retirement. As a financial planner, you’ll likely create a comprehensive plan to help clients after assessing their current financial situations and researching what they can do to improve them.
A financial advisor helps clients manage their money, so the role is more general and broader than that of a financial planner. Financial advisors often specialize in investment management, estate planning, retirement planning, insurance, debt repayment, tax planning, or any other aspect of the finance industry. They can be stockbrokers, insurance agents, money managers, estate planners, bankers, and more. Financial planners with the CFP® designation are likely to create short-term and long-term financial goals for their clients and then devise financial plans for achieving them.
A financial consultant focuses on the accountability aspects of financial planning by designing action plans and a financial strategy and by helping clients run their financial systems. As part of this accountability, financial consultants collaborate with other financial professionals, such as attorneys, accountants, and investment managers to ensure their clients' financial needs are met. They also stay up-to-date on financial news and economic events that might affect the plans they’ve designed for their clients.
Investment advisors, also known as Investment Adviser Representatives, recommend investments or conduct securities analysis for their clients. Although this position is generally associated with selling securities, investment advisors are often CFP® certificants, especially if their recommendations are for financial planning purposes, such as retirement, college, and estate.
Wealth managers provide services to high-net-worth individuals and ultra-high-net-worth individuals, which can include types of financial planning. Examples include investment management, financial planning, tax services and planning, retirement planning, legal planning, philanthropic planning, and estate planning, among others. Wealth managers are usually more hands-on, and their solutions are usually more comprehensive than other financial planning and advising disciplines because of the special needs of their high-net-worth clients.
Finance and insurance companies, including securities and commodity brokers, banks, insurance carriers, and financial investment firms, are the most common employers of finance professionals with the CFP® credential. Other sources of employment are wealth management firms, pension funds, and Registered Investment Advisers.
Although earning the CFP® designation does not guarantee you a job, it can make a difference when an employer is deciding between two otherwise equally qualified candidates. Passing the CFP® Exam and earning the designation takes hard work and dedication. It demonstrates to potential employers that you have a mastery of the important concepts in financial planning. Therefore, companies are more likely to choose the candidate with the CFP® mark. It’s a career move worth considering. Our CFP® Exam prep study packages can certainly help you on your journey.
The questions most frequently asked about Series 79—such as what the license is for and Series 79 exam difficulty, passing score, pass rates, questions, and topics—are answered in this article. Read on to get all the information you need to plan for a career in investment banking.
The Series 79 license is for investment bankers, enabling them to offer advice on or facilitate public or private debt or equity offerings, mergers or acquisitions, tender offers, financial restructuring, asset sales, and divestitures or corporate reorganization. Administered by FINRA, the Series 79 license is good for the entire period that you work for a FINRA-member firm or self-regulatory organization (SRO). It only expires if you are terminated or leave a firm and do not find employment within two years. Continuing education is required after you earn your license, however.
If you hold a Series 79 license, you can engage in the activities of investment banking. By contrast, the Series 7 license enables you to sell corporate stocks and bonds, municipal bonds, mutual funds, variable annuities, options, direct participation program partnerships, collateralized mortgage obligations, and more. Although each is independent of the other, the general industry consensus is that a representative with a Series 7 license who wants to work investment banking should earn the Series 79 license.
If you’re interested in a career in investment banking and want to engage in its specific activities, this is the license to have. Officially listed as Investment Banking Limited Representatives by FINRA, Series 79 license holders are usually associates at an investment bank, investment banking analysts, or investment bankers. If you earn this license, you will most likely work in an investment firm or bank. In fact, you need to be employed by a sponsoring FINRA-member firm before you can sit for the Series 79 exam.
Earning a Series 79 license involves four key steps:
As part of implementing the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, FINRA restructured their examination programs. FINRA is the governing body that ensures that anyone who sells securities products is qualified and tested. As part of this restructuring, FINRA created a tailored top-off examination for earning the Series 79 license. You should take the Series 79 top-off exam if you want to be licensed to sell investment banking products.
A FINRA-member firm or SRO must sponsor you to take the Series 79 exam. After you’ve worked for them for four months or more, they can file a Form U4 (Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration) which registers you for the exam. Fortunately, most firms that hire or train you will have a mandatory Series 79 licensing program included in their training package.
There are no education requirements to sit for the Series 79 exam, although most candidates have a college degree in a finance-related field, and many choose to complete a Series 79 exam prep package before sitting for the exam.
Yes, although the more natural progression is to take the SIE exam first, mainly because you don’t have to be sponsored to take it, and it is a more general exam that covers securities concepts. The SIE exam and Series 79 top-off exams are “co-requisites,” which means you can take and pass them in any order. Of course, you have to pass both to earn your Series 79 license.
It depends. You might not need the Series 79 if you have a Series 7 license, and you want to sell a broader range of securities than those associated with investment banking. However, Series 7 license holders usually earn their Series 79 licenses if they plan to focus investment banking as registered representatives. You should consult with your firm before deciding whether you need a license or not.
Like all other securities qualification exams, the Series 79 exam is administered by computer at a Prometric testing center.
The date of the Series 79 exam is a 120-day window that is opened when a candidate enrolls for the exam. So, after you enroll in the exam, you schedule an appointment with Prometric, and choose an available exam date within that 120-day period. We recommend scheduling your exam session as far in advance as possible to secure your desired Series 79 exam date.
The Series 79 exam topics assess an entry-level registered representative’s competency and degree of knowledge associated with carrying out the three critical functions of an investment banking representative. This includes advising on or facilitating debt or equity securities offerings through a private placement or a public offering and mergers and acquisitions. Some of the topics covered are:
The exam consists of 75 multiple-choice questions, and each question has four answer choices. There are also 10 additional, unidentified and unscored pretest questions that do not contribute to your score that are randomly distributed throughout the exam.
Series 79 exam questions all relate to the three functions shown in this table:
|Sections||% of Exam||# of Exam Questions|
|F1 - Collection, analysis, and evaluation of data||49%||37|
|F2 - Underwriting/New financing transaction, types of offerings and registration of securities||27%||20|
|F3 - Mergers and acquisitions, tender offers, and financial restructuring transaction||24%||18|
Most candidates spend 60 to 100 hours studying for the FINRA Series 79 exam. If you are looking for some exam study tips, this article about studying for all securities licensing exams has great advice.
Candidates must apply their knowledge to specific scenarios related to the three investment banking functions identified as critical by FINRA. The degree of Series 79 exam difficulty, therefore, is quite high. The questions are detailed with a heavy emphasis on data and analysis. So you should expect it to be challenging; however, with dedicated and focused preparation, it is possible.
The exam cost is $245.
The Series 7 passing score is 73%. What is the passing rate for the Series 79 exam? FINRA announced that the passing rate as of April 2019 was 87%.
Candidates who do not pass the exam must wait 30 days before taking it again. However, if you fail it three times in succession, you must wait 180 days. Your firm will also have to sponsor you again for each retake, and you will have to pay the full fee each time.
We hope this article answers your pressing questions about the Series 79 top-off exam and license. If you’re interested in taking the exam, we have Series 79 exam preparation packages. Or, if you’re just getting started, check out our SIE packages.
Working in a brokerage or an investment firm is a popular choice for those who want a career in finance. Having a FINRA Series 7 license or a CFA® charter can be beneficial to anyone interested in working in that area of finance. So, you might be wondering what’s the difference between the Series 7 license and the CFA charter? This article breaks down both, including what they are, how to get them, what’s on the exams, and more to help you determine which you should earn.
The FINRA Series 7 license, also known as the General Securities Registered Representative license, allows you to sell corporate stocks and bonds, municipal bonds, mutual funds, variable annuities, options, direct participation program partnerships, collateralized mortgage obligations, and more in the United States. It’s administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which regulates member brokerage firms and exchange markets.
To earn the Series 7 license, you must pass two exams: the Series 7 exam and its corequisite, the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE). The SIE focuses on the basic information anyone in securities should know, but the Series 7 license requires specific knowledge. Therefore, you may hear it referred to as a “top-off exam.”
These are the steps for getting your Series 7 license:
The recommended number of hours of study ranges from 80-100 to prepare for the FINRA Series 7 exam if you have a finance background and about 150 hours if you don’t. You should expect the exam to be challenging. Series 7 exam preparation classes are recommended as part of the preparation process, along with making a study plan, focusing on learning concepts, using practice questions, and taking practice exams.
Series 7 exams are administered by Prometric throughout the year, and the fee for the exam is $245 USD. After your sponsor submits the Form U4 application, FINRA opens up a 120-day window, and you can take the computer-based, multiple-choice exam at a Prometric testing center on one of the days in that window. The format of the exam changed in October 2018, so pass rates for the new version are not available yet, but the general report is that it is around 72 percent.
Those who sit for the FINRA Series 7 exam can expect to be tested on investment risk, taxation, equity and debt Instruments, packaged securities, options, retirement plans, and interactions with clients.
The CFA Charter is a professional credential offered internationally by CFA Institute to investment and financial professionals; it is an abbreviation for Chartered Financial Analyst®. The program covers a broad range of investment and portfolio management, financial analysis, stocks, bonds, and derivative topics, and it provides a generalist knowledge of other areas of finance. To earn the charter, you must take and pass all three levels of the CFA Program exam.
These are the steps for getting the CFA designation:
CFA Institute advises spending a minimum of 300 hours of studying to prepare for each level of the CFA Program exam. CFA Institute offers Learning Outcome Statements (LOS) that detail exactly what you are expected to do on exam day, so they should be your main area of focus. It helps to take CFA Program exam preparation classes and answer as many practice questions as you can. To familiarize yourself with the exam process, take several mock exams as well.
All three levels of the CFA Program exam are offered in June, and you can also sit for Level I in December. This is quite a difference from the FINRA Series 7 exam. The main format is multiple-choice, although Level III has a written portion called constructed response, too. The fees for each level range from $650–$1380 USD, depending on when you register. There is also a one-time enrollment fee of $450 USD. As for the pass rates, they look like this: Level I: 43 percent (May) and 45 percent (December); Level II: 45 percent; and Level III: 56 percent.
For all levels of the CFA Program exam, you will be tested on ethical and professional standards, quantitative methods, economics, financial reporting and analysis, corporate finance, equity valuation, alternative investments, fixed income, derivatives, and portfolio management.
Now that you know about each, let’s look at how to decide which is right for you.
Another difference between the two credentials is that the Series 7 license is mandatory for anyone who wants to sell securities in the U.S., but the CFA Charter is an optional designation that demonstrates mastery of finance topics. So, which designation to pursue really depends on what you want to do in your career. If you want a career selling stocks in a brokerage, investment firm, or bank, then not only is the FINRA Series 7 right for you, but it is also required. With a CFA charter, you can pursue a number of career opportunities such as portfolio manager, research analyst, consultant, risk manager, corporate financial analyst, financial adviser, and the C-suite.
Of course, you don’t have to choose at all. Having both designations opens more doors in your career, especially if stocks and other securities investment products are your passion. Many Series 7 license holders who become investment advisor representatives or set up registered investment advisor firms have found that holding the CFA charter is beneficial to their business and clients. And, quite a few CFA charterholders who take staff positions in the research departments of brokerages will go on to earn their Series 7 licenses.
The questions most frequently asked about the CFP® exam and certification are answered in this article, equipping you with the information you need to plan for this next step in your career.
CFP® certification is a professional designation for financial planners. Also known as the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ or CFP® mark, its governing body, CFP Board, administers the credential. With financial advising and planning estimated to be one of the top 10 fastest growing occupations, getting your CFP® mark can help set you apart in the industry.
The CFP® mark and CFA® charter are both the most prestigious designations in their respective fields, and each is administered by a governing body. To earn CFP® certification, you must sit for and pass one exam; the CFA Program exam has three levels. CFA charterholders commonly help individuals and institutions invest and allocate assets. A CFP® professional is likely to be a financial planner, wealth manager, or financial advisor. Our article about the CFP® mark vs the CFA charter has more details.
Both the CFP® certification and a master’s degree in personal financial planning lead to unique professional opportunities for those with a bachelor’s degree who want a career in personal finance and planning. But their requirements, topics of study, and their benefits are slightly different. To make a decision, you need to think about what you want to do long-term. This article compares the two options in greater detail.
CFP® professionals usually become financial planners or advisers, helping clients with investment decisions, taxes, and selecting insurance policies and retirement plans. While no two days will ever be the same, much of the work involves meeting with clients, analyzing financial information, and researching new opportunities.
Earning the CFP® certification involves the following steps:
The CFP® exam is a multiple-choice, computer-based exam. It consists of two 3-hour sessions separated by a 30-minute scheduled break. It is offered three times a year in March, July, and November at almost 50 locations nationwide.
Recruiters and prospective employers recognize CFP® certification as the most desired designation in the growing financial planning and advisor field. If your objective is a career as a financial planner or financial adviser, you should consider earning the CFP® mark, which means taking and passing the exam.
To sit for the CFP® exam, you will need to complete a CFP Board-registered education program first. After you complete it, CFP Board must be notified. Usually, your coursework provider will do that for you. There are no degree requirements to sit for the CFP® exam, but you will have to earn a bachelor’s degree within five years of passing the exam. You don’t need a sponsor to take the exam. Also, candidates often use a CFP® exam study package before they take the exam, but it’s not required.
It depends. If you have a securities or insurance license, the CFP® certification can be helpful if you would like to add planning to your repertoire. On the other hand, if you are a CFA charterholder, a CFP® mark might not be necessary. Interestingly, however, CFP Board allows CFA charterholders to sit for the exam without having to complete the education requirements. So, if you hold other financial designations, your best option is to consult with your firm about whether you should take the CFP® exam or not.
The CFP® exam is computer-based and administered at a Prometric testing center.
The topics covered on the CFP® exam include general financial planning principles, investment planning, retirement savings and income planning, risk management and insurance planning, tax planning, estate planning, professional conduct and regulation, and education planning.
The CFP® exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions that test your ability to apply your financial planning knowledge to client situations. The topic weights break down as follows:
|Topics||% of Exam||# of Exam Questions|
|General financial planning principles||17%||29|
|Retirement savings and income planning||17%||29|
|Risk management and insurance planning||12%||20|
|Professional conduct and regulation||7%||12|
Most candidates spend between 250 and 300 hours studying for the CFP® exam, although there are reports that it took some candidates much more than that. The entire CFP® certification program, including CFP Board-required education, takes about a year.
The CFP® exam is not easy, which is one reason the mark is among the most respected certifications in the financial services industry. It includes two case studies, multiple mini-case problem sets, and standalone questions designed to assess your knowledge of financial planning concepts and how to apply them to specific situations. It requires a significant investment of time to be successful. But most of the time, failing the exam is the result of not preparing properly. If you put together a stellar study plan and are willing to invest in your exam preparation, you can increase your odds of passing.
There are three levels of pricing for the CFP® exam:
The most CFP Board says on the passing score for the exam is that it is based on a minimal competency level required to pass the exam, which is determined by CFP® professionals. In 2018, the overall pass rate was 60 percent, and the pass rate for first-time exam takers was approximately 64 percent.
Candidates who do not pass the exam on their first try can take it two more times in a 24-month period. You then have to wait a year before retaking it. If you don’t pass the exam after five attempts, you cannot take it again.
We hope this article answers your pressing questions about the CFP® exam and certification. If you’re interested in taking the exam, we have CFP® exam study packages. Or if you’re just starting out and need to complete the required education, explore our CFP Board-registered education program.
If you're preparing to sit or study for the FINRA Series 7 Securities licensing exam, you've probably got some questions. This article answers the most frequently asked questions about the Series 7 top-off exam and license, equipping you with the information you need to plan for this next step in your career.
Also known as the General Securities Registered Representative license, the Series 7 license is administered by FINRA. FINRA is the governing body that ensures that anyone who sells securities products is qualified and tested. If you hold this license, you can sell corporate stocks and bonds, municipal bonds, mutual funds, variable annuities, options, direct participation program partnerships, collateralized mortgage obligations, and more. The benefit of the Series 7 license is that it permits you to sell several types of securities products, except commodities and futures.
The Series 7 license is good for the entire period that you work for a FINRA-member firm or self-regulatory organization (SRO). It only expires if you are terminated or leave a firm and do not find employment within two years at another FINRA-member firm or SRO. You do have to maintain it with continuing education, however. FINRA explains this in an article about firm and regulatory requirements.
If you hold a Series 6 license, you’re called a limited representative, and you can only sell mutual funds, variable annuities, and insurance premiums. For example, if a CPA wants to offer annuities and retirement planning services to clients, the CPA may only have to take the Series 6 exam. You’re a lot more restricted to what you can sell with a Series 6 license as opposed to a Series 7 license, which permits you to sell many more types of securities. Both serve specific needs and are appropriate for financial professionals who want to offer certain capabilities to their clients.
Those who get this license are officially listed as registered representatives by FINRA but are more commonly referred to as stockbrokers. The majority of jobs will be with brokerages, investment firms, and banks. If you’re planning to focus on employment in the financial services industry after graduating from college, the Series 7 license is what banks and brokerages prefer.
Earning a Series 7 license involves four key steps:
As part of implementing the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, FINRA restructured their examination programs. As part of this restructuring, FINRA has created a tailored top-off examination for earning the Series 7 license.
You should take the Series 7 top-off exam if you want to be licensed to sell a broad range of securities in a brokerage or bank.
To take the Series 7 exam, you need a FINRA-member firm or SRO to sponsor you. After you’ve worked for them for four months or more, they can file a Form U4 (Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration), which registers you for the exam. Fortunately, most firms that hire or train you will have a mandatory Series 7 licensing program included in their training package.
There are no education requirements to sit for the Series 7 exam, although most candidates have a college degree in a finance-related field, and many choose to complete a Series 7 exam prep package prior to sitting for the exam.
Yes, although the more natural progression is to take the SIE exam first, mainly because you don’t have to be sponsored to take it. The SIE and Series 7 top-off exams are “co-requisites,” which means you can take and pass them in any order. Of course, you have to pass both to earn your Series 7 license.
If you’d like to be a stockbroker who sells virtually any type of securities, the answer is yes. Basically, the Series 7 license is what you need to sell everything except commodities futures, real estate, and life insurance.
Like all other securities qualification exams, the Series 7 exam is administered by computer at a Prometric testing center.
The Series 7 exam topics include Investment risk, taxation, equity and debt instruments, packaged securities, options, retirement plans, and interactions with clients. The focus of the exam is the nature of these securities and financial instruments, and it tests knowledge relevant to the day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and job functions of general securities representatives.
The exam consists of 125 multiple-choice questions, and each question has four answer choices. There are also ten additional unidentified and unscored pretest questions that do not contribute to your score that are randomly distributed throughout the exam.
|Sections||% of Exam||# of Exam Questions|
|1 - Seeks Business for the Broker Dealer from Customers and Potential Customers||7%||9|
|2 - Opens Accounts after Obtaining and Evaluating Customers' Financial Profile and Investment Objectives||9%||11|
|3 - Provides Customers with Information About Investments, Makes Suitable Recommendations, Transfers Assets and Maintains Appropriate Records||73%||91|
|4 - Obtains and Verifies Customers’ Purchase and Sales Instructions and Agreements; Processes, Completes and Confirms Transactions||11%||14|
Most candidates spend 80–100 hours studying for the FINRA Series 7 exam if they have a finance background and about 150 if they don’t.
The Series 7 top-off exam expects candidates to be able to apply their knowledge of securities concepts to specific scenarios. The questions are detailed and related to the day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and job functions of representatives. Therefore, candidates should expect it to be challenging.
The exam cost is $245.
The passing score for the exam is 72%. Because the Series 7 top-off exam just went live in October 2018, a pass rate has not been announced.
Candidates who do not pass the top-off exam must wait 30 days before taking it again. However, if you fail it three times in succession, you must wait 180 days.
We hope this article answers all of your questions about the Series 7 top-off exam and license. If you’re interested in taking the exam, we have Series 7 exam preparation packages. Or if you’re just getting started, check out our SIE packages and our SIE and Series 7 combo series.
So, you're planning to earn your Series 6 license? The questions most frequently asked about the Series 6 top-off exam and license are answered in this article, equipping you with the information you need to plan for this next step in your career.
The Series 6 license (also known as the Investment Company/Variable Contracts Products license) enables you to register as a company's representative and sell mutual funds, variable annuities, and insurance.
Administered by FINRA, the Series 6 license is good for the entire period that you work for a FINRA-member firm or self-regulatory organization (SRO). It only expires if you are terminated or leave a firm and do not find employment within two years at another FINRA-member firm or SRO. You do have to maintain it with continuing education, however. FINRA explains this in an article about firm and regulatory requirements.
If you hold a Series 6 license, you’re called a limited representative, and you can sell mutual funds, variable annuities, and insurance premiums. By contrast, the Series 7 license enables you to sell corporate stocks and bonds, municipal bonds, mutual funds, variable annuities, options, direct participation program partnerships, collateralized mortgage obligations, and more. A Series 6 license is more restrictive in terms of what you can sell compared to a Series 7 license, which permits you to sell most securities except commodities futures, real estate, and life insurance. Both serve specific needs and are appropriate to financial professionals who want to offer certain capabilities to their clients.
If you’re interested in providing investment advice, retirement-planning services, and other types of financial guidance to clients. or you want a career in insurance or mutual fund sales, this is a good license to have. Officially listed as Investment Company Products/Variable Contracts Limited Representatives by FINRA, Series 6 license holders are usually financial advisers or insurance agents who also sell mutual funds; they work in brokerages, investment firms, banks, and insurance companies. In fact, you need to be employed by a sponsoring FINRA-member firm before you can sit for the Series 6 exam.
Earning a Series 6 license involves four key steps:
As part of implementing the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, FINRA restructured their examination programs. FINRA is the governing body that ensures that anyone who sells securities products is qualified and tested. As part of this restructuring, FINRA created a tailored top-off examination for earning the Series 6 license.
You should take the Series 6 top-off exam if you want to be licensed to sell mutual funds, variable annuities, and insurance.
To take the Series 6 exam, you need a FINRA-member firm or SRO to sponsor you. After you’ve worked for them for four months or more, they can file a Form U4 (Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration), which registers you for the exam. Fortunately, most firms that hire or train you will have a mandatory Series 6 licensing program included in their training package.
There are no education requirements to sit for the Series 6 exam, although most candidates have a college degree in a finance-related field, and many choose to complete a Series 6 exam prep package prior to sitting for the exam.
Yes, although the more natural progression is to take the SIE exam first, mainly because you don’t have to be sponsored to take it, and it is a more general exam that covers securities concepts. The SIE exam and Series 6 top-off exams are “co-requisites,” which means you can take and pass them in any order. Of course, you have to pass both to earn your Series 6 license.
It depends on the license. You might not need the Series 6 if you have a Series 7 license and you don’t plan to sell life insurance. If you have a Series 3 license and decide to stop selling commodity futures in favor of mutual funds, you’ll need to earn the Series 6. You should consult with your firm before deciding whether you need a license or not.
Like all other securities qualification exams, the Series 6 exam is administered by computer at a Prometric testing center.
The Series 6 exam topics include mutual funds, variable annuities, securities and tax regulations, retirement plans, and insurance products. The focus of the exam is the day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and job functions related to selling and purchasing these products.
The exam consists of 50 multiple-choice questions, and each question has four answer choices. There are also five additional unidentified and unscored pretest questions that do not contribute to your score that are randomly distributed throughout the exam.
|% of Exam||# of Exam Questions|
|1 - Seeks business for the broker-dealer from customers and potential customers||24%||12|
|2 - Opens accounts after obtaining and evaluating customers’ financial profile and investment objectives||16%||8|
|3 - Provides customers with information about investments, makes suitable recommendations, transfers assets, and maintains appropriate records||50%||25|
|4 - Obtains and verifies customers’ purchase and sales instructions; processes, completes, and confirms transactions||10%||5|
Most candidates spend 40 to 60 hours studying for the FINRA Series 6 exam.
The Series 6 top-off exam expects candidates to be able to apply their knowledge to specific scenarios. The questions are detailed and related to the day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and job functions of limited representatives. Therefore, candidates should expect it to be challenging but quite passable with dedicated and focused preparation.
The exam cost is $40.
The passing score for the exam is 70%. Because the Series 6 top-off exam just went live in October 2018, a pass rate has not been announced. However, in our most recent customer surveys, 90% of respondents have reported passing the Series 6 exam after using Kaplan prep materials.
Candidates who do not pass the top-off exam must wait 30 days before taking it again. However, if you fail it three times in succession, you must wait 180 days. Your firm will also have to sponsor you again for each retake, and you will also have to pay the full fee each time.
We hope this article answers your pressing questions about the Series 6 top-off exam and license. If you’re interested in taking the exam, we have Series 6 exam preparation packages. Or if you’re just getting started, check out our SIE package and our SIE and Series 6 combo series.
FINRA launched the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) examination late last year. The regulator’s intent was to position the SIE exam as an introduction to the securities industry. The exam is designed to assess a candidate’s knowledge of the fundamentals of the securities industry. Test content focuses on products and their risks, the process of raising capital, the structure of securities markets, and the role of various regulatory agencies.
By design, the intent of the SIE exam is to focus on the basics. Why just the basics? Remember, passing the SIE exam alone does not qualify an individual for registration with a FINRA member firm. To become registered, successful SIE candidates need to gain sponsorship with a member firm and then pass one or more “top-off” exams. These top-off exams are narrower in focus and cover specific products and their regulation in far greater depth. Additionally, the top-off exams assume the candidate understands the basics of a given product and are designed to be more focused on suitability issues.
In 2018 alone, Kaplan had more than 18,000 students purchase SIE exam prep materials. Enough of those students have now sat for the exam that we can learn more about the most common challenges they’ve encountered. In this article, we will examine some of those challenges and offer some helpful tips on how to remedy them.
The SIE exam is, above all else, a reading comprehension exercise. There are very few math computations on the test. Exam writers expect students to be comfortable with the specialized language of finance, as well as common acronyms. Students are strongly encouraged to review the glossary found in the back of the Kaplan License Exam Manual (LEM). The glossary is a great first step in demystifying some of the industry-specific language students may encounter on their exams.
We also strongly recommend students complete the 75-question SIE Practice Test provided by FINRA. Spending the time to review the practice test will pay dividends by exposing SIE exam candidates to a test created by the same writers who author the real exam. Remember, FINRA exams are written by committee and, unlike other standardized tests such as the SAT, the language and sentence structure may vary between individual questions. Some questions may contain legal jargon contained within various FINRA rules, while others may employ more of a conversational tone. The point of taking FINRA’s SIE Practice Test is to gain exposure to several different writing styles and “spins” on topics prior to taking your actual test.
If you’ve spent some time with the study material, you’ll notice some words have multiple meanings. For example the word principal could refer to:
A) a bond’s face value,
B) a person in a managerial position at a brokerage firm, or
C) the capacity of a firm on a given trade.
Students may encounter this “one word has several meanings” quandary on the SIE exam as well. For example, exam writers could use the word covered in several different contexts:
1) Covered is a situation in which the writer of an option has the underlying deliverable. For example:
2) The word covered may also be used as slang to mean a protected or hedged position. This is not strict financial terminology but more akin to, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this position covered.”
In this case, a put option covers or protects a long position since the put locks in a minimum sales price on a potential closing out (sale) of the client’s long position. A call option covers or protects a short position since the call locks in a maximum purchase price on a potential closing out (buying back) of the client’s short position.
3) The third use of the term covered involves the closing out an options position. Remember, buyers create their initial position with an opening purchase, while writers create their initial position with an opening sale. In this context:
As noted in Kaplan’s LEM, the terms options writers, options sellers, and going short a contract and option could all be used to express the same concept. Conversely options owners, options buyers, and going long a contract reference the same ideas. Remember, the SIE exam is written by committee, and the writers may employ their own favored terminology.
Remember, the SIE exam focuses on reading comprehension. Students can expect very few calculations on their exam. Many students report only seeing one or two calculation items. Here are the three formulas that are the most likely to be tested:
*Note: Remember to multiply the quarterly dividend provided in the question by 4.
Students can expect that approximately 25% of their exam questions will move beyond mere definitions and tie together various concepts from different sections of Kaplan’s LEM and/or address suitability issues with a given product. In these tough questions, students are expected to extend their factual knowledge of a product or rule into a conceptual understanding. Here are a few examples of these more challenging questions:
We spend some time in the LEM going through the FRB tools and detail the concepts of FRB tightening (raising rates) and loosening (lowering rates). The exam could employ slang terminology in this area. Tightening becomes the FRB being hawkish, and loosening is referenced as the FRB being dovish.
If the FRB is hawkish, investors should shorten their maturities. Why?
Exam takers must tie together three facts to get to the right answer.
1) Hawkish means rising rates.
2) Rising rates translates into lower future bond prices based on the inverse relationship between yield and price.
3) Short term bonds will be hurt less by rising rates due to their lesser relative price volatility when compared to long term issues. Remember, maturity magnifies the price move.
Dovish is the opposite expectation and implies potentially lower future interest rates and higher future bond prices. If this is the expectation, bond investors should lengthen maturities to take advantage of the anticipated upward positive price movement in bonds.
A second example of the extension beyond definitions could be the exam writer providing a brief description of the client and then asking a question about the appropriate debt security recommendation. There will be hints in the question such as the person’s age, job, income, risk tolerance, investment horizon, and so on. To get these questions correct, you need to have a firm grasp of the relative safety profile and tax status of each debt instrument.
For example, high earners should be steered toward municipals because of the tax-free status of these issues’ coupons. Safety seekers should consider treasuries due to these issues’ default-free status. While middle-of-the-road investors (middle-aged, average incomes) might be best served with an investment in a high grade corporate bond issue. If you encounter an investor who appears to want equity exposure as well, go with the convertible corporate bond since this will provide indirect appreciation potential. If the question leads with a client’s near-immediate need for funds, pick the shortest maturity conservative investment.
If you are considering a career in financial planning, a special designation can help you set yourself apart from the competition and boost your career. But, which career path makes more sense for you: CFP® certification or an MS in Personal Financial Planning? Both lead to unique professional opportunities for those with a bachelor’s degree who want a career in personal finance and planning. But how they cover the topics of personal financial planning, their requirements, and their benefits are slightly different. To make a decision, you need to think about what you want to do long-term. In this article, we break both options down for you.
The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) mark enables finance professionals to help individual clients create comprehensive plans for meeting their long-term financial goals, such as retirement, college tuition, business start-up, a home, and so on. Its governing body, CFP Board, administers the credential. In 2017, CNN Money reported that CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ jobs are expected to grow 30 percent over the next 10 years, making it an excellent career option for young financial professionals. To earn the designation, you need to complete certification coursework, pass an exam, and meet other specific requirements.
Offered three times a year in March, July, and November, the CFP® exam is:
The other requirements for earning CFP® certification are:
CFP® Certification Benefits
The benefits of earning the CFP® mark include a rewarding career that involves a relatively low investment (anywhere from $900 to $7,000 plus exam fees) compared to the tuition for a master’s degree program. The most common careers include financial planner, wealth advisor, estate planning specialist, trading and research associate, financial consultant, financial representative, or financial analyst. If you want to become a branch manager at a financial firm, CFP® certification can help you achieve that level in your organization as well.
Offered by colleges and universities (such as the College for Financial Planning), master’s degree programs go deeper into personal financial planning subject matter. These programs cater to those interested in expanding their knowledge beyond typical financial licensing and credentials. Also, for those interested in becoming financial planning educators, the MS is the next step on that career path.
Compared to CFP® certificants, master’s degree students are exposed to the greater impact that finance has on an organization. Participants often gain a deeper grasp of the processes used by firms to maximize shareholder wealth, analyze financial statements, and hold management or C-level positions in financial institutions.
For an MS in Personal Financial Planning, the college or university is the governing board, although many are registered with CFP Board. Like any degree program, and unlike CFP® certification, it does not all hinge on one exam. You will take individual classes and be expected to pass the exams for each. The common curriculum will include some required and some elective courses in international finance, corporate finance, financial institutions, money and markets, risk management, and investment theory. You can also earn the CRPC®, APMA®, and AWMA® professional designations, among others.
You will also be expected to meet all the degree requirements of the college or university. Generally, this includes:
Some colleges and universities also require that you complete the GRE or GMAT with a satisfactory score.
Although a graduate program is more expensive than CFP® certification, it still costs less than many other graduate programs (as low as $15,000). Other benefits of earning the MS can include:
Which is Right for You?
Choosing between CFP® certification or a master’s degree program isn’t always easy, especially for financial planning. The roles you are eligible for are similar, as are the types of companies that are likely to hire you: financial services firms, mutual fund companies, brokerage firms, insurance companies, banks, and so on. There are some differences, however.
The CFP® mark is definitely respected as an achievement milestone. If you aspire to a financial planning career right after you earn your degree (or even before), you can use your CFP® certification to gain experience at a large financial firm or insurance company. These firms know that CFP® professionals are preferred by clients. In fact, a recent CFP Board study revealed that 69% of surveyed consumers said they would insist that their financial planner have the CFP® certification. This is a main reason why many companies will offer financial assistance to anyone interested in earning the CFP® mark. In addition, CFP® certification often tips the scales in your favor if you are up against an equally qualified candidate who is not credentialed.
An MS in Personal Financial Planning tends to take you farther in your career. Graduate degrees impress—they demonstrate a desire to specialize in a topic and become an expert in a field. Therefore, companies perceive those with an MS in Personal Financial Planning as having deeper knowledge of financial analysis and theory. They are likely to climb the ladder in a company faster or even start out with a better position because they have completed an in-depth curriculum and, in many cases, may have held a financial planning role as an intern while earning their MS. There are a few companies that forego offering tuition assistance for CFP® certification in favor of an MS because they perceive that it’s a better long-term investment.
As you ponder the benefits of each, ask yourself what your long-term goals are. If you’re anxious to start your financial planning career, or you don’t have the time or resources for graduate school, earning CFP® certification is a good option. If you are seeking a position where you can apply investment theory and analytics to planning, or you would like to educate others in the field, the MS might be right for you.
There is a third option: earning both the CFP® mark and an MS in Personal Financial Planning. A CFP® professional with an MS in Personal Financial Planning will have the competitive edge in any career opportunity. Customers will trust someone with CFP® certification, and financial firms will be more likely to view them as management or executive material. Therefore, colleges and universities who offer an MS in Personal Financial Planning often offer CFP® certification education as part of the degree. In addition, if you are already a CFP® certificant, there are a few select colleges and universities, such as the College for Financial Planning and Kansas State, that will credit that education toward your MS degree.
As you prepare to sit for FINRA’s Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, you may be wondering what the experience will be like on exam day. Oftentimes, candidates get anxious prior to an important exam just from the anticipation of the unknown. But there are things you can do prior to the exam to reasonably control your nerves and put your best foot forward when you sit to take the exam.
If you’ve completed an SIE exam prep program, you’ve already solidified your knowledge. Now take your exam prep across the finish line by applying these nine crucial tips on SIE exam day.
Confidence is an important tool in your test-taking arsenal. But misplaced confidence can also cause problems when you’re sitting for the SIE exam if you’re not careful. Questions are often written to trap people who assume too much. The question may not be asking what you think it is if you don’t read it in its entirety. Read each question completely before choosing your answer.
A hedge clause is a term like if, not, all, none, or except. In the case of if statements, the question can be answered correctly only by taking the qualifier into account. Be on the lookout for these words, and make sure you fully consider how they affect what’s actually being asked.
Certain words provide clues to the situation being presented. For example, the word prospectus gives you a clue that the question is about a new issue.
It’s likely that you will come across some questions on the SIE exam that seem unfamiliar at first glance. Don’t let it throw you off. Sometimes questions present information indirectly, making something you’re quite familiar with seem unfamiliar. It can be helpful to interpret the meaning of certain elements before you can answer the question. To thoroughly test your grasp of the knowledge, expect the exam to test concepts from multiple angles.
This is something test takers don’t always think about in the moment. But be attentive to it. Some questions need to provide you with information to set a scene and give you what you need to answer the question being asked. That information may prove valuable, providing clues to an answer on another question later in the exam.
Questions sometimes provide too much information, and not all of it is relevant. Learn to separate the story from the question to get to the heart of what’s really being asked. This is something you can practice before the exam so you’re prepared for it when you face it.
Most of the questions that require calculations on the SIE exam are written so the math involved is simple in nature and function. But in a potentially high-stress situation, you are more prone to making mistakes. Use a calculator to ensure that common math errors don’t lead to incorrect answers.
If you are not completely sure of an answer, you should trust your first hunch. Only change answers when you discover you didn’t read the question correctly, or you find additional helpful information in another question.
Keep an eye on the time remaining, which will be displayed on your computer screen. Be aware of the time you have left to complete the exam and the number of questions you have remaining. Don’t panic, but pace yourself appropriately to ensure you’re not scrambling in the end. A common way test takers maintain a pace is answering the questions they know instantly first, and then coming back to the more difficult questions later.