Financial planning is a rapidly growing and desirable field that recently made #3 on Money magazine’s 50 Best Jobs list. As defined contribution plans grow in popularity, so will the number of financial planners as more and more Americans seek guidance in understanding their investment options. It’s an interesting career blending sales, finance and one-on-one personal relationships with clients.

Becoming a financial planner requires number savvy to be sure, but is also needs creative problem solving and a human touch. Money isn’t taboo dinner conversation for nothing! People get worked up if they feel their nest egg is threatened, and managing expectations and personalities can be both continually challenging and rewarding.

Unfortunately, this career is often misunderstood by those don’t actually retain one’s services. Many aspiring number crunchers are pleased to find out that the field is filled with recent college grads, ex-lawyers and ex-accountants. Financial planners, also known as financial advisers, are not required by law to be certified, but most firms require staff to begin an extensive training program. UBS for example has an extensive 18 month program including testing for the Series 7 and 66 certifications.

Once trained, gumshoe advisors must then head out to bring in new clients. Each adviser is responsible for new business, and often gets started by bringing in family and friends. Some also hold seminars and teach classes to generate new leads. Like most careers in consulting, financial planners must not only excel at their trade but must also keep an eye on their own business.

Financial planners can choose to provide advice to clients or actively manage clients’ holdings. One classic example was the venerable Warren Buffett who started Berkshire Hathaway as a financial manager of sorts. Instead of charging by the assets invested, Buffett grew his client base by making money only when he made his clients money.

Over the years, financial planning can be a very flexible career choice. Currently 4 out of 10 advisers are self-employed or own their own firms, and the money isn’t bad either (if you can get past the “ramen years”). According to Money, average pay is over $120,000 a year, and job growth looks good. With Americans investing more of their dollars in the market, 10-year job growth is expected to be 26% annually. For more information on financial advising as a career, check out our links below.

MONEY Magazine’s Best Jobs.
Hanging Your Shingle. Stephanie AuWerter.
Financial Analysts and Personal Financial Advisors. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook.

A Few Financial Adviser Programs
Ameriprise Financial
Merrill Lynch
Smith Barney