What Does a Financial Adviser Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

There are many paths to becoming a financial adviser. Discover the varied roles of these professionals who work to find the best way to achieve their clients’ financial goals.

[Featured image] A financial advisor in a wheelchair sits in front of a computer with a stack of financial reports in front of her.

A financial adviser, sometimes called an independent financial adviser, financial planner, or wealth manager, recommends products and strategies to help clients achieve their financial goals. Advice can range from setting up client budgets to choosing investments and recommending tax-advantaged accounts for education or retirement savings.

Financial advisers typically work in offices, from home, at a client’s home, or in a contact centre. Many independent financial advisers choose to be self-employed in their own advisory firms. If you like teaching others how to make better financial decisions, researching investment options, and building relationships, consider a career as a financial adviser.

What is a financial adviser?

Financial advisers help people decide where and how to invest their money. You must have relevant qualifications and be authorised to give financial advice in this role. When becoming a financial adviser, you will have two main options in the UK: independent financial advisers (IFAs) and restricted advisers. IFAs can give unbiased advice on a broad range of investment products and opportunities. Restricted advisers, on the other hand, typically can only recommend certain products, services, or product providers.

What do financial advisers do?

A financial adviser helps clients decide how to manage their money. They assess their client’s financial health and determine their long- and short-term goals before making recommendations to meet them. 

Financial advisers help their clients invest their money in the stock market and other investments, recommend products like life insurance, or offer assistance with tax planning. They may also educate their clients about their financial health and habits that can help them build wealth. 

In addition to working directly with clients, financial advisers market their services and may spend considerable time establishing and building relationships with them.

Essential skills for financial advisers

A successful financial adviser requires more than an interest in finance and an aptitude for numbers. As a financial adviser, you may need to brush up on these workplace and job-specific skills.

  • Financial aptitude: Financial advisers should have a good understanding of financial products and a broader knowledge of how finance operates to make the best client decisions.

  • Customer-first mentality: Putting clients’ needs first is a hallmark of a good financial adviser. 

  • Marketing yourself: Part of your job will likely include building client relationships and seeking new business. Maintaining contacts, building a social media presence, and creating a website for yourself will be useful.

  • Presenting: You may present personalised plans for clients or speak to a group about financial products and how your services can benefit them. Good verbal and written communication skills will be necessary.

Why pursue a career as a financial adviser

If you like working with spreadsheets, calculating figures, and tracking investments, consider a career as a financial adviser. However, there’s more to this field than numbers. You also have an opportunity to help people navigate what can be an opaque industry to many. 

Financial adviser jobs offer plenty of variety, and you can choose a speciality that aligns with your interests and skill set. Some financial advisers specialise in areas like retirement planning or wealth management. Others work with a specific type of client—like teachers—and offer general financial advice. Others specialise in a product, such as life insurance.

Working as a financial adviser can be a rewarding experience. Not only do you help clients build and manage their wealth, but you also have an opportunity to improve their lives as you show them how to develop financial confidence. In addition to this, financial advisers earn between £25,000 to £45,000 per year, according to the National Careers Service [1]. 

How to become a financial adviser

The path to becoming a financial adviser can vary depending on the type of work you eventually want to do. Here are a few options for getting started.

1. Consider a relevant qualification or certificate. 

Personal financial advisers usually build relevant skills through university courses, apprenticeships, or work experience. Many financial advisers have taken courses in financial services, business management, and accountancy to build the skills needed to give qualified financial advice. To gain professional experience through work, starting as a financial services administrator or customer services adviser is a great way to build skills. To enter into a financial adviser role in this way, you will need to obtain a level 4 qualification in financial advice approved by the Financial Conduct Authority. 

2. Get accredited.

All financial advisers in the UK must have signed a Statement of Professional Standing (SPS), meet the ethical requirements outlined in APER, and meet continued professional development requirements annually, depending on their activities. 

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has several qualifications required for financial advisers in the UK, depending on the services that will be provided. For each of the following activities, examples of appropriate qualifications are provided:

Retail Investment Products

  • Investment Advice Diploma

  • Certified Financial Planner

  • Diploma in Investment Planning


  • CIIA qualification

  • Certified International Wealth Manager Diploma

  • Certificate in Securities Advice and Dealing


  • ACI Diploma

  • Certified International Wealth Manager Diploma

  • Investment Management Certificate

The FCA has an expanded table of required qualifications depending on your job responsibilities, so it is a good idea to consult this table before deciding which qualifications will be best suited for you.

3. Self-study. 

You don’t necessarily need formal training to work as a financial coach who teaches people healthy financial habits (though it’ll certainly build credibility). Learning the skills you need by taking online courses or reading books about the subject is possible. Here are a few to get you started:

Next steps

Build a foundation for a career as a financial adviser by earning certificates or your degree. Consider the Personal & Family Financial Planning course the University of Florida offers. Study online and at your own pace with options like the Bachelor of Science in General Business from the University of North Texas or the Online Master’s of Accounting (iMSA) from the University of Illinois.

Article sources

  1. National Careers Service. “Financial Adviser, https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/job-profiles/financial-adviser.” Accessed June 10, 2024.

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