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Online Financial Planning Degree Program Overviews

Research online financial planning courses and programs. Find out what you can learn in these courses and what you'll need in order to participate in online learning to determine if it's right for you.

Essential Information

Many colleges offer online certificate programs in financial planning. These programs take less than a year to complete. Online Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs in financial planning are also offered online and call for about two years of study. All courses are completed through distance learning, and students can communicate with instructors and classmates through online message boards. These online programs are designed for students who already hold bachelor's degrees in a business-related field

The courses in online certificate and MBA programs in financial planning include investment and retirement planning as well as estate planning. Students learn about risk management and portfolio theory. Many types of investments, along with their risks and benefits, are examined.

Students should make sure any online program they are considering meets industry standards for education in financial planning. Financial planners who sell certain types of investment and insurance products must be licensed. Requirements vary from state to state. Graduates of online degree and certificate programs can earn certifications from professional organizations for financial planners.

Certificate in Financial Planning

An online certificate program in financial planning prepares students for the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification and provides them with the knowledge needed to begin careers in the field. This type of program includes a comprehensive overview of financial planning and its processes. Students become familiar with specific areas of personal finance, including investment planning, estate planning and risk management. Other topics include regulatory issues, time value of money and economic concepts in financial planning. An online certificate program is usually intended for individuals who hold a bachelor's degree in a related business field, such as business administration, finance or accounting.

Program Information and Requirements

Earning an online certificate in financial planning requires 9-12 months of coursework. The curriculum is usually composed of 5-6 main courses. In addition to traditional textbook materials, students learn and demonstrate knowledge through asynchronous class lectures, class discussions through online forums, posted assignments and scheduled quizzes. Individuals interested in pursuing this type of certificate should consider programs that are registered with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board).

Course Topics

Online courses are usually offered several times a year and are typically offered through the college or university's continuing education or professional development programs.

Investment Planning

This online course explores financial markets, portfolio theory and sources of financial information. Students gain an understanding of the design and integration of various investment vehicles in order to meet client needs, objectives and expectations.

Retirement Planning

Students are introduced to the key areas of retirement and employee benefits planning, including social security and Medicare benefits. Students become familiar with various types of retirement plans, investment considerations, distribution rules, needs analysis and regulatory considerations.

Income Tax Planning

In this online course, students study the many aspects of tax planning as an integral part of meeting an individual's financial goals. Although personal taxation is the main focus, business, partnership and corporate taxation is also covered. Concepts include tax law, tax calculation and basic accounting.


MBA in Financial Planning

Pursuing an MBA in financial planning provides students an opportunity to further develop their research and analytical skills when evaluating financial information, tools and products. Graduates are equipped with an advanced knowledge of financial planning processes that allows them to further help clients achieve financial goals and stability. Online programs cover investment, retirement, insurance, estate and tax planning. This type of online degree program prepares students to sit for the CFP certification examination and pursue advanced careers within the financial planning industry.

Program Information and Requirements

Available at only a few universities, this online financial planning degree is typically offered in an accelerated format and can be completed within 18-24 months. The curriculum requires students to take a number of general MBA courses, such as managerial accounting, business ethics and statistical analysis, in addition to the financial planning course requirements. Students are expected to complete approximately 42-48 credit hours. The program is conducted through structured online courses that are flexible enough to accommodate the schedules of working professionals.

Course Topics

Online course curricula cover a variety of financial planning topics and concepts, including debt management, statistical modeling, employee benefits planning and retirement planning.

Estate Planning

Students explore the fundamentals of the estate planning process, including estate and gift taxes, ownership and transfer of property, estate settlement and powers of appointment. Other topics include valuation, probate, trusts and the use of insurance in estate planning.

Risk Management and Insurance

This online course introduces students to the various modern methods used to appraise risk and the different tools that can be used to manage that risk. Health, casualty, property, life and liability insurance are presented in detail. Case studies provide practice in selecting the appropriate insurance products for varying individual and family situations.

Tax Management

Primarily focusing on tax planning considerations, tax planning strategies and tax computations, this class provides students with basic competencies in tax management and advice. Topics covered include tax compliance, cost recovery, accounting and property.


Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment opportunities for personal financial advisors would grow at a faster than average rate of 30% between 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that, despite the job growth, competition for employment would remain high, especially for individuals first entering the field; this is due to the relatively low entry requirements and the attractiveness of high wages.

According to the BLS, as of May 2015, the median annual salary for personal financial advisers was $89,160. Although entering the financial planning industry does not require an educational background in a specific area, a bachelor's degree in finance, economics, business or accounting is commonly preferred by employers. Individuals with a master's degree may find it easier to move into managerial positions at financial planning firms or start their own business serving as an independent representative for multiple firms.

Certification and Licensing Information

The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) credential, issued by the CFP Board, can help enhance an individual's career opportunities but is not always required. Education requirements for certification include a minimum of a bachelor's degree and courses in financial planning topics such as those included in an online certificate program. Candidates are also required to have at least three years of financial planning experience, adhere to a code of ethics and pass a comprehensive exam. The CFP credential must be renewed every two years.

Financial planners who provide focused investment advice or directly sell and buy insurance policies, bonds or stocks are often required to hold multiple licenses. In addition to individual licenses, small firms that provide financial management services must register and adhere to state regulations, while larger financial planning companies are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. More information regarding the requirements for registered financial planners and state licensing information is available through the North American Securities Administrators Association (www.nasaa.org).

Students interested in studying financial planning online can do so at the certificate and master's degree levels. Fully online certificates take less than a year to finish and online MBAs in financial planning take about two years to complete.


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