Financial Planning Degree

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What is Financial Planning?

Financial Planning is a field of study emphasizing the use of money and investments. A financial planner is someone who assists people to choose the most suitable investments based on their age, profession, personal objectives, and financial status.  Simply put: in order to amass wealth you need to direct a significant amount of your disposable income towards viable investments.

From an academic standpoint, disposable income is defined as the net difference between earnings and expenditures.  As a matter of course, a financial planner does not only help advise people how to earn more income they also assists clients to optimize expenses to create more disposable income through a variety of insurance and other cost cutting financial products.

Financial Planner Certificates

As with many other fields of study, there are necessary certifications which stand as proofs of competence for financial planners of all stripes.  The most recognized certifications for financial planners are Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC).

The regulatory body for financial planners is the same body that administers the certification examinations and also issues certificates after examinations. This body is known as Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

While having a relevant degree and certifications are requisite to start, going on to obtain a Master degree in Business Administration (MBA) will help you stand out and likely give you a formidable edge over other candidates when it comes to securing a desirable, long-term job.

Top Degrees in Financial Planning

Financial planners spend their time advising clients on a variety of financial plans leveraging various investment strategies to help clients achieve their goals.  These strategies can include: equities, tax, insurance, real estate, bonds, commodities, and other investment instruments.

Prospective students looking to earn a degree in financial planning will have many options to choose from.  Options span from certificates through graduate programs from colleges and universities of all sizes.  To add to the myriad choices, students can also take distance learning classes and earn a degree remotely.  In an effort to help you make sense of the choices available, we have provided a summary of degree paths along with a means to connect to accredited colleges and universities on this resource portal.

Financial Planning Certificate Programs

Certificate programs for financial planners are specialized programs that focus on a particular area of study or specialty.  A certificate for financial advisors is designed to help qualified students and working professionals the knowledge, skills, and credibility to expand their tool set.  In fact, there are a number of certificate programs that you can consider for your future as a function of your career objectives and overarching goals.  Examples of certificate programs available from top ranked business schools include the following:

  • Wealth Management Certified Professional
  • Certified Financial Planner
  • Retirement Income Certified Professional
  • Chartered Financial Consultant
  • Financial Services Certified Professional
  • Chartered Life Underwriter
  • Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy
  • Accredited Estate Planner
  • Chartered Advisor for Senior Living
  • Chartered Leadership Fellow

Financial Planning Bachelor's Degrees

A bachelor degree in financial planning can be conferred as either a Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA).  Bachelor degrees will typically take 4-years of full-time matriculation to complete.  Part-time students will take longer as a correlation to the school’s academic requirements and course load.  Both the (BA) and (BS) degree meld general education courses with core finance classes.

Liberal arts classes for financial planners will often include history, communications, philosophy, sociology, biology, psychology, and creative writing.  Core classes will generally cover a set array of finance and business topics from school to school.  As an example, a leading business school includes the following in their financial planner core:

  • Computer Applications
  • Probability & Statistics
  • Financial Accounting
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Business Law
  • Managerial Accounting
  • International Business
  • Marketing
  • Corporate Finance
  • Human Resources Management
  • Economics
  • Business Operations
  • Taxation
  • Financial Planning & Retirement
  • Estate Planning
  • Insurance
  • Investments

Financial Planning Master's Degree

Master’s degrees for financial planners can be conferred as a Master of Science (MS), Master of Arts (MA), or a Master of Business Administration (MBA).  The program’s curricular design and program emphasis will dictate how a degree is conferred.  The most popular path for financial planners is the MBA.  An MBA is a graduate degree that will generally require students to have work experience and/or a baccalaureate degree from a regionally or nationally accredited institution or a tertiary degree equivalent to a baccalaureate degree.

Upper level courses found in a master’s degree program are created to provide a substantially deeper level of understanding compared to other degree and certificate programs.  Examples may include classes such as financial theory, quantitative finance, advanced corporate finance, fixed income securities, speculative markets, analysis of financial markets, advanced risk analysis, security valuation, and investment for sustainable growth.

Employment & Finance Specializations

The world of finance provides an enormous opportunity for finance majors.  The combination of financial know-how coupled with great communication skills can open many doors.  From traditional financial planning firms to stand-alone firms, students may find gainful employment in various organizations.

Finance specializations can be used to gain entrance into highly desirable firms while working towards certifications.   Specializations may include: recruiting, sales management, human resources, business management, venture capital, marketing, public relations, advertising, and banking.

Top Job Duties of a Financial Planner

During the course of your research of financial planning, you may ask yourself what does a financial planner do?  Great question!  The Department of Labor recently polled financial planners from around the country to better understand this very question.  The result was a detailed view of what financial advisors do on a daily basis.  This unique peek inside the profession helps prospective students and business professionals a real understanding of the vocation.  The top duties of a financial advisor include the following:

  • Interviewing clients to understand their goals, objectives, income, insurance, tax status, risk tolerance, and expenses prior to presenting a comprehensive financial plan
  • Communicating with clients to explain financial strategies and answer questions, including trust officers, attorneys, bankers, and/or accountants
  • Providing financial solutions of all types including investment planning, insurance coverages, cash management, and other financial instruments
  • Analyzing personal information and financial records to assess a clients’ needs
  • Creating and implementing a financial plan with clients
  • Managing existing portfolios and financial plans to determine if life changes or economic vacillations necessitate a modification to the plan
  • Translating data and financial metrics into meaningful terms for clients
  • Growing a client base while maintaining a set of existing clients
  • Researching a variety of investment opportunities that align with risk tolerance and an overall financial plan
  • Managing market trends and performance to ensure a financial plan is aligned with the proper investment vehicles

Common Job Titles of a Financial Planner

As you point towards a future in financial planning, you will need to understand the vernacular of the industry.  In fact, some financial planners perform the exact same job function as a wealth manager yet two professional carrying a title of financial advisor may perform different job functions.  To help you understand the breadth of job titles for a financial planner, we have culled a list of the most popular titles below.

  • Financial Advisor
  • Personal Financial Advisor
  • Financial Counselor
  • Financial Consultant
  • Retirement Income Consultant
  • Financial Analyst
  • Chartered Financial Consultant
  • Investment Advisor
  • Portfolio Manager
  • Certified Financial Planner
  • Registered Representative
  • Financial Services Professional
  • Wealth Manager

Financial Planner Salary & Job Growth

The median annual income for a personal financial planner is $90,530 according to the BLS.   The top 25% of advisors earn $160,490 on average while the bottom twenty-five percent earn just under sixty-thousand dollars a year.   States where financial planners salary is the greatest include New York, California, Connecticut, and Maine.  The median annual income in these four states currently exceed $130,000.

The estimated growth for financial advisors over the next decade is a robust 30%.  This represents a growth rate of 5 times the national average for all jobs during this time.  Growth of this pace will translate to some 73,900 jobs in the coming decade.

With employment growth comes opportunity for new advisors and for existing professionals to grow their careers.  Related fields include banking, teaching, research, marketing, finance, and training.  Top-tier resources in the industry can be found by researching organizations like the AFA or the AFP

Top Careers in Financial Planning

Career paths for a financial planning professional do not always follow a linear path.  Meaning, a student earning a degree as a financial planner may end up performing different job functions in a variety of industries.  Business and finance classes students take during their studies will prepare them for a variety of career paths.  Below you will find a list of the top career paths for a financial advisor:

Advertising and Public Relations Market Research
Business Marketing Brand Management
Consulting Human Resource Manager
Corporate Communications Pension Manager
Event Management Certified Financial Planner
Economist Financial Advisor
Sales Analyst Banking
Actuary Insurance Advisor
Financial Analysts Financial Consultant
Loan Officer Insurance Agent
Entrepreneur Investment Manager
Franchise owner/investor Portfolio Manager
E-commerce Personal Finance Teachers
Small business management Mortgage Banking
Financial Planner Business Development
Investment Management Fund Raising
Foreign Exchange Manager Employee Benefits
International Marketing Manager Human Resources Director

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