Financial Counseling Degrees and Certificates Overview

Oct 20, 2019

Essential Information

Financial counselors, or financial advisers, help their clients identify financial goals and develop plans to achieve them. Several educational paths are available for those seeking a career in financial counseling; among them are the Bachelor of Science in Finance and the Master of Business Administration in Financial Planning. Most financial counselors pursue certification as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).

Bachelor's Degrees in Financial Counseling

A baccalaureate program in financial counseling or financial planning trains students in family finance, consumer behavior, and risk management. Many programs emphasize real estate, investments, and insurance options. Financial counseling and financial planning programs help students prepare for certification and licaensing examinations common to careers in financial counseling and other areas, such as benefits administration, stock brokerage, and insurance representation.

Schools offering bachelor's degrees in financial counseling require a high school diploma and usually have grade point average requirements. A solid background in mathematics is strongly suggested; performance on the math portion of college admissions examinations, such as the ACT or SAT, is reviewed as part of the admissions process. Additionally, those pursuing careers as financial counselors are also expected to be outgoing and congenial, since the position requires workers to be persuasive and explain complex scenarios to clients.

Financial counseling and planning courses include theory-oriented approaches to risk management, accounting, and economics. Specific course topics include these:

  • Macroeconomics
  • Investments
  • Securities
  • Insurance
  • Financial statement analysis and financial management
  • Retirement planning

Graduate Certificate in Financial Planning

Financial planning certificate programs address all aspects of personal financial planning, including insurance, income tax, investments, retirement, and estate planning. Such programs are generally completed in one year or less, and they prepare students for the CFP certifying examination.

Applicants to certificate programs in financial planning are generally required to have bachelor's degrees. Prior professional experience is generally not necessary, except for some programs specifically tailored for working executives. A background in finance and financial markets, however, is helpful.

A certificate program is heavily focused upon financial planning training, and it generally includes only topics required to prepare for the CFP examination. Such topics include:

  • Financial planning fundamentals
  • Investment planning
  • Income tax planning
  • Retirement planning
  • Estate planning
  • Employee benefits

Master of Business Administration in Financial Planning

An MBA in financial planning prepares students to assist clients with asset, portfolio, and investment management services, while also obtaining a thorough education in business management and skills. Graduates generally are often eligible to obtain certification and licensure immediately following graduation, depending on professional experience.

Admissions requirements to MBA programs vary widely. Undergraduate grade point averages and GMAT scores are reviewed; however, prior educational experience in the field is not necessarily required. Baccalaureate degrees also may have been completed in any field. Many MBA programs are highly competitive.

In addition to the courses needed to meet the general MBA requirements, students take the following classes as part of a personal financial planning concentration:

  • Asset management
  • Financial planning
  • Retirement planning
  • Estate planning
  • Life insurance

Popular Career Options

Training in financial counseling and planning can be useful in a number of career areas. Examples of professionals with this type of training include the following:

  • Insurance representative
  • Consultant
  • Trust officer
  • Financial planner

Financial counselors and planners can find work in a number of settings. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS,, the following areas employ personal financial advisors:

  • Accounting and tax preparation firms
  • Insurance brokerages
  • Administrative services companies
  • Investment firms

Career Outlook and Salary Info

According to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment growth in personal financial advising is expected to reach 7% between 2018-2028. However, a simultaneous increase in those seeking careers in the field could lead to heavy competition for jobs. The median salary of a personal financial advisor was reported by the BLS as $88,890 in May 2018. Those who specialize in a specific area have greater salary potential; for example, securities and commodities advisors earned a median annual wage of $129,950.

Continuing Education and Professional Certification

Financial advisors usually pursue a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation, offered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, in order to enhance professional opportunities. Requirements for this certification include three years of professional experience, a baccalaureate degree, a satisfactory score on the certification examination, and an agreement to abide by ethical guidelines. In order to renew the CFP credential, 60 hours of continuing education must be completed every two years.

Also, financial counselor responsibilities often require various licenses, depending upon the type of investments or insurance purchased or sold. These licenses are administered by the North American Securities Administrators Association.

Anyone seeking a career in financial planning has several options for entering the field or increasing employment opportunities. Undergraduate degrees, as well as graduate-level certificates and degree programs prepare students for careers in asset management, retirement planning, and investments.

Next: View Schools
Created with Sketch. Link to this page

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?