U.S. securities industry regulators are proposing reforms that would make it easier for aspiring financial professionals to enter the industry, and make it easier for former participants to return to the business, by streamlining the proficiency requirements.

The U.S. self-regulatory organization, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), has filed a proposal with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that sets out plans to overhaul the industry’s competency exams. The proposed changes would to eliminate duplicative testing and make it easier for participants to demonstrate and maintain their qualifications.

FINRA says the proposed changes “would make it easier for an individual with no prior securities industry experience — whether an investor, a recent college graduate or a professional seeking a second career — to take a general knowledge exam called the Securities Industry Essentials as an important first step to entering the industry.”

After that step, to become fully qualified, a candidate would have to pass a second, more specialized exam and be sponsored by a firm.

“This new approach would give individuals seeking to enter the securities industry the opportunity to demonstrate a fundamental knowledge of regulatory requirements prior to joining a firm, potentially providing firms a larger pool of qualified candidates,” says FINRA president and CEO, Robert Cook, in a statement. “It would also provide enhanced flexibility and efficiency in our qualifications programs, while maintaining important standards and investor protections.”

In addition, under the proposals, individuals who transfer to an affiliate of a firm “may qualify for a waiver that allows their credentials to be reinstated should they return to the industry within a seven-year period and meet the requirements of this waiver program.”

SEC staff will review the proposal, and may request changes to it. The SEC will then publish the proposal for a 21-day comment period.