Estate Planning Career Information and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an estate planner. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about education, job responsibilities and certifications to find out if this is the career for you.

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Estate planners give advice to people related to personal assets after death. This might include wills, trusts and insurance. While estate planners need at least a bachelor's degree, most employers prefer someone with a graduate degree.

Essential Information

Estate planners are personal financial experts who provide services and advice to individuals as it relates to personal assets, such as property, investments and savings. Much of what an estate planner does focuses on the transfer and protection of assets after death. These professionals are knowledgeable in trusts, wills and insurance as well as current tax laws.

Estate planners commonly hold a degree in finance or law and then choose to specialize in estate planning. They often work within the financial industry, but may also work in their own practice or within the legal community. Many estate planners and personal finance experts pursue a professional certification designation, such as a Certified Estate Planner.

Required Education Bachelor's degree (Graduate degree preferred)
Certifications Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Certified Estate Planner (CEP)
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 30% (for personal financial advisors)*
Average Salary (May 2015) $118,050 (for personal financial advisors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Employment Outlook

In May 2015, personal financial advisors earned an average wage of $118,050 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). For the 10-year period from 2014-2024, the BLS projected a 30% increase in employment opportunities for personal financial advisors. The BLS reported that a large part of this growth would be due to the growing aging population and their increased need to manage personal assets as they near retirement.

Estate Planning Education Requirements

Although a graduate degree is preferred, becoming an estate planner requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree in finance or a similar discipline. Many college programs offer the opportunity to concentrate in financial services, financial planning or estate planning. Additionally, financial planning degree programs are becoming more available. Finance degree programs include business courses, as well as core courses in financial markets and institutions, financial management and investments.

Certification Information

Many finance professionals choose to earn a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) credential and may be required to do so by their employers. The exam for becoming a CFP is offered through the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. The CFP exam consists of three parts that test candidates on current tax laws. Prerequisites for taking the CFP exam include holding at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited degree program and having three years of full-time work experience in personal financial planning. CFP candidates must also pass a conduct standards test and background check.

Estate planners might also choose to earn a Certified Estate Planner (CEP) credential, which is offered through the National Institute of Certified Estate Planners (NICEP). This credential is typically geared towards licensed professionals working in finance, law or accountancy.

Estate planners must be empathetic individuals, since they deal with people in extremely sensitive and sometimes devastating situations. They must also possess a good understanding of finance, estate law and mathematics that may be gained through degree programs at various levels.

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