What Is the Career Path for a Paraplanner?
We all know how it’s supposed to work (or at least how it used to): you join a company, you follow the predetermined career path, and you start moving up the ladder.
Most of the time, this means that your job will steadily progress in terms of both difficulty and responsibility, with the reward of increasing pay. This career progression is what lets companies develop their staff. It’s what helps supervisors sit down with employees to explain where they can go, and how to get there.
In most industries, this career path tends to be very clearly laid out from the get-go. Almost as soon as you walk through the doors, you’ll understand your current responsibilities as well as the future opportunities available to you.
Jump into entry-level marketing, for example, and your boss might explain how to rise from a junior account coordinator to a marketing specialist over the course of a few years. Dive into law, and your supervisor can explain the steps to move from a paralegal to an associate.
Unfortunately, many financial firms don’t really sit down with their paraplanners to go over this career progression…and sometimes, it’s because there simply isn’t a well-defined path up the ladder.
For new paraplanners, this can feel frustrating. How do you get from back-office work to a client-facing role? Are there other opportunities than moving into a client-facing role? What skills do you need to pick up in order to move forward? And how do you start moving up the career ladder?
What does the career path for a paraplanner look like?
As we’ve mentioned before, paraplanning is a relatively new specialty within the world of financial planning. As a result, there can still be uncertainty and gray areas surrounding the job itself. One great example: there still are no nationally mandated certifications required to become a paraplanner in the first place (though we always advise that the CFP certification is the best place to start).
This uncertainty can leak into the career path for paraplanners as well. Paraplanning allows a lot of variety in terms of schedule, full-or part-time, and even in-person or virtual work. In the same way, the role of a paraplanner can look wildly different from firm to firm. All of this means that the career progression won’t be the same for each and every firm.
However, for the most part, at Simply Paraplanner we have seen the career path for a paraplanner to start out the same then split into two directions. One falling under technical paraplanning and the other is the advisor track. We see that they typically start out the same but then split off at the third level. As seen below…
However, the border between these tracks are not always clearly defined. Within a specific firm, there may be no clear expectations regarding when you can move from one role to another.
Even for financial advisors, success is sometimes measured only by the quality of your clients: if you can attract more clients who pay more, you’re considered to be “moving up the ladder.” Let’s change that.
Career Path For a Paraplanner
Also worth noting: paraplanning is increasingly viewed as a career on its own, rather than a step toward becoming a lead financial planner. If you’re interested in the work-life balance and the ability to call the shots in terms of virtual work, paraplanning might be an ideal role—without moving up the ladder at all but instead remaining on a track that leads to a paraplanning business.
How does the career path look different for both tracks?
The vast majority of financial firms are very small businesses, sometimes with just a handful of people. Understandably, this can make it hard to understand where you fit into the career path—especially when wearing multiple hats, or when you’re one of only two non-owners in the business.
But that small size doesn’t mean there’s no opportunity to chart your own way forward. It simply means that you won’t be able to work from a pre-defined career path with clear expectations for upward movement.
It also means you’ll need to be a little more hands-on about asking for an opportunity, and that you might have to wait until opportunities come up. (For example, the best time to seize the chance for new opportunities is when new clients come on board, or when you have the chance to work with a certain type of client)
This can mean there’s a little extra uncertainty about the path forward—but that doesn’t mean you should avoid working with smaller financial firms! The workload and client intakes can be unpredictable with a smaller firm, especially one that’s just finding its feet. But with that uncertainty comes a great opportunity for working with new clients and gaining a variety of new experiences. A small (but growing) financial firm can often be the perfect place to chart your own career path in the financial industry.
Sit down and talk with your advisor.
At the end of the day, every financial advisory firm is different. The details of your career progression will come down to the situation of your specific firm. If you’re already employed at a firm, set aside some time to sit down with your financial advisor and ask them if they have a specific career path in place.
If there’s no defined path, ask what they envision the firm’s growth will look like over the next few years, and what kinds of clients they think you might be able to work with. Communicating your goals and interests can help your supervisor to start steering you toward the types of opportunities you seek.
If you’re still applying to become a professional paraplanner, it isn’t a bad idea to map out your career path. Whether or not the firm has a set path available, the diagram above shows you how you can either take the more traditional route or chart your own path.
Whether or not your firm has crafted a linear career progression for you to follow, it’s always worth sitting down with your supervisor to talk about your interests and what you’d like to contribute to the firm.
Don’t hesitate to bring up your personal skills and ideas for forward movement! Working with your supervisor can help you proactively build a rewarding financial planning career that’s uniquely suited to your own tastes.
If you need a little help with that conversation, or if you’d like to learn more about the typical career path for a paraplanner, don’t forget to join the waitlist for our Paraplanner Portal for tips and strategies just like this!