Utah is a state that has a lot going for it, and if you plan to become a professional financial planner here, you’ll have a lot going for you, too.
The Utah Department of Workforce Services projects that personal financial advisors will experience a nearly six percent increase in positions available in the state by 2021, while the related jobs of insurance sales agents and securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents will see bumps of five percent and nearly seven percent respectively.
Information provided by the state governor’s Office of Economic Development in 2017 shows the state’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the nation. Utah’s median age of 30 is the youngest of any state. The Census Bureau reported in 2019 that 36.7 percent of Utah residents fell in the age bracket of 0 to 19, which means the state provides a large client base for financial planners who work with families to help establish strategies for putting aside money early for the purpose of funding college and providing a nest egg for retirement.
That’s a lucrative source of revenue for planners, because education is important to Utahns, with more than 90 percent holding at least a high school degree. There are 10 public and 3 private universities in the state, all of which hold graduation rates above the national average. There are no parents in Utah who don’t have some ambition for their kids to join those ranks, and personal financial planners help make it happen with proper investment allocation and the use of tax-sheltered savings instruments like 529 plans.
Of course, the state also needs planners to provide other traditional services like retirement planning, trust formation, and general wealth allocation strategies. The state ranks in the top 20 in the country for number of millionaire households according to a 2017 survey by Phoenix International, so there are plenty of potential clients for those high-end services, and a lot of lucrative positions to fill in financial planning.
Getting The Right Education to Become a Financial Planner in Utah
Utahns have a great respect for education, but that’s not the only reason you should go to college to prepare for a financial planning career. Although getting a degree is definitely a key to opening doors to you with employers and clients alike, and is a critical step in earning some of the most important professional certifications in the industry, it’s even more valuable to you on a personal level. You’ll get the kind of in-depth knowledge and training required to make clear, confident decisions in an increasingly complex financial world.
Bachelor’s Degrees for Financial Planners
That starts with a four-year bachelor’s degree program. A bachelor’s is considered the ground-level entry requirement for most financial planning jobs. Part of that is because of the core education you’ll find in topics like economics, accounting, and general business practices. But the other part comes with the non-core subjects you will study, the general education in history, social studies, communication, and more… all of it designed to enhance your ability to think critically and make good decisions based on the totality of information available.
That means you can put together a really great financial planning education in a lot of different majors. With the right kind of electives and a suitable minor, you can put together a degree plan that is tailored perfectly to fit your unique ambitions as a planner.
Among those selections, you will need to include a CFP Board-Registered program, as either your major or minor. The CFP, or Certified Financial Planner, is a key industry credential that requires a bachelor’s degree to earn. But it also requires that you study 9 different key subject areas, ranging from ethics to trust planning, for 15 credits of specific coursework. A Board-Registered program is guaranteed to include that key qualification.
Master’s Degrees for Financial Planners
Not everyone is content to stop at the bachelor’s degree level. Planners with the highest level of ambition, who want to land the most demanding, most lucrative clients, who want to sit at the big table in the top planning firms, go on to earn a two-year master’s degree as well.
Master’s programs give you the kind of in-depth training that you need to make some of the hardest calls in the industry. They are available in all the same major areas as bachelor’s programs, but they dive deeper and go further into theory and substance than at the undergrad level. You’ll take on independent research projects, participate in deep discussions with professors and current business leaders, spend time in internships working at top firms. You’ll take apart how the financial industry works in your head and put it back together again… better, with greater understanding, and new ideas on how to make it work to your clients’ advantage.
And if you failed to pick up the required credits for a CFP as an undergrad, you can also find master’s programs that are Board-Registered, so a master’s is the perfect choice for anyone transitioning into planning work coming from outside the industry.
Selecting an Accredited Degree Program
At every level of college, accreditation is important. You typically don’t think about this independent, third-party evaluation of scholastic programs because it’s so completely typical for American schools to hold it as a matter of course.
But those are general accreditations, the regular evaluations made by the six major regional accrediting bodies that look at overall academic standards. When you are getting into a field as specialized as financial planning, you also want to find a degree or school that holds a specialty accreditation in business or accounting as offered by 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 they go beyond the typical considerations and look into the specific business-oriented aspects of the education on offer. That means evaluating ties to the local business community, ensuring professors have the right kinds of experience, and making sure the curriculum being offered is delivering the right skills for the modern business environment.
Enrolling in a FinTech Bootcamp for Financial Planning
A college degree is an excellent first step on your path into financial planning, but it won’t be the last one. The profession is being rocked by new developments all the time, and staying current will be a constant part of your value to clients. Right now, that means getting up to speed in the exciting field of fintech. One of your best options for doing so is by enrolling in a fintech bootcamp.
Fintech bootcamps are offered both by private organizations and by major public universities, such as the ASU FinTech Boot Camp. They aren’t run like degree programs, however; instead, the focus is on hands-on, experiential learning that puts you through a series of projects and challenges you to solve realistic business problems using new technologies and techniques such as:
- Advanced Excel analysis
- Python programming with financial libraries
- AI and machine learning
- Blockchain and cryptocurrency tech like Ethereum
- Solidity smart contract technology
You’re guided through every step by instructors who are fresh from the field themselves and have the latest perspectives on actual developments in use by the top firms. And you work closely with the fellow students in your cohort, adopting a team-based approach that will prepare you well for the way that actual fintech work is performed in the industry.
The programs available come in all shapes and sizes, designed to fit every demand. Many of the early fintech bootcamps were only offered on-site and full-time, but today many of them, like the ASU program, are delivered entirely online and on a part-time basis that will fit the schedules of working professionals. A full-time program might last only a few weeks, while evening and weekend courses can be as long as six months.
Most bootcamps also offer some follow-through in the form of career services teams, who will help you set up interviews or demonstrations of your project portfolio for likely employers. They’ll also frequently put you through mock interview processes to prepare you and help you brush up your resume. It’s a great way to get ahead at your current employer or strike out for new opportunities.
Adding a Professional Certification to Boost Your Qualifications as a Financial Planner
Professional certifications are a fact of life in the finance industry. Whether it’s the critical FINRA series exams required of many brokers and advisors or highly respected credentials like the CFP or CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), much of your professional role and reach will be defined by the certifications that you earn.
Almost all of them include requirements for some level of college education, along with ethical standards, the passage of knowledge-based tests, and some experience, such as:
- 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 is so critical and demanding that post-baccalaureate certificate courses have been established that are Board-Registered, so that people coming into financial planning from outside the field can still pick up the critical and required 15 credits of coursework to qualify for the credential.
How to Obtain an Investment Adviser License in Utah
Prospective investment adviser (IA) firms and investment adviser representatives (IAR) in Utah must register with the Utah Division of Securities. Forms must also be filed online through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA’s) Investment Adviser Registration Depository (IARD) system. Utah requires its IARs to pass the Series 65 (Uniform Investment Adviser Law) exam, or the Series 66 (Uniform Combined State Law) exam along with the Series 7 (General Securities Representative) exam.
There are countless IA firms across the state that employ IARs, and you are likely to take your first steps as an advisor at one of the big shops, like Edward Jones or Charles Schwab. But there are also regional and boutique firms that hire advisors with more experience and the right certifications, and when you build up your client list enough, you might consider forming your own IA firm and striking out for the big bucks as an independent.
How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in Utah
Broker-dealer agents in Utah are also required to register with the Utah Division of Securities as well as with an SRO (self-regulatory organization) through the Central Registration Depository (CRD). The FINRA/NASAA exams necessary for licensure include the Series 63 (Uniform Securities Agent State Law) Examination, the Series 66 (Uniform Combined State Law) Examination, as well as other examinations pertaining to the type of securities product in which one plans to deal.
NASAA and FINRA demand that all registered securities agents fulfill certain continuing education (CE) requirements. These include the Regulatory Element of CE, which is a computerized refresher course taken after two years of registration and then every three years thereafter; as well as the Firm Element of CE, which is provided by the broker-dealer firm directly.
How to Obtain a License to Sell Life Insurance and Fixed Annuities in Utah
The Utah Insurance Department licenses life insurance producers. Some of these producers may provide financial planning services by dealing in fixed annuities. In order to obtain licensure, you’ll need to pass the relevant producer examinations for your product lines through the independent test proctoring firm Prometric.
To maintain one’s license, 24 hours of continuing education (CE) must be fulfilled every two years. Twelve of these hours must be in classroom courses, and three must be in ethics courses. All of them must be in courses that have been approved by the Insurance Department. Renewals are conducted on a birth month system, so you’ll start your CE clock during your birth month and apply for renewal two years from that point.
Agents who wish to sell Variable Contracts (that is, variable annuities and/or variable life insurance) must fulfill additional requirements prior to licensure. Producers must apply for a life producer license in combination with a variable contracts license by registering as a securities professional. This entails passing the Series 6 or 7 exams along with the Series 63 exam. Variable Contracts agents in Utah are bound by CE requirements of both FINRA and the Utah Insurance Department.