Just about anyone can sell cars, furniture or appliances, but if you want to sell stocks and bonds you'll need a special license. Most work in the financial industry requires obtaining at least one license from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA. The Series 7 and Series 66 licenses are two such examples, with the Series 7 license serving as a prerequisite for the Series 66.
Series 7 Privileges
The series 7 license allows the bearer to operate as a general securities representative. Series 7 licensees are entitled to buy, sell and trade all forms of securities, ranging from stocks and bonds, to options and futures contracts, according to FINRA. Individuals operating as securities representatives typically earn commissions on sales of securities to their clients. Although they are prohibited from defrauding clients, they are not required to act in their client's best interest. Licensees often work as stock brokers or traders for investment banks or hedge funds.
Series 7 Eligibility
There are no educational requirements to sit for the Series 7 exam, but you can't just walk in off the street and take the test. Applicants must be sponsored by an existing licensed securities firm, according to Wall Street Oasis. Even if you pass the exam, you aren't guaranteed a license. Applicants are subject to background and credit checks, and although there are no formal criteria, Investopedia reports that serious credit issues or a criminal record can be disqualifying.
Taking the Series 7 Exam
The Series 7 Exam is six hours long and features 260 multiple choice questions, although only 250 questions count towards the final score. The other 10 are research questions for use on later exams. According to Financial Planner World, questions are drawn from four distinct areas: the job functions of a securities representative, the tasks required to perform those functions, the underlying knowledge required to perform the functions, and the rules and regulations governing securities trading. To pass the exam, applicants must answer at least 175 of the 250 scored questions correctly for a score of 72 percent or better.
Adding the Series 66
The Series 66 exam allows individuals who have already passed the Series 7 exam to register as investment advisers. While the Series 7 allows individuals to sell securities to their clients, the Series 66 license allows them to act as wealth or asset managers with fiduciary responsibility over their client's funds. The exam includes 110 questions, 100 of which are scored. Questions cover general economic theory, relevant state and federal law, investment strategies and general investment characteristics. Applicants must answer at least 75 questions correctly to pass. Eligibility requirements for the Series 66 are the same as the Series 7, with the additional requirement of completing the Series 7 as a prerequisite.
Beating the Exams
Passing FINRA exams, like the Series 7 and Series 66, is a bit like running a marathon, according to E Financial Careers. You can't just cram for the test at the last minute and expect to pass. The Series 7 alone lasts six hours, so you should take a few full-length practice exams to improve your stamina. A common pitfall is to try to memorize answers, but a better strategy is to focus on concepts. If you just memorize a rule, you may have trouble applying it to novel hypotheticals. Understanding why the rule exists will help you. Finally, practice on up-to-date materials since FINRA rules change almost every year.