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Financial adviser qualifications: everything you need to know

2 mins read
by Nick Green
Last updated Thursday, February 22, 2024

FCA-recognised qualifications for IFAs and whole-of-market financial advisers. Find out what qualifications your financial adviser should have.

When you’re looking for guidance with your money in the UK, a financial adviser’s qualifications are worth checking.

You’ll want to know that they are legitimate and have the specialist knowledge that you need.

fully qualified adviser will be happy to show you their certificates to prove they are able to advise you in the relevant areas.

To help you double-check a financial adviser's qualifications and understand what they really mean, we’ve put together this handy article.

What qualifications should a financial adviser have?

Until 2015, most financial qualifications were assessed under the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), which was replaced by the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF).

While there are many routes to becoming a financial adviser, such as studying at university or an apprenticeship, an adviser must have a qualification recognised and approved by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

At a minimum, they must have completed a Level 4 diploma for financial advisers.

All financial advisers available via Unbiased are regulated by the FCA, so you have peace of mind when getting any advice.

To help you interpret the eight different levels, we’ll compare them to more familiar qualifications:

RCF levelEquivalent to:
1–2Below A-level
3A-level, BTEC, advanced apprenticeship or an international baccalaureate
4Higher national certificate or higher apprenticeship
5Foundation degree, higher national diploma or higher education diploma
6Bachelor’s degree or degree apprenticeship
7Postgraduate diploma, certificate or Master’s degree
8Doctorate degree

Do they have a Statement of Professional Standing?

Every financial adviser must have a current Statement of Professional Standing.

This indicates that they have:

  • An FCA-approved Level 4 qualification

  • Completed continual professional development and followed the COCON Code of Conduct

  • Followed the FCA’s standards and the code of ethics

Below you can view the specific qualifications approved by the FCA, the only kind that we recognise.

Click on each institute name to see the qualifications that it issues.

Chartered Insurance Institute

Personal Finance Society

The London Institute of Banking and Finance

Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland

CFA Society of the UK

Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment

Pensions Management Institute

Scottish Qualification Authority

What should I do once I find a financial adviser? 

Once you connect with a financial adviser, it’s good to be prepared ahead of your free initial meeting. 

We run through what to expect and the questions you should ask your adviser to make sure they are right for you in this article.  

If you’re looking for financial advice, whether it’s pension planning, optimising your investments or inheritance planning, you can find an adviser via Unbiased. Your first consultation is free.

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Nick Green
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.