How to get qualified as a financial planner

The last few months haven’t been easy on the finances of the average Aussie. Millions are still out of work or severely underemployed. Some are on job seeker or receiving assistance for the first time in their life. Others are spreading their income thin and supporting friends and family members who don’t have anywhere else to turn. There are countless stories of businesses closing down, people losing their livelihoods, and families struggling to envision a secure financial future.

But it’s not all bad news. Unprecedented world events have also meant unprecedented levels of community building, mutual assistance, and kindness. People are checking in on neighbours and locals who were previously strangers. Networks are organising deliveries of essential groceries. Volunteer advocates are helping people navigate the various types of government assistance available for those who are out of work, or whose small businesses have been affected. It’s becoming clearer that a little bit of empathy, personalised advice and immediate practical help can go a long way to boosting peoples’ resilience.

That spirit of helping people is the driving purpose for thousands of financial planners, advisers and counsellors all around Australia. Their mission is to help people live happier, more secure lives though helping them organise and manage their finances. Helping clients to secure their lifestyle and grow their wealth can be a powerful way to help whole families and communities. It’s a great career option for people with a close personal understanding of just how good management of personal finances can change lives.

Careers in financial assistance

There are many different ways that you can turn ‘helping people with their money’ in to a career. You could become a financial counsellor. Counsellors help people in crisis or serious financial difficulty to overcome financial problems and negative patterns. They help with basic but important issues such as serious personal debt and household budgeting.

Consumer advocates work within non-profits, or as semi-independent officers in banks and financial institutions. Their job is to help make sure people are treated fairly by the organisations offering them financial products and services. This means things like campaigning or lobbying for rules and regulations that serve the customers’ best interests, and sometimes helping individuals when they have entered into unfair agreements for financial products.

At the top level, there’s financial planners and advisers. Financial planners help people to reach their wealth and lifestyle goals through carefully designed combinations of budgeting, saving, investing, insurance, and more. They can help people buy their first home, make sure their families are provided for, prepare for retirement, and other money-related goals.

Getting fully qualified as a financial planner may be the best way forward for you if you want lots of options and flexibility in your future career. Fully qualified financial planners are authorised to give advice and make recommendations on a wide range of financial products and services. A higher-level qualification, such as an Advanced Diploma, can also open up more job options including service coordination or practice management.

Getting fully qualified as a financial planner

Financial planning in Australia was not highly regulated in the past. However, there have been changes in recent years designed to protect consumers and professionalise this line of work. That now means:

  • Holding an approved degree
  • Passing a regulation and ethics exam
  • A ‘professional year’ (one year of structured supervised practice)
  • Join the ASIC register.

In addition to these entry requirements, financial planners must also meet strict ethics and performance standards, as well as continuing professional development (CPD) hours each year .

The only exception is for those who were already working as financial planners before January 2019. All new entrants to the profession must attain these qualifications.

The pathway to full qualification

If you’re keen on a career helping people with great financial planning, but don’t feel ready for a full degree program, there’s another way.

Many universities offering approved degrees offer credit transfer or RPL (recognition of prior learning) for qualifications at Advanced Diploma level. Depending on the university you choose, you may be able to get up to a year ahead on your degree (‘advance placement’) once you have your Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning.

To get to the Advanced Diploma, you can build up from the Diploma of Financial Planning. The Diploma is a great introductory course that includes the basics of the financial planning process, as well as introducing you to different categories of financial products and instruments. It’s a challenging but approachable way to work up to university study. Once you have the Diploma, you’re eligible for entry to the Advanced Diploma. The stepping stones are clear, and you’re supported along the way by experienced financial planners who can give you practical career advice while you’re at it.

Once you’ve completed the Diploma, you’re also qualified for other positions related to financial advice. For example, the Monarch Institute Diploma fulfils the requirements of ASIC’s RG146 for general advice. This means you may be qualified for a variety of positions working within financial institutions, including banks and super funds, giving clients general (not personal) advice about different financial products. If you’re interested in helping people with a particular financial product category, such as superannuation or investments, you may need to add an extra unit or two to your course; make sure you check our range of courses first.