Figuring out which Series exam and licensure is right for you can be a bit overwhelming. We teamed up with a practicing Certified Public Accountant and finance professional to explain the differences between some of the most popular FINRA Series licenses available today to help you decide which one is right for you.
Author: Uma Basso
If helping people plan their path toward financial prosperity and independence sounds like an appealing job to you, a career as a financial planner, stockbroker, insurance agent, or a financial advisor may be in the cards.
Whether you’re a professional looking to move up or a recent college graduate, your career can jump leaps and bounds when you find the right security license to pursue.
The type of securities license you may need will depend largely on the types of products, transactions, and advice that you plan to give. Not only can having a license expand the financial products and services that you can offer, but it also provides an opportunity to advance into management.
In this article, we detail the various credentials, certifications and Series exams that are most common in the professional financial services industry and what they could mean in bringing your career to the next level.
Getting Your Career Started: The Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam
The Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam tests general knowledge about the securities industry, regulatory agencies, and allowable practices. It is administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and test-takers must have a basic understanding of the different products available and risks within the industry.
Unlike other licenses, you do not need to be sponsored by a FINRA-approved firm to take the exam. If you are a recent college graduate, the SIE certification can help you get a job in the industry. Moreover, taking and passing the SIE exam is required before pursuing additional licensing through FINRA.
Pathways After The SIE
Once you have acquired the SIE certification, you have a strong selection of pathways to choose from. If you would like to become a stockbroker, your next step would be to take the Series 7 exam.
- If you would like to work in insurance, the Series 6 and Series 63 exams will set you up as an insurance professional.
- Those pursuing a career in financial planning or advising may find that a Series 65 license is helpful, coupled with either a Series 6 or 7.
- If you are unsure what path you are planning on taking, a Series 7 license will give you greater flexibility to pursue different options. For financial professionals looking to advance into management, there are a host of licenses that allow you the move up into a supervisory role.
Choosing Which Series To Pursue
Here are some of the most popular security licenses available today and explanations around how they fit into particular career goals.
Series 6 & 26: Registered Insurance Representative
The Series 6, known as the Investment Company and Variable Contracts Products Representative Qualification Exam, grants you the title of a registered representative. This license qualifies you to sell mutual funds, variable life insurance, and annuities, as well as unit investment trusts.
To take the exam, you must be sponsored by a FINRA member firm and have passed the SIE exam. The Series 6 license is good for a professional pursuing a career as a financial planner or as an insurance agent.
Once you’ve passed the Series 6, you are then eligible to take Series 26, the Investment Company and Variable Contracts Products Principal Exam. This certification is great for anyone who may have strong leadership skills and is eyeing a supervisory position.
Series 7: General Securities
Professionals who pass the Series 7 exam are known as General Securities Representatives. They can buy and sell securities such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. They also work with the sales of corporate securities, municipal securities, investment company securities, variable annuities, direct participation programs, options, and government securities.
The Series 7 is one of the more challenging exams within the financial industry as it covers so many different areas of securities. The exam lasts for 225 minutes while many other financial exams typically clock in at 180 minutes or under.
The Series 7 is also a prerequisite for a handful of other Series licenses including the Series 4, 9/10, 24 and 26. Those carrying this license are most typically then referred to as stockbrokers and will have a healthy selection of companies and industries to choose from.
Series 63: Some States Require Alongside Series 7 for Ethical Training
In addition to the Series 7 license, stockbrokers or anyone who is looking to sell securities typically must also obtain a Series 63 license. This Uniform Securities Agent State Law Exam is focused on the ethical obligations and fiduciary responsibilities of a professional that buys and sells securities.
Not all states do require attaining a Series 63 license and there is no sponsorship requirement. It’s best to check state regulations before signing up for this exam.
Series 65: Advisory Role in Investments and Analysis
A Series 65: Uniform Investment Adviser Law Exam license is necessary for professionals who give investment advice and analysis for a fee. In some states, professionals who hold this license are known as Investment Advisor Representatives.
A Series 65 license can help you advance in the financial services industry. Similar to the Series 63 exam, there is no sponsorship requirement.
Series 9 & 10: Becoming a Supervisor in General Securities
If you are planning to move up from a sales position to a supervisory role within general securities, you will need to take both the Series 9 and 10 exams. Having Series 9 and 10 licenses allow you to supervise sales activity around equity options, mortgage-backed securities, and municipal securities. Prior to taking these exams, you must have passed both the SIE and Series 7 exams and be sponsored by a member FINRA firm.
While you can take one exam at a time, you must pass both the Series 9 and 10 exams within two years to register as a General Securities Sales Supervisor.
Once you’ve passed both exams, you are registered and then qualified to supervise the general sales and trading practices of an office that works in both primary and secondary security markets. If you aspire to become a brokerage branch manager, passing the Series 9 and 10 exams is a must.
Series 24: Expanding General Securities to Broker-Dealer Offices
If you are interested in managing the activities of a broker-dealer office, the Series 24 license is the certification to pursue. This General Securities Principal Qualification Exam covers the supervision of activities such as investment banking, trading, customer accounts, and primary/secondary markets.
While much of the same supervisory skills tested in this exam are the same as you would find in the Series 9 and 10 exams, the Series 24 license allows you to supervise sales activity of corporate securities, venture capital, mergers and acquisitions, among others.
This exam also can be stacked with the Series 9 and 10. Having Series 9 and 10 licenses expand the list of supervisory options to include additional financial products such as equity options, mortgage-backed securities, and municipal securities.
Series 3: Selling Commodities & Registering with the NFA
If you are looking to expand your product line, having a Series 3 license allows you to sell commodity futures contracts or options on commodity futures contracts. Passing the Series 3: National Commodities Futures Exam will also make you eligible to register with the National Futures Association (NFA). This is an added bonus of this license.
Professionals who take this exam may hold positions such as a futures commission merchant, commodity trading advisor, or an introducing broker. Series 3 representatives tend to specialize in selling these financial products as they are riskier than other investments. If you are looking to become an investment professional who offers alternative investments in futures and commodities, the Series 3 is a good option.
Series 79: Investment Banking
The Series 79: Investment Banking Representative Exam is designed for a registered agent to become an investment banker. This license qualifies you to engage in mergers and acquisitions, asset sales, financial restructurings, and debt and equity offerings involving private placements or public offerings. Sponsorship by a FINRA member firm is required in order to sit for the exam.
While you can engage in selling or marketing an offering to investors under a Series 7 license, a Series 79 license allows you to participate in preparing or advising on a marketing plan.
Typical activities that a Series 79 allows you to do include underwriting, preparing a marketing plan, pricing of securities, and syndication. If you are interested in pursuing debt and equity transactions, a Series 79 may be a good fit for you.
Series 99: Operations Professional
If you are looking to register as an operations professional, you will need a Series 99: Operations Professional license. An operations professional is skilled at handling multiple back-office tasks such as client onboarding, fund transfers, and fixing trade problems.
A registered operations professional must pass both the SIE exam and the Series 99 exam. You are required to be sponsored by a FINRA member firm in order to sit for the exam. In addition, you must pass the Series 99 exam within four years of taking the SIE exam.
Licensing Opens A World Of Opportunities
Whether you are working within the financial industry already or are considering entering the industry, acquiring a securities license is certainly something worth pursuing. A license can expand your job prospects by making you more attractive to potential employers.
The prestige and respect that a securities license brings can also help you to build up a client base. Whether you are a seasoned professional or just starting out, a security license will take your career to the next level.
Uma Basso is a Certified Public Accountant and freelance writer that specializes in business and finance content. As a former partner at a local CPA firm, Uma spent several years working in the audit and accounting profession. After a successful career helping companies and nonprofits incorporate solid business practices and build a healthy bottom-line, Uma now contributes financial content geared toward entrepreneurs, students, and families.