Online CFP Degrees: Info for Certified Financial Planners

Dec 03, 2019

Essential Information

Certified financial planners generally hold bachelor's degrees, a certificate or a master's degree in financial planning. Both the certificate and master's programs are commonly available fully online. They teach students about the basics of financial planning, ethics, legal issues, estate planning, and insurance. Master's degree programs may require an internship with a financial planning firm. This can usually be arranged to be near the student's home.

A personal financial advisor can earn the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) credential, one of the most recognized credentials for financial planners, from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. This certification calls for at least three years of relevant experience and passage of an accreditation exam.

Certificate Programs for Certified Financial Planners

Short certificate and degree programs, which focus on preparation for the CFP exam, are common, and deal primarily with concepts, law, mathematics, and paperwork suited for online delivery. Certificate programs for certified financial planning generally require little to no background in finance for entry; however, most programs are recommended for college graduates or working professionals. Programs focus their curricula almost solely on the skills needed to take and pass the financial planner certification exam. In addition to a computer and high-speed Internet connection, students may be required to purchase a financial calculator.

Common Courses

Certificate programs generally cover topics found on the CFP exam, ranging from investment planning to income tax estimates.

Introduction to Financial Planning

This introductory course gives students an overview of the many facets of financial planning. Students learn how clients' goals can be achieved through saving and investments while managing risk factors.

Investment Planning

The investment planning course covers the fundamentals of building portfolios, allocating assets, and planning for clients' financial futures. Additional financial planning topics include bond valuation, derivative instruments, and pooled investments.

Income Tax Planning

This financial planning course provides an overview of the impact that taxes have on financial future. Topics cover tax laws, tax calculation methods, exclusions, deductions, and credits. Students also look at the levels of taxation as they apply to S corporations, limited liability companies, C corporations, proprietorships, and individuals.

Retirement Planning

This course covers skills in managing clients' retirement goals. Lessons cover how to analyze retirement goals, types of retirement plans and Social Security.

Master's Degrees in Financial Planning

Many masters-level programs offered online provide emphasis in financial planning as well as preparation for the CFP exam. Though not as common as a bachelor's degree, the master's degree can provide a gateway to employment as a manager of financial practices.

Information and Requirements

As a master's degree, the online program requires students to have an accredited bachelor's degree. This program entails a full graduate-level curriculum with approximately 40-50 credits of instruction

Common Coursework

Masters-level financial planning programs are typically founded on a business or economics curriculum. As such, the financial curriculum is augmented by graduate-level classes in research and management.

Estate Planning Course

This class covers all financial aspects of estates, including ownership, transfer, settlement, and taxes. In addition to practical study, students also look at ethical issues in the field of estate planning.

Insurance and Risk Management Course

In addition to monetary growth, financial planners must also learn to manage the risks clients encounter. Topics in personal, property, disability and other insurance help students learn about options for individuals or families.

Financial Planning Practicum

At the graduate level, students take one or more of these 3-credit courses which study financial planning cases. Students may be required to arrange these cases with a local financial firm, but most often the case study analysis is set up by the school.

Career Information for Graduates of Certificate Programs

Over 85,250 personal financial advisors held the CFP designation in 2019, according to the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Passage of this certification exam is generally what these smaller certificate courses are focused on. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 271,700 personal financial advisors in 2018 and expected to see a 7% growth in the financial planning industry from 2018 to 2028, a figure above the average of all industries ( The median salary for financial advisors was $88,890 as of May 2018.

Career Information for Graduates of Master's Degree Programs

Despite the fast growth in financial planning, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expected a highly competitive market for personal financial advisors ( Though a master's degree is not required for employment as a CFP, students with these degrees may stand out among a growing pool of applicants. Master's degree-holders may also be eligible for positions managing a group of financial experts.

Students seeking the education needed to earn CFP certifications online have a couple of options to choose from including certificate programs for certified financial planners or a master's degree in financial planning. The masters may require an internship, which students may find near their homes, and CFP certification also requires candidates to have three years of experience and pass an accreditation exam.

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