While generally satisfied with their careers, broker satisfaction at independent broker/dealers and wirehouses declined in 2008, according to National Financial’s 4th Annual Broker and Advisors Sentiment Index released Wednesday. The study gauged responses from 1,200 U.S. investment advisors.

“Despite one of the toughest market environments this current generation of brokers has likely ever experienced, we were encouraged that brokers remained satisfied with their careers,” said Gail Graham, executive vice president, Fidelity Investments in a press release. “And not surprisingly, brokers played a critical role in helping investors through this turbulent market environment, by providing advice and guidance in 2008 on an unprecedented scale.”

The turbulent market is not surprisingly driving many brokers to consider switching firms; 9 percent said they are likely to make a switch within the next 12 months. Top three reasons for the move include “better pay,” “more independence or freedom,” and “better career opportunity.” Sixty-five percent of those who said they’re likely to switch say they want to move to another type of firm with the RIA channel seeing the greatest potential.

Additional findings:

The study also revealed 92 percent of brokers spent an average 36 percent more time giving investment advice to their clients as compared to a year ago. Forty-three percent of brokers’ clients took action in their portfolios; 21 percent moved at least some of their assets into safer investments, 7 percent moved into more aggressive investments and 14 percent increased their overall asset levels.

Compensation is more important now than a year ago, according to the study. Brokers noted satisfaction based on whether their compensation was flexible and competitive, the level of payout ratios and quality of benefits packages.

As for how the stock market will perform, nine in 10 brokers believe it will be flat to positive this year.