1. Education. This is a must. Wall Street aces have at least a bachelor's, often a master's as well, in a business or finance-related field. Accounting, Finance, Banking, International Investments, and similar degrees are top-notch choices for those seriously committed to a career as a financial planner. In addition, you could also specifically choose cognate courses that help prepare you for being a financial planner. Investment banking, personal finance, securities and stock trading, estate planning, tax, and consulting are very important courses you should focus on. In addition, as many companies require a thorough understanding of accounting principles, business statistics and the various economic and decision models, pay attention to those courses as well.
2. Training. While still at the collegiate or university level, take advantage of internships or apprenticeships at investment firms, banks, financial services firms, and other similar businesses. Although you're not likely to be privy to confidential financial information during your stint, you'd get a feel as to how these firms work. Internships give you a taste of the real thing. It's a great shot at having a real-world career experience. In many cases, these programs would make you think hard and consider the career path you're choosing. These firms are highly competitive, fast-paced pressure cookers filled with young, ambitious Ivy League professionals. There's no better way to observe than to watch them in close range and be in the thick of the game.
3. Certifications. Specific fields in the financial services industry often require certifications or licensing. Find out what the requirements are for the specific field you choose. Usually, preparing for these certifications would require familiarity with state regulations and other regulations or standards issued by industry associations. These are usually the subject of continuing education for professionals. If you look into these things as early as when you're pursuing a university degree, you'll keep yourself ahead in the game—definitely the way to go when wanting to succeed.
4. Experience. If education gives you the theoretical basis for your career, experience gives you the practical sense to develop, hone, and acquire important skills needed for success. No matter how extensive your university education and training is, nothing substitutes actual work experience. If internships and apprenticeships give you taste of the real world, actual experience puts you in the driver's seat. You acquire seasoned judgment and the all-important people skills when you're actually dealing with clients and taking responsibility.
5. Connections. You become a financial planner by building a reputation as an expert. Combined with practical experience and education, you need to strategically position yourself for the job. That means you must be visible. Join associations, shake colleagues' hands, keep business cards, make follow-up calls, and build professional relationships.