According to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, the number of financial planners employed in the state is expected to grow by 3.3 percent by 2021, with the related profession of securities, commodities, and financial services sales people going up by about 2.5 percent in the same period. That’s solid job growth in a state where overall employment has gone flat, according to 2020 data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
The jobs are lucrative ones, too, paying an average of $87,130 per year according to 2019 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s in a state where the overall average salary is only $45,620 per year.
Why the big demand for financial planners? Well, part of it could be the fact that Oklahoma is getting older at a rapid pace… the Census Bureau estimates that more than 24 percent of the state’s population will be over the age of 60 by 2030, a 25 percent increase from 2012.
When you start edging toward retirement age, as the Baby Boom generation is currently doing, you start thinking hard about how you are going to support your lifestyle during those golden years. That creates a spike in demand for financial planners, who have the knowledge and expertise to lay out effective approaches to building tax-sheltered retirements savings, investments, trusts, and estate plans to ensure a comfortable retirement for clients.
Financial planners in Oklahoma also handle many other services that state residents demand, including setting up and overseeing tax-protected educational savings plans, investment advising, and wealth management. There are dozens of difference specialty areas in financial planning, and you can find clients in need of all of them throughout Oklahoma today.
Getting The Right Education to Become a Financial Planner in Oklahoma
To get there, though, you’ll need to get the right education. Sooners don’t stand much on formality, but they do like to know that anyone who is going to be handling their money has actually had a little bit of training and has gone to the trouble of studying and preparing themselves for a position of fiduciary trust.
That’s a position that is basically shared by the finance industry as a whole today. You’ll find that most employers will want to see a degree on your resume, and most of the important professional certifications that are in-demand in the field also require some college credits in order to earn.
Bachelor’s Degrees for Financial Planners
At a minimum, that all means that you need to at least get a bachelor’s degree from a reputable university. A bachelor’s degree is four years of study that combines a series of subject-matter specific courses with more general education that come together to create well-rounded, responsible, prepared individuals for entry-level posts in finance.
That liberal arts approach to education leaves open a broad range of degree options, allowing you to tailor your education to fit whatever niche you plan to enter in financial planning. You can opt for traditional majors like financial services, business, or accounting, but you can also put together plans that revolve around areas of expertise like economics, psychology, or communications… whatever you feel will give you the edge to work effectively with your client base.
Whatever combination of electives, major, or minor you put together, you will want to ensure that it includes participation in a CFP Board-Registered program. The CFP Board is the organization that awards the coveted Certified Financial Planner (CFP) credential, one of the most important professional certifications in the field. Board-Registered programs are guaranteed to have the required educational component for the CFP, consisting of 15 credits of education in 9 specific subject areas ranging from ethics to trust planning.
Master’s Degrees for Financial Planners
If a bachelor’s degree is entry-level, getting access to the upper tiers of positions in financial planning, as well as the most lucrative clients, requires the next educational step: earning a two-year master’s degree.
Master’s degrees involve a deeper level of study in the same subject areas than you find at the bachelor’s level. The education is more focused and involves a heavy dose of theory and typically a high level of research in the field… either independently driven, or together with highly-respected faculty members and researchers in financial fields.
Combined with internships that put you in the thick of the action to observe and learn on a practical basis, you come out the other side with the kind of credentials that can land you in the corner office or help you pick up that millionaire client that the whole town has been competing for.
You will also find CFP Board-Registered programs at this level, a perfect option if you missed out at the bachelor’s level or are coming in from a different field entirely.
Selecting an Accredited Degree Program
General academic accreditation is something that pretty much every American university you have ever heard of has already earned. It’s a stamp of approval from an independent third-party evaluator, organizations that dive into policy, administrative matters, funding, and even conduct on-site visits to evaluate facilities to ensure that the school can deliver what it promises in terms of modern American education.
But when you are considering entering a specialized field such as finance, it pays to look one level deeper: for schools or programs that also hold a specialty accreditation from one of these three agencies:
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
- International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
That’s because the demands of the American business community go beyond the basics. They want to know that your training in business and accounting matters has been shaped by real-world demands, and that you meet the high standards that today’s employers expect of college graduates in these fields. A specialty accreditation offers that assurance, and guarantees that your degree will be taken seriously by potential employers after graduation.
Enrolling in a FinTech Bootcamp for Financial Planning
In finance, learning doesn’t stop when you graduate. The field is evolving fast, and much of that evaluation today is coming from one particular specialization: fintech, or financial technology.
Fintech is what happens when you put together modern big data storage and analysis techniques, computational technology, and high-speed communication with the evolving complexity of financial instruments and the world of high-speed investing. What comes out the other side are revolutionary technologies like algorithmic trading, cryptocurrencies, and artificial intelligence investment analysis.
These techniques are so new and so constantly in motion that you won’t learn about them in depth in any college program. Instead, a fast-paced fintech bootcamp is the way to go to build your expertise.
These programs only take a few weeks or a few months to get through, and are relatively inexpensive. They use a project-based technique that has you learning the subjects by actually doing them, working hands-on with real-world data with your cohort of fellow students, lead by instructors fresh from the front-lines. They teach you skill such as:
- Advanced Excel analysis
- Machine learning and artificial intelligence analytics
- Python programming and financial libraries
- Blockchain and cryptocurrencies
- Ethereum and Solidity Smart Contracts
Bootcamps are offered by a wide array of organizations, in both traditional, in-person formats and increasingly as online offerings. Two of those that are available to Oklahoma residents in a part-time format are from major universities:
While it’s a very different style than traditional college education, you get a lot of advantages that come with college-run bootcamps. They have highly professional instructors, a wealth of academic and computational resources on tap, solid industry relationships, and experienced career services departments that are used to working with new graduates to build up interview skills, resume and portfolio presentations, and even putting together showcases for your skills for potential employers.
A bootcamp is a great way to build your skills and give yourself a set of qualifications that will help you stand out among financial professionals for years to come.
Adding a Professional Certification to Boost Your Qualifications as a Financial Planner
The finance industry often seems to revolve around professional testing and certifications. Whether it is the ubiquitous FINRA tests that qualify you for licensure in most states or independent certifications that verify your knowledge, education, and experience, you’ll find that employers are on the lookout for professionals who take the steps to earn the right certs in their specialty area. Some of the major ones include:
- 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
The CFP, in addition to requiring a bachelor’s degree, demands that you also have at least 15 credits in specific subject areas, as outlined in the Board-Registered programs guidance. If you hadn’t satisfied those requirements at the bachelor or master’s levels, you can still pick up the right coursework through a Board-Registered certification program in order to qualify.
How to Obtain an Investment Adviser Representative License in Oklahoma
The Oklahoma Department of Securities is the state agency that controls the registration and licensing of investment adviser (IA) firms and their representatives (IAR) who work with residents of the state. Registration through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA’s) IARD (Investment Advisor Registration Depository) system is required of both state and federal level IA firm registrants and their representatives. Becoming a proprietor of an investment adviser firm or a representative of an existing firm in Oklahoma requires showing proof of passing the Series 65 exam, or the Series 7 exam along with the Series 66.
There are many investment adviser firms with a strong presence in Oklahoma, some with nationally recognizable names and others of local fame. They include Bank of the West in Tulsa, Bixby and Bartlesville, Edward Jones in Oklahoma City and Tulsa and First Command Financial Services, Inc. in Lawton. Eventually, you may want to strike out on your own as an adviser, but it’s most likely that you will at least start off your career at one of these major retail adviser operations until you build up the reputation and client list to make the jump to your own show.
How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in Oklahoma
Stockbrokers/broker-dealer agents must register with the Oklahoma Department of Securities through the FINRA-managed Central Registration Depository (CRD). A uniform state law examination such as the Series 63 or 66 exam must be passed along with a product-specific exam based upon the securities one plans to work with. These exams include the Series 6 (Investment Company Products/Variable Contracts Representative), Series 7 (General Securities Representative), Series 22 (Direct Participation Programs Representative) or Series 52 (Municipal Securities Representative) exams.
Broker-dealer agents must adhere to continuing education (CE) regulations set forth by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) and FINRA. After being registered as an agent for two years, agents must participate in the Regulatory Element of continuing education. This course provides a refresher on regulations in the financial services industry. It must then be taken every three years for the remainder of the registered reps career. The Firm Element is the other required component of CE. Firms must provide registered agents with once-yearly training on developments and changes in the industry, products, and sales protocols.
How to Obtain a License to Sell Life Insurance and Fixed Annuities in Oklahoma
The Oklahoma Insurance Department licenses qualified applicants to sell life insurance and annuities, one of the most popular financial and retirement planning investment products. No pre-licensing education is required in Oklahoma, but all applicants must pass the state licensing exam for their specific line of authority and apply for a license online through the Prometric website.
Licensed producers must complete 24 hours of continuing education biennially, including three hours of ethics and two hours of legislative updates.
Some producers in Oklahoma may wish to sell variable contracts after becoming licensed life insurance producers. This may be accomplished through securities agent registration, which involves passing the Series 63 exam along with either the Series 7 or Series 6 exam. Alternatively, after securities agent registration, applicants may also apply for both life and variable life/annuities licenses simultaneously, producing a Life, Variable license. Continuing education mandates of both the Oklahoma Insurance Department and the governing SRO (self-regulatory organization) apply to variable contract producers.