Those interested in financial planning can choose from certificate programs, undergraduate programs and graduate programs. Many of the certificate programs are designed for the working financial industry professional and feature evening and weekend classes. Prior work experience and college transcripts may be required for admission to these programs. A certificate is one part of the equation for becoming certified, but earning a certificate is not by itself the equivalent of being a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). An aspiring CFP must already have a bachelor's degree and pass a qualifying examination.
Bachelor's and master's degree programs in finance typically can be completed online, and they are designed to help individuals learn how to provide clients with sound financial advice. Bachelor's degree programs take four years to complete and require a high school diploma or GED for admission, while master's degrees take two years and will require students to hold a bachelor's degree.
Finance Certificate Program
Finance certificate programs are available to graduate students and teach them about risk management principles. These programs are also ideal for individuals already working in the financial sector, and a lot of these programs can be completed online. Some course topics might include:
- International finance
- Business valuation
- Behavioral finance
- Options, trading and strategies
- Derivatives securities
Bachelor's Degree in Finance
Individuals looking to develop a sound understanding of financial planning can get their bachelor's in finance. Students learn about portfolio management for a variety of clients. They also become familiar with economic principles in order to understand how individuals and businesses contribute to the larger system and vice versa. Some common coursework includes:
- Financial statement analysis
- Effective writing: business writing
- Corporation finance
- International finance
- Principles of financial markets
- Money and banking
Master's Degree in Financial Planning
Students looking to further their education can get their master's in financial planning. These programs are geared towards individuals looking to become financial advisors and money managers. At the end of these programs, students will have enhanced their analytical and technical skills. Some course topics in these programs might include:
- Accounting for managers
- Estate planning
- Risk management and insurance planning
- Income tax planning
- Derivative markets
- Behavioral finance
Popular Career Options
Students who get a degree in financial planning or go through a certificate program have many career options after college. Some popular job titles typically include:
- Insurance agent
- Financial advisor
- Estate planner
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), personal financial advisors are expected to experience a 7% increase in employment opportunities between 2018 and 2028. This large increase in jobs is expected due to the increasing amount of the workforce approaching retirement age. The BLS also reports that the mean annual salary for this position is $121,770 as of May 2018.
Continuing Education Information
The most widely recognized industry standard for certification is the Certified Financial Planner certification offered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (www.cfp.net). This certification process includes a comprehensive exam testing the applicant's familiarity with the financial planning process. A bachelor's degree is the baseline requirement for attaining this credential. The process of earning the designation also includes three years of experience, fitness standards and a background check and biennial fees. While this certification process is not required by law, it will most likely increase employment and advancement opportunities.
For individuals who want to continue their education, there are advanced degree programs in financial planning. Programs are offered as individual or family financial planning. Degree candidates graduating from an advanced degree program in financial planning can seek employment in a wide array of financial industry settings, including brokerage and accounting firms, banks, investment houses and family service agencies.
Students can obtain the skills needed to provide credit counseling services through degree or graduate certificate programs in finance or financial planning. These programs not only provide individuals with an understanding of portfolio and risk management, they can also help them prepare to sit for voluntary professional certification exams.