The Series 7 license allows you to market and sell securities and is a highly sought-after credential for financial advisors, insurance agents, and other positions in the securities industry. The Series 7 license is regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, FINRA, and all licensees must register with FINRA before taking the Series 7 exam.
Step 1: Pass the SIE Exam
The first step to working in the securities industry is to take and pass the Securities Industry Essentials Exam, or SIE. The SIE Exam is a prerequisite exam that covers the basics of the securities industry. These include topics such as knowledge of the market, securities products, activities you will be expected to perform, and regulations that you will need to follow. Your passing score is valid for four years.
Before you can register for the Series 7, you must pass the SIE Exam. While not required to apply for a job in the financial services industry, it will certainly set you apart from other applicants.
You do not need to be employed as a financial advisor, insurance agent, or any other position that works with securities to take the SIE. It is designed to cover just the essentials and works well to boost your resume prior to applying for a job at a company or firm.
If you haven’t yet taken the SIE, check out our article: How to Pass the SIE Exam.
Step 2: Become Sponsored by a FINRA Member Firm
Once you have passed the SIE, it’s time to start looking for a job in the securities industry if you don’t have one already. You will need to be officially sponsored by a company, firm, or organization that is registered with FINRA to get your Series 7 license.
If you are already employed, you will need to submit the Form-U4 through FINRA’s Web Central Registration Depository, CRD. The current Form-U4, also called the Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration or Transfer was updated in May 2009 and should have 05/2009 in the top right corner.
The form includes fields for your personal and professional information, including:
- Name and CRD number
- Firm’s name, CRD number, New York Stock Exchange number, and billing code
- Residential history
- Employment history
On the Form-U4, you also need to disclose any legal actions taken against you in a variety of categories. Some of them focus only on convictions, while others ask about charges, both past and pending. It is important to read through each question on the Form-U4 carefully to make sure that you answer each accurately. False answers can invalidate your test results and terminate your registration with FINRA.
The disclosures section includes questions about:
- Criminal convictions or charges
- Actions taken against you by the SEC
- Actions taken against you by state or foreign regulatory agencies
- Actions taken against you by self-regulatory organizations
- Revocation of certain licenses (attorney, accountant, federal contractor)
- Civil violations of investment-related actions, including those that settled out of court
- Written complaints of investment-related actions within the last 24 months
- Circumstances of employment termination in an investment-related position
- Financial disclosures within the last 10 years, including unsatisfied liens
- Investigations into any of the above categories
Once you complete the Form-U4, your firm’s appropriate signatory will need to sign your Form-U4 before submitting it online to FINRA. This is likely the same person or department that handles test registration and continuing education once you are licensed.
In some areas, you are able to remain affiliated with two separate firms, but you must disclose this when filing your Form-U4. It depends on the applicable regulations in your area, so it is best to talk to an HR representative at both firms before moving forward with your registration.
Step 3: Register for the Series 7 Exam
Once you submit the Form-U4, you’ll need to take the Series 7 test within 120 days. FINRA recommends scheduling your exam as soon as possible to make sure your desired testing date is available.
Registration is completed by following instructions provided by FINRA after you submit your Form-U4. You will need to provide your name, FINRA identification number, a contact phone number, and the type of exam you want to take in order to schedule your test. The $245 registration fee is also paid online.
When scheduling your test, you will be asked for an email address that you will need to later provide to the testing center at check-in. Keep in mind that this will likely be a work email address if your firm handles test registration and scheduling for you.
If you need to reschedule or cancel your Series 7 exam, you can do so up to two business days before your test. If you need to cancel or reschedule your test within 48 hours, you may forfeit your testing fees or have to pay a rescheduling fee, with few exceptions. If you are not able to take the exam within your 120 day window, you can apply for an extension. You should plan to prepare for and take your Series 7 test as scheduled to continue working toward a full license to market and sell securities.
The best way to successfully earn your Series 7 license is to schedule your testing appointment early and focus on preparing for the exam.
Step 4: Study for the Series 7 Exam
Once your exam is scheduled, it is time to start preparing. Preparation is key to passing any of FINRA’s licensing exams, including the Series 7. The test consists of 125 scored questions and 10 unscored questions, making it one of the longest licensing exams offered by FINRA.
You do not need to wait to register for the exam to begin studying, but you should have a plan in place to become sponsored and be able to schedule your test. Test preparation courses and study materials are a great way to structure your exam preparation and get access to multiple practice tests and practice questions.
FINRA has an exam outline for the Series 7 test that includes a list of regulations and topics that you should know for the exam. If you have been working in the securities industry, many will be familiar to you. But you should still spend time on focused study for the Series 7 exam and what you will need to know as a financial advisor or insurance agent holding a Series 7 license.
An online study course will review the content on the exam outline, as well as go over study questions within topic modules and take structured practice tests. These courses can be available in self-paced modules or in live sessions. Think about how you study and learn before choosing the best option for you.
Step 5: Pass the Series 7 Exam
The Series 7 exam is proctored via computer at an independent testing center. Once you schedule your test, you should familiarize yourself with the procedures and policies of the testing center. You will not be able to bring any study materials or personal items into the testing room. You will likely go through a brief search and have to leave sweatshirts and jackets in a provided locker before taking your test. A proctor will be able to go over the procedure for using the restroom and computer malfunctions on the day of your test.
The Series 7 test has 125 scored questions and 10 additional unscored questions. You will have 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete the test. It is delivered via computer but includes time for a how-to tutorial to help you learn to navigate the computer system. Taking practice tests through a study course will also help you familiarize yourself with the test’s structure.
Cheating on the exam is taken very seriously. Not only will it invalidate your test, you may be prohibited from taking a test in the future or registering with FINRA. It is best to leave all study materials at home and only bring the essentials needed to verify your identification and get to and from the testing center (photo ID, keys, wallet, etc.).
The testing center will supply everything you need for the test, including a basic four-function calculator, pencil and paper, and noise-canceling headphones. They will also have personal items like tissues available should you need them and a locker to store items that you cannot bring into the testing room.
Tip:Go through the list of prohibited items provided with your test scheduling confirmation before test day to make sure you are prepared.
Upon completion of your test, you will receive a notification either “pass” or “fail”. In some cases your score may be “equated”, meaning it is scaled to account for the difficulty of the questions that you received. Each version of the exam can vary slightly in difficulty, so FINRA adjusts raw scores to a common scale to make sure to account for that, if necessary.
The Series 7 exam is pass/fail and you will only receive a detailed score report about your performance if you fail.
What If I Don’t Pass the Series 7 Exam?
If you do not pass, you will receive a more detailed report that shows which areas you need to review before retaking the exam. In most cases, you’ll need to wait 30 days to retake the exam after failing, and another 30 days after a second failure. The waiting period will increase up to 180 days if you fail three or more times.
Your SIE exam scores will still be valid, but you will need to request a new scheduling window through your sponsoring firm. Once FINRA processes your request, you will receive a new 120 day window during which you can schedule your Series 7 exam.
Tip:The report you receive after your test can help you direct your studying sessions. Consider spending time with a Series 7 exam prep course that includes live online sessions to really focus on the areas that gave you trouble.
You passed the Series 7 Exam!
With your Series 7 license, you are now fully licensed to work with securities. Congratulations! Now is the time to celebrate and rest after all of your hard work. Earning your Series 7 license is a major professional accomplishment and we are very proud of you.
Your sponsoring company, firm, or organization will finalize the required paperwork to document your test with FINRA, who automatically receives the results of your successful Series 7 exam. You will be required to complete continuing education as a Series 7 license holder.
Additional Licensing Requirements
Once you pass the Series 7 exam and are registered with FINRA, there are still a few additional steps you may need to take to be fully licensed and authorized to work with securities.
The Series 63, Series 65, and Series 66 licenses cover state regulations that you need to comply with if you plan to market and sell securities. Depending on your role, you can take the Series 63 (to sell securities), the Series 65 (to give advice about securities), or the Series 66 (combination of the two other exams).
These exams are governed by the North American Securities Administrators Association, or NASAA. However, FINRA handles exam registration and scheduling, which makes it easy to complete all licensing requirements in one place. To register for these exams, you will follow the same steps as the Series 7. If you plan to work as an insurance agent, you will need to take additional state licensing exams.
If you’re not sure which insurance licensing exams you need to take, check out our state-by-state guide: Insurance Licensing
With your Series 7 license and Series 63, 65, or 66 license, you are now fully licensed to work with securities. Congratulations!
The Series 63, 65, and 66 licenses do not expire as long as you continue to be employed and a member of FINRA.
You will need to complete continuing education periodically to keep your Series 7 license up-to-date. The Regulatory Element of continuing education is a computer-based training program that is provided by FINRA and must be completed two years after your initial license and every three years thereafter. The Firm Element of continuing education is administered by the firm that sponsored you to take the exam annually for all FINRA licensed employees.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can You Take the Series 7 On Your Own?
You must be affiliated with a FINRA-member company, firm, or organization to take the Series 7 exam. FINRA members include financial services companies and firms, as well as self-regulatory organizations. You should be employed by your sponsor, but do not necessarily need to be working in a securities-related role. In fact, before you are fully-licensed, you are prohibited by FINRA from marketing or selling securities.
If you are new to the financial services industry, you may consider looking for a position as an intern, in administration, or in customer relations. Passing the SIE before beginning your job search is another great way to set yourself apart from other applicants.
Can You Take the Series 7 without a Degree?
A degree is not required to register for the Series 7 or to become licensed. However, it may be helpful to have an academic background when looking for a job in the securities industry. If you study finance, you will likely use that knowledge in your professional life. But do not let a college degree stand in your way to pursuing a career as a financial advisor or insurance agent. Passing industry licensing exams is more important in this field.
FINRA Contact Information
1735 K Street, Northwest
Washington, DC, 20006
Phone: (301) 590-6500
Information on this page has been gathered by a multitude of sources and was most recently updated on June 2020.
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