Financial planners help groups or individuals make decisions about money to achieve specific goals. Those who already hold a bachelor's degree may wish to pursue a master's degree, which may help graduates either work independently or advance their career within a company.
Top 10 Finance Schools
While several programs can provide a solid foundation of knowledge in financial planning, below are some of the most reputable.
|College/University||Location||Institution Type||Degrees Offered||Tuition (2015-2016, Undergraduate in-state & out-of-state)|
|University of Pennsylvania||Philadelphia, PA||4-year, Private not-for-profit||Certificate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate||$49,536; $49,536|
|New York University||New York, NY||4-year, Private not-for-profit||Certificate, Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate||$47,750; $47,750|
|University of Michigan - Ann Arbor||Ann Arbor, MI||4-year, Public||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate||$13,856; $43,476|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Cambridge, MA||4-year, Private not-for-profit||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate||$46,704; $46,704|
|University of California - Berkeley||Berkley, CA||4-year, Public||Certificate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate||$13,431; $38,139|
|University of Texas - Austin||Austin, TX||4-year, Public||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate||$9,806; $34,676|
|University of Virginia||Charlottesville, VA||4-year, Public||Certificate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate||$15,192; $44,365|
|Carnegie Mellon University||Pittsburgh, PA||4-year, Private not-for-profit||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate||$50,665; $50,665|
|University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill||Chapel Hill, NC||4-year, Public||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate||$8,591; $33,673|
|Indiana University - Bloomington||Bloomington, IN||4-year, Public||Certificate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate||$10,388; $33,741|
Source: *National Center for Education Statistics
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School Selection Criteria
Students interested in financial planning programs may want to keep these considerations in mind:
- Since there are many majors that include courses related to financial planning, prospective undergraduates can choose between programs based on their academic interests. Prospective students may choose a degree specifically in finance or enroll in a broader business or economics program.
- Prospective students should also take into account if their program of interest offers an internship with a financial planning firm.
- It can be helpful to find out what the pass rate is for graduates on the Certified Financial Planner (CFA) or Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) exam.
- Finance professionals who are considering master's degree and graduate certificate programs may want to look for programs that are offered in online or part-time formats, which are often available in order to accommodate working professionals.
Associate's Degree Programs
In associate's degree programs in finance, students take introductory courses in the field. They study topics like personal finance, accounting, financial analysis and business math, all of which are relevant for future careers in financial planning. General education courses are also included in the curriculum. In total, these associate's degree programs take two years of full-time study to complete, and credits may be applicable toward higher level programs in the future.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
In Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) programs in finance, students take a wide range of core courses in business and finance. Some also provide specific preparation for the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exam. A field experience or internship may be available for credit, and students may be required to submit a capstone project prior to graduation.
Master's Degree Programs
Master of Science (MS) in Finance programs provide advanced courses in financial theory, quantitative analysis and strategic applications. Depending on the school and the scheduling format, they can take one to two years to complete, and they often culminate with a capstone consulting project. Another master's-level option is a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in finance. These programs provide a core set of advanced business courses, complemented by a series of finance-focused electives. Graduates are prepared to assume leadership positions at financial institutions like banks and insurance companies.
Doctoral Degree Programs
PhD in Finance programs are available for individuals who want to take high-level courses and conduct advanced research in a particular area of finance. Individuals who are particularly interested in financial planning may choose to focus their research on a topic such as saving, capital formation, portfolio management or financial asset prices. When they finish, graduates usually pursue academic research and teaching careers.
Undergraduate certificate programs are available for students who want to study the basic aspects of finance and/or prepare for a specific certification exam, like the CFP or CFA exam. At the graduate level, experience professionals may advance their expertise through a general certificate in finance or a specialized certificate in a subfield of interest, like corporate finance.
An undergraduate degree in financial planning, economics or accounting is the minimum educational requirement for pursuing a career in financial planning, but many companies do prefer an advanced degree. Other considerations include program cost, the availability of hands-on learning opportunities, and students' desired work environments.