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Financial Counselors

At a Glance

  • Financial aid counselors help students pay for school
  • Consumer credit counselors help people who are in debt
  • Regularly deal with clients or students
  • May work nights and weekends to meet clients
  • Have a bachelor's degree
  • Have good communication skills

Career summary

Financial counselors provide financial advice to people.

Depending on their job duties, financial counselors may be called credit counselors, student financial aid counselors, personal financial advisors, investment or retirement counselors, or consumer credit counselors.

#from NWOIS overview, checked 2/27/19 lh

Financial counselors usually specialize in one of the following areas:

Financial counselors talk to clients to learn more about their economic situation. They keep records of their communication with clients and may help them fill out required forms.

Financial aid counselors

Financial aid counselors talk to students and their parents about what types of aid are available. Sometimes they talk to people one-on-one and other times they speak to groups. They explain the different types of aid, such as grants and loans. They discuss both federal and state aid packages.

Counselors review students' applications to determine whether they qualify for aid. Once they decide who is eligible, they use standards to figure out how much each student will receive. They make the funds available for students to pay for classes, books, or even housing.

Credit counselors

Credit counselors talk to clients about their spending habits. They look at clients' income and bills. They teach their clients money management skills. They help them develop a budget and a plan for paying off their bills. They coach their clients on how to contact bill collectors and set up a payment schedule.

Investment and retirement counselors

Investment and retirement counselors talk to clients about their goals and dreams. They educate clients about the type of investments that work best for their needs. Counselors may contact clients periodically to see if they want to make additional investments or modify what they currently have.

Financial counselors recruit new clients on an ongoing basis. They monitor financial markets to stay up to date on market conditions.

Related careers

This career is part of the Finance cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to financial counselors.

Common work activities

Financial counselors perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, financial counselors:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Financial counselors frequently:

It is important for financial counselors to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for financial counselors to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Financial counselors need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a financial counselor, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most financial aid counselors have at least a bachelor's degree. One of the best ways to prepare for this occupation is to major in student personnel administration. If you want a less specialized degree, major in finance, economics, or counseling.

Consumer credit counselors usually have a bachelor's degree as well. Common areas of study are family and consumer sciences, family resource management, and consumer economics.

Work experience

Gaining experience in the field is very important while attending school. A good source of experience is a student job or internship at the financial aid office at your school. This experience allows you to learn about various state and federal funding sources.

If your goal is to be a consumer credit counselor, consider volunteering at a non-profit credit counseling office.

Many counselors have at least three years of related experience before entering this field.

On-the-job training

Once on the job, financial counselors receive on-the-job training. During this time, you work under the supervision of a senior advisor and learn how to build a client network and develop investment portfolios. This training usually lasts for more than a year.

Financial counselors also take continuing education classes. Many groups offer workshops to keep you up to date on changes in this field. Those that work for specific financial companies may train for several months up to a year.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

Many financial counselors are self-employed. If you want to run your own business some day, you should consider taking these courses as well:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers of financial aid counselors require counselors to have at least a bachelor's degree. They look for previous experience in a financial aid office. In particular, they look for experience advising students and assessing financial need. Employers may look for knowledge of academic programs and scholarships that are unique to their school.

Employers of credit counselors require counselors to have at least a bachelor's degree. They look for experience in a variety of areas. For example, applicants may have experience in consumer decision-making, personal and family finance, or planning and leading financial programs. Some credit counselors travel to meet with clients. Employers of these workers may require applicants to have a good driving record and pass a drug test and physical exam.

All financial counselors need good math skills. They also need good communication and people skills.

Financial planners may pursue further study leading to the professional designation of Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), Chartered Financial Analyst, Chartered Investment Counselor, or Personal Financial Specialist. These designations are required in one of the pathways for state registration. Certification requirements vary depending on educational background and experience. For state registration information contact the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions or for more general information, contact the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Both are listed in the Other Resources section of this description.

#Checked Board of Standards contact info & verified above designations are still noted by the state, (see: http://dfi.wa.gov/investment-advisers/registration) 3/27/06, 4/11/16 CJ.

#no change 4/19/07 lh. Removed (& updated in db) contact info for CFPBS since is listed in Other Resources 3/28/08, cj. Info ok 4/6/10 & 4/2/12 & 3/11/14, 4/11/16 cj.


Excellent presentation skills are important for success as a financial planner.

Costs to workers

Costs include licensing fees for financial planners and professional association dues. Planners must attend courses, seminars, and workshops to update their knowledge of economic conditions and trends, and to keep up with changes in the field. Workers are expected to have appropriate business clothes.

#Took over national content so could remove statement that employers prefer applicants with computer experience, 4/11/16 cj.


Financial planners who give advice on securities investments and charge fees for such service must be registered as investment advisors with the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions. Financial planners who buy and sell products and services for their clients must meet state licensing requirements for insurance, securities, and/or real estate sales.

For further information, contact:

Washington State Department of Financial Institutions
Securities Division (external link)

PO Box 41200
Olympia, WA 98504-1200

#No changes 3/28/17 cj. updated url 2/27/19 lh

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Personal financial advisors (SOC 13-2052)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $21.42 $27.45 $48.06 $60.47 (1)
Monthly $3,712 $4,757 $8,329 $10,479 (1)
Yearly $44,550 $57,100 $99,960 $125,770 (1)
    Bellingham Hourly $12.07 $18.78 $37.74 $57.74 $76.92
Monthly $2,092 $3,255 $6,540 $10,006 $13,330
Yearly $25,112 $39,063 $78,488 $120,105 $160,005
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $29.22 $33.97 $38.13 $49.83 (2)
Monthly $5,064 $5,887 $6,608 $8,636 (2)
Yearly $60,773 $70,647 $79,323 $103,631 (2)
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $22.12 $25.02 $28.62 $40.28 $74.70
Monthly $3,833 $4,336 $4,960 $6,981 $12,946
Yearly $46,015 $52,032 $59,529 $83,778 $155,376
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly (2) (2) (2) (2) (2)
Monthly (2) (2) (2) (2) (2)
Yearly (2) (2) (2) (2) (2)
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $26.49 $30.44 $51.90 $62.49 $101.24
Monthly $4,591 $5,275 $8,994 $10,830 $17,545
Yearly $55,112 $63,319 $107,942 $129,980 $210,579
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $22.22 $28.10 $51.25 $61.60 (2)
Monthly $3,851 $4,870 $8,882 $10,675 (2)
Yearly $46,226 $58,451 $106,609 $128,121 (2)
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $19.23 $32.19 $44.23 $63.92 (2)
Monthly $3,333 $5,579 $7,665 $11,077 (2)
Yearly $39,980 $66,961 $91,991 $132,971 (2)
    Vancouver Hourly $15.24 $25.26 $39.99 $80.72 (2)
Monthly $2,641 $4,378 $6,930 $13,989 (2)
Yearly $31,703 $52,547 $83,171 $167,904 (2)
    Wenatchee Hourly $17.73 $19.93 $22.21 $24.72 $89.94
Monthly $3,073 $3,454 $3,849 $4,284 $15,587
Yearly $36,872 $41,450 $46,199 $51,426 $187,065
    Yakima Hourly $33.69 $50.91 $59.22 $99.19 (2)
Monthly $5,838 $8,823 $10,263 $17,190 (2)
Yearly $70,067 $105,892 $123,168 $206,310 (2)
United States Hourly $19.99 $27.54 $42.73 $75.82 (1)
Monthly $3,464 $4,773 $7,405 $13,140 (1)
Yearly $41,590 $57,290 $88,890 $157,710 (1)

(1) Wages are greater than $90/hour or $187,200/year.
(2) Wage estimate is not available.

Wages vary by the counselor's level of experience and formal training. In general, earnings increase with higher levels of experience and training. Those who work for the federal government may be on a fixed pay scale. They advance based on their experience and additional training. Financial aid counselors tend to earn lower wages than credit counselors.

Some employers provide benefits for full-time financial counselors. Typical benefits include health insurance, sick leave, paid vacation, and a retirement plan. Counselors who are self-employed must provide their own insurance and retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The state outlook depends on economic conditions and the expansion of Washington's population. The growing number of financial services and products available to consumers and changes in laws affecting their sale and distribution will also contribute to the demand for counselors.

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Personal Financial Advisors (SOC 13-2052)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 4,730 18.8% 16.1% 562
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 30 13.3% 13.4% 3
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 41 12.2% 8.6% 4
    Benton and Franklin Counties 46 26.1% 15.0% 6
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 135 9.6% 11.9% 12
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 196 25.5% 15.2% 26
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 79 41.8% 14.1% 13
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 195 17.9% 14.6% 23
    King County 2,738 21.2% 19.6% 341
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 71 12.7% 13.8% 7
    Pierce County 444 -9.2% 15.2% 22
    Snohomish County 167 23.4% 12.4% 22
    Spokane County 382 11.0% 13.9% 38
United States 271,700 7.0% 5.2% 23,200

National employment

About 25% of financial counselors are self-employed.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation is very strong as more people are getting ready to retire and seek help from financial planning advisors. As people live longer, the demand will grow for financial planning services. Another reason for growth is that fewer employers offer pensions so people need to seek the help of financial planners.

There will not be much competition for positions in this occupation, but job prospects are best for those with certifications.

Other resources

American Academy of Financial Management (external link)
1670 F East Cheyenne Mtn Blvd
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
American Bankers Association (external link)
1120 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20036
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (external link)
1425 K Street NW, #800
Washington, DC 20005
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (external link)
1735 K Street
Washington, DC 20006
Society of Certified Senior Advisors (external link)
720 South Colorado Boulevard, Suite 750 N
Denver, CO 80246


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster