Mississippi is regularly ranked as the poorest state in the United States, so you might be forgiven for thinking that financial planners don’t find a lot of work here. But there are at least 800 hardworking individuals counted by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security as of 2019 who could set you straight on that subject… and show you their paychecks, averaging $87,860 per year, to show you how lucrative that work can be.
That more than doubles the average annual wage in Mississippi, which might make financial advisors themselves some of the wealthiest folks in the state. But they come by that honestly, helping hard-working Mississippians manage their financial situations through clear, actionable advice in matters range from educational savings to trust and estate management to 401K investing advice.
The reality is that it’s even more important to have professional financial advising on tap when you are not already swimming in money.
Even so, there are wealthy areas in the state, like Madison, the suburb just outside Jackson that was ranked by Business Insider as the richest town in the state for 2019. There, you’ll find additional demand for high-end financial planning services such as wealth management and asset allocation planning for tax purposes.
Whatever your specialization, there are applications somewhere in Mississippi for someone of your talents in financial planning.
Getting The Right Education to Become a Financial Planner in Mississippi
To acquire those talents, however, you’ll have to plan to spend some time in college. There was a period in the history of financial planning when you could soak up all you needed to know on the job, working your way up the ladder at planning firms at the feet of the masters and learning as you went. But today, the field is heavily regulated, highly specialized, and extensively modernized. That means you need a lot of formal instruction to master everything that needs to be mastered.
Equally importantly, you will find that the industry relies heavily on professional certifications to establish your skill level and credentials for both employers and clients. To earn those credentials, you will need to accumulate at least some college credits… and a full degree is always the preference.
Bachelor’s Degrees for Financial Planners
That starts with a basic four-year bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s includes instruction in not only the essential aspects of your major, but also many general studies courses that will build you into a well-rounded planner, giving you critical thinking, communications, and reasoning skills that will be expected by clients and employers alike.
The focus of that bachelor’s degree is up to you, however. Some of the most common options include:
- Bachelor in Financial Planning
- Bachelor in Financial Services
- Bachelor in Accounting
- Bachelor in Business
- Bachelor in Trust and Wealth Management
But in fact you can pick almost anything you like, so long as your major, or a minor that you tack on to it, is a CFP Board-Registered program. That’s because the most important credential available to financial planners, the Certified Financial Planner (CFP), has a rock-solid requirement that your college education include at least 15 credits in a variety of subjects in order to qualify you to take the exam. Board-registered programs are guaranteed to include those qualifying courses.
Master’s Degrees for Financial Planners
You can get your CFP Board qualifications out of the way at the graduate level as well, however, if you choose to move up to a master’s degree program. This is a great way to either get into the profession as part of a career change from another field, or to up your game as a planner and shoot for the most wealthy clients or the highest positions in your organization.
That’s because a master’s degree, which lasts about two years, strips away all of the general studies aspects of college and focuses exclusively on in-depth studies of your core major. You can find those majors in all the same categories as bachelor’s degrees, but you’ll investigate them at a more advanced level for a master’s. That frequently includes conducting original research on those topics and serving in internships that allow you to put your studies into practice, with feedback from some of the finest minds in the profession to help you with your progress.
Selecting an Accredited Degree Program
Accreditation is an important factor that most American college students never have to think about; almost every institution you will ever have heard of holds a general accreditation from one of the six major accrediting agencies that are designated by the Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to evaluate the academic and organizational qualities of higher education in the country.
But those agencies look only at the general picture, not the subject matter being taught. In some areas, such as business and accounting, there are specialty accreditors who do evaluate schools and programs for the specific aspects of their schooling of interest to employers in the field. Those include:
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
- International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
Looking for schools or programs that have been accredited by one of those three agencies will ensure that you are getting an education that meets with the current high standards of the American business community, and will make it that much easier for you to find employment after graduation.
Enrolling in a FinTech Bootcamp for Financial Planning
Your college education is important, but it isn’t everything in planning, either. Finance has been moving fast and getting complicated in the past few decades, and the current state-of-the-art takes time to trickle down to universities. Because of this lag, anyone who understands the dark arts of fintech become immensely valuable to investment banks and other financial operations.
One option for you to become one of those individuals is to enroll in a fintech bootcamp. These fast-paced programs, lasting between a few weeks and a few months, cram in more high-tech, high-finance education than you will get in years of a conventional college degree program. They don’t spend time exploring the roots or history or theoretical basis behind what you learn; instead, it’s all practical, all hands-on, all relevant studies on subjects including:
- Advanced Excel analysis
- Python programming and the use of financial libraries
- Blockchain and cryptocurrencies
- Solidity smart contracts
- AI and machine learning analytical techniques for finance
You learn it from instructors who were themselves active in the field, and maybe even instrumental in developing some of the techniques you’ll learn. The process puts you and your fellow cohort members through a series of projects that are built around live financial datasets and explore real-world problems.
Bootcamps were initially all full-time and conducted on-site, but you are increasingly able to find part-time, online programs open to Mississippians, such as these two six-month programs from highly reputable colleges:
Like other bootcamps, they include career services that will help get your resume up to spec with your knew skills, and offer demo days to help you show off to prospective employers. You also get to draw on the vast academic resources of those institutions, with professional instructors and expert administrative organizations. It’s a solid option for anyone who wants to launch their career in a new direction or build their skills to advance in their current company.
Adding a Professional Certification to Boost Your Qualifications as a Financial Planner
Both financial planning companies and prospective clients are looking for a lot of skills and qualities when they are thinking about hiring you. You can make their decision a lot easier by earning one of the many industry-standard certifications that are available in different specialty areas of financial planning:
- Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) – Requires 27 semester credit hours in specified courses, although not a completed degree, plus 3 years experience
- Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC) – Not required; however, must hold a CFA, plus 5 years experience
- Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) – Hold 4 years combined professional and/or university experience
- Certified Financial Planner (CFP) – Hold a bachelor’s degree, plus 3 years experience
- Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) – Have 75 hours personal financial planning education; also, hold a CPA, which requires a degree, plus 2 years experience
Each of them includes verification of some level of experience and college education, as well as presenting you with a qualifying test you will have to pass. The CFP, as noted, requires not just a college education, but a very specific set of coursework; if for some reason you get to this point without having taken it, you can still qualify by enrolling in one of the many CFP Board-Registered post-baccalaureate certificate programs that will get you up to speed quickly and inexpensively.
How to Obtain an Investment Adviser Representative License in Mississippi
The Mississippi Secretary of State’s Business Regulation & Enforcement Division is responsible for regulating investment advisers and stockbrokers who wish to do business in the state. Investment adviser representatives (IARs) in the state must register with the Mississippi Secretary of State Securities Division. The Mississippi Securities Act Rule 629 requires that all prospective IARs in the state get a passing score on NASAA’s (the North American Securities Administrators Association’s) Uniform Investment Adviser Law Examination (Series 65); or the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ‘s (FINRA’s) General Securities Examination (Series 7) in combination with the NASAA Uniform Combined State Law Examination (Series 66). The only broker-dealer agents exempt from registration with the state are those who perform financial advisory services supplementary to their regular business and without charging for the service.
Investment advisory firms exist all over Mississippi. You are even open to set one up yourself, if you can meet the stringent requirements for IAs, but it’s more likely that you will initially start with a big firm like Edward Jones, or any of the other national retail advisors who have shops throughout the state.
How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in Mississippi
The Mississippi Secretary of State Securities Division also registers stockbrokers, more often referred to in the industry as registered representatives. Prospective registered reps must be sponsored by a broker-dealer firm and pass either NASAA’s Series 63 Uniform Securities Agent State Law Exam or Series 66 Uniform Combined State Law Exam, as well as either the Series 6 or 7 exams, depending on the specific financial products they’ll be selling.
FINRA requires registered representatives to participate in continuing education (CE) programs for securities industry specialists. After being licensed for two years, and every three years going forward, registered representatives must take a Regulatory Element computer-based training course to stay abreast of the frequent regulatory changes in the financial services industry. Firms must also organize formal CE training programs for the registered reps in their employ in what is know as the Firm Element. This is based on the internally assessed needs of the firm and often involves ethics, sales, and product knowledge training.
How to Obtain a License to Sell Life Insurance and Fixed Annuities in Mississippi
The Mississippi Insurance Department licenses producers of life insurance, which qualifies them to act as financial planners dealing in fixed annuities. Prospective life insurance producers must take a 20-hour pre-licensing course through an approved provider and receive a passing grade on the state examinations for the relevant lines of authority. Mississippi contracts with a third-party testing service to manage the exams, Pearson VUE, which has locations available throughout the state.
Dealing in variable annuities requires a Variable Life/Variable Annuity license. While there is no additional pre-licensing education requirement beyond the 20-hours required of all insurance producers, candidates must also receive Series 6 or 7 certification through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and register with Mississippi’s Securities Division.