The financial industry contains a wide range of products and services, each with its own licensing and certification requirements. For most careers in the industry, your path to achieving your ambitions starts with the Series 7 exam for general securities representatives.
Financial Services Requiring a Series 7
If you successfully pass the Series 7 exam, you’ll be able to sell:
- stocks and bonds
- mutual funds
- variable contracts
- municipal securities
- rights and warrants
- money market funds
- exchange traded funds
- hedge funds
- real estate investment trusts
- and much, much more.
A few financial products and services, such as life insurance and real estate, require certification or licensing other than the Series 7. For most others, the Series 7 is a prerequisite.
Series 7 Career Paths
Passing the Series 7 is necessary for most careers in the world of finance. If it’s your ambition to be a stockbroker, for example, the Series 7 is your starting point. You also might choose to pursue a career path in investment banking or as a financial planner or estate planner. Alternatively, you might become a research analyst, providing your firm’s decision-makers with the data they need to make informed decisions.
Retail banks might require a Series 7 for some personal-baking positions. You might even carve out a career with a large company outside of the financial sector, administering your firm’s own investments and holdings.
It’s important to note that, while the Series 7 is your gateway to the financial industry as a whole, your specific career path may require other certifications or licenses.
Series 7 License Requirements
The Series 7 exam, like most others related to the financial industry, is administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA. Before you can take the Series 7 exam, you must find an FINRA member firm to take you on as a trainee and sponsor your application. FINRA’s detailed eligibility requirements, which vary depending on your job description, can be found in the FINRA Manual, Rule 1220(b)(2).
In certain circumstances, associates of non-FINRA firms, or individuals who aren’t affiliated with any investment firm, can also register for and take the exam.
The Series 7 and SIE Exams
The Series7 exam historically consisted of 250 questions. As of October 2018, that changed, when FINRA restructured its exams. It’s now necessary to take and pass the Security Industry Essentials exam, or SIE, as a prerequisite or a corequisite along with the Series 7. The SIE consists of 75 multiple-choice questions, with a time limit of 1 hour and 45 minutes. A passing grade of 70 percent is required. As of July 2019, the cost of this exam was $60.
The new-format Series 7 exam consists of 125 multiple-choice questions, with a 3 hour and 45 minute time limit. A passing mark is 72 percent. FINRA itself doesn’t publish the Series 7 exam pass rate, though third-party sources place it historically at around 65 percent. That number isn’t especially meaningful since the 2018 restructuring. As of July 2019, the cost for the Series 7 license was $145.
Depending on the state where you’ll be employed, and the career path you’ve chosen, you may need to pass additional exams. These are typically corequisite with the Series 7, which means it doesn’t matter which order they’re taken as long as you pass both.
In most states, you’ll need to pass the Series 63 State Law Exam, as well as the Series 7, to conduct business. If your career path will revolve around providing advice for a fee rather than getting a commission on sales, you’ll need to take the Uniform Investment Adviser Law Exam, better known as a Series 65. If you wish to offer advice on a fee basis and sell on commission as well, you can take the Series 66 exam instead. This is a combined exam, equivalent to both the Series 63 and 65.
Depending on your specific career path, you may need to pass other exams as well.