Financial Planning Master’s Degree Programs
A Master’s degree in Financial Planning is designed to teach students about saving money, protecting wealth, and planning for retirement. These multi-faceted programs help participants gain technical, quantitative, and analytical skills to tackle complex financial problems.
What Is Financial Planning?
Financial planning is an umbrella term that encompasses several different activities and strategies aimed at achieving specific financial goals. It involves a thorough analysis of an individual’s or an organization’s current financial situation, as well as establishing a set of protocols to help them achieve their financial objectives. Financial planners assist in managing cash flow, savings, investments, debt management, tax planning, risk management, and retirement, among other things. Their main objective is typically to guide individuals and organizations in making informed financial decisions that could help build wealth, reduce financial uncertainties, and achieve financial security over time.
Financial planning is a dynamic and continuous process that may require regular adjustments and modifications to align with changes in an individual’s or an organization’s financial situation, goals, and life events.
Schools with Financial Planning Master’s Degrees
Benefits of Pursuing a Master’s Degree in Financial Planning
The benefits of pursuing a Master’s degree in Financial Planning may go beyond just career enhancement. Programs could instill a deeper understanding of personal finance, money management, and wealth-building strategies, which could be applied to your personal life and financial security. Other benefits might include the following.
Enter a growing field
As a financial planner, you could expect faster-than-average growth in your field. Between 2022 and 2032, personal financial planning jobs are projected to grow by 13%.1
Higher earning potential with a Master’s Degree in Financial Planning
If you are already a financial planner, a master’s degree might help you move into a management position, such as a financial manager. While the median annual salary of a personal financial planner was $95,390 in May 2022,2 that same year, financial managers earned a median annual salary of $139,790.3
In general, those who hold a master’s degree earn more than people with a bachelor’s. The median annual salary for people who held a master’s degree in 2022 was $19,932 more per year than those with only a bachelor’s degree.4 As an added bonus, unemployment rates for master’s degree holders in 2021 were 8% lower than for those with a bachelor’s degree.4
Develop focused knowledge and skills in the field of financial planning
A Master’s degree in Financial Planning includes courses designed for developing specific skills in portfolio management, investment management, estate planning, insurance, tax planning, strategic investing and planning, financial consulting services, and client relations.
Learning these proficiencies could help give financial managers an advantageous position among their peers who haven’t earned a master’s. Focused knowledge and skills in fields such as insurance and tax planning might also enhance a financial manager’s scope of knowledge, enabling them to serve a wider variety of clients.
Master’s in Financial Planning Programs: Overview
Master’s Degree in Financial Planning programs are often both practical and relevant. They shine a light on how to prepare and present financial plans to individual clients and client families. Programs typically focus on areas such as cash flow analysis, financial markets, bankruptcy law, federal taxation, and much more. Since financial planning occurs in a regulated environment, students often study relevant licensing, reporting, ethics, and compliance standards.
Types of Master’s Degrees in Financial Planning
There are two common degrees you might pursue in this field: a Master of Science in Financial Planning (MSFP or MSFS) or an MBA in Financial Planning. While both could help you reach your career goals in financial planning, an MBA program might be less focused on financial planning and include business topics such as operations, marketing, financial accounting, business ethics, and management of human resources. An MBA in Financial Planning might prepare graduates to pursue a wide range of careers in both finance and business positions.
There are a number of related degrees as well.
Master’s in Digital Financial Management
A Master’s in Digital Financial Management is designed to prepare students to navigate the technologically-driven financial services industry. The curriculum might focus on Internet finance and digital banking as well as topics such as P2P lending, crowdfunding, and online money market funds.
Master’s in Investment Management
This type of program deals with raising and managing capital for institutions or individuals. Participants could learn how to analyze, advise, assess risk, strategize, and support portfolio diversification.
Curriculum and Coursework in Master’s Degree Programs in Financial Planning
Core courses in financial planning programs
While programs vary, a core curriculum might include courses such as the following.
- Professional Financial Planning
- Investment and Capital Accumulation
- Benefits, Compensation, and Retirement
- Trusts, Gifts, and Estates
- Financial Planning Processes
- Federal Taxation of Income
Elective courses offered in master’s degree programs in financial planning
Electives in MSFP programs could give you an opportunity to focus more narrowly on subjects of interest. You might find electives in areas such as:
- Marriage, Separation, and Divorce
- Financial Planning for Non-Traditional Families
- Elder Planning Techniques
- Psychology in Financial Planning
Online vs. On-Campus Master’s Degree Programs in Financial Planning
You’ll find financial planning master’s programs both online and on campus.
Advantages of online Master’s degree in Financial Planning programs
Online degree programs could provide the flexibility and convenience you might need to pursue your education, even when life gets busy. With the ability to study from anywhere and on your own schedule, online programs may be particularly attractive for working professionals seeking to balance their job responsibilities with their studies.
Additionally, opting for an online program can lead to potential savings in various aspects. By choosing online learning, you can often save money on expenses such as room and board, relocation costs, and transportation costs. Unlike on-campus programs, there is no need to incur additional expenses for housing near the university or commuting to the campus.
Advantages of on-campus master’s degree programs in financial planning
On-campus programs, the more traditional option, might provide opportunities for networking, hands-on learning experiences, access to campus resources, and an immersive university experience. They are ideal for those who seek direct interaction and engagement.
Admissions and Requirements for Master’s Degree in Financial Planning Programs
Qualifications for master’s degree program admission may vary between schools and programs. But some of the common requirements include a bachelor’s degree in a related field along with admissions documents. Relevant work experience, such as an internship or entry-level position, may also help set an application apart.
The application process
The application process for a Master’s degree in Financial Planning typically includes three facets.
1) Potential students complete an application to the program and submit it either online or through postal mail. It might be helpful to create a checklist with each element of the application to help track progress while compiling these materials. Parts of an application may include:
- A standard form to fill in your personal information and educational experience
- Letters of recommendation from professors, employers, and/or others
- The application fee and/or waiver
- Relevant standardized test reports, such as the GRE or GMAT
2) An applicant sends in their resume and/or example of related field work. This may be an employment or student resume or something else that highlights the applicant’s enduring enthusiasm and potential regarding the subject matter.
3) Transcripts for the bachelor’s degree program courses of study are also often required for master’s degree applicants. These might be unofficial or official, depending on the school and program. An unofficial transcript usually is a copy of a transcript given to the student without a college seal or registrar signature. An official transcript comes with a seal and signature directly from the school to the recipient, such as a graduate school.
Tips for preparing a strong application
A strong application for a master’s degree program anticipates and addresses questions and doubts that may arise for the admissions department. Applicants could gain insight into these potential queries by seeking outside help. Ideally, applicants might want to show it to someone who’s been through the process or knows how it works. But any objective and thoughtful person could likely help by asking basic questions about the application. For instance:
- Do these materials show how this student has the potential to fit into this program?
- Does the application packet make it clear why the applicant wants to go to this specific school to pursue this particular degree program?
- Is the potential graduate student giving us indicators that studying this subject is their passion?
- If the applicant has gaps in their application, such as not attending school for a long stretch or neglecting to meet a standard requirement for the master’s program, do they explain the discrepancy?
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Personal financial advisors who directly buy or sell stocks, bonds, or insurance policies or who provide specific investment advice may need a combination of licenses that varies with the products they sell. Check with your state licensing board for the requirements in your state.
Certification may enhance a personal financial advisor’s reputation and help bring in new clients. The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards offers the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation. For this certification, advisors must have a bachelor’s degree, complete coursework on financial planning through a CFP Board Registered Program, have relevant work experience, pass an exam, and agree to adhere to a code of ethics.
Career Paths for Graduates of Master’s Degree in Financial Planning Programs
While earning a Master’s in Financial Planning could lead to a career in that field, there are a number of other related areas that might be open to those with the degree.
Personal financial planners/advisors advise clients about their money and help them make financial plans. This may include investment advice and management as well as tax, retirement, and estate planning.
Median annual salary, 2022: $95,3902
Job growth, 2022–2032: 13%1
Industries with the highest levels of employment in Personal Financial Advisors, 2022:5
|Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities||204,430|
|Credit Intermediation and Related Activities (5221 and 5223 only)||50,400|
|Agencies, Brokerages, and Other Insurance Related Activities||8,180|
|Management of Companies and Enterprises||4,000|
|Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping, and Payroll Services||3,130|
Top paying metropolitan areas for Personal Financial Advisors, 2022:5
|Metropolitan area||Annual mean wage|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||$208,250|
|Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV||$207,970|
|Barnstable Town, MA||$184,710|
Financial planners who focus on wealth management tend to focus on clients who are responsible for significant investment portfolios and assets. Many wealth managers find it helpful to develop honed skills in estate planning, tax planning, and real estate investments. That’s because these clients sometimes have multiple properties, types of investments, and tax challenges.
Estate planners focus on protecting, managing, and growing client estates and assets. They often deal with trust development, retirement planning, and asset management. These skills are relevant for clients like these, who often establish trusts, hold retirement accounts, and maintain assets of various types.
A tax advisor usually focuses on helping clients reduce their taxable income while maximizing deductions. The responsibilities of a tax advisor typically revolve around financial decisions and factors that impact a client’s taxes rather than their general finances and investments. For instance, a tax advisor might suggest investing in a Roth IRA because if earnings increase, they do so tax-free.
Team leaders, a financial manager often works as a supervisor and management advisor in corporations and financial organizations. Financial managers may advise a senior manager or a top executive on how to increase earnings. This advice might originate from data derived from the work they do most days. Some financial manager duties include analyzing market trends, monitoring relevant financial details in-house, and developing business reports.
Median annual salary, 2022: $139,7903
Job growth, 20212–2032: 16%6
Financial analysts work with data, trends, and statistics to evaluate ways to attain greater assets. They create reports and share this information with clients to help them make strategic financial decisions to increase profit. They might also analyze a client’s current investments and make recommendations to increase returns.
Median annual salary, 2022: $95,0807
Job growth, 2022–2032: 8%8
Pursuing a Master’s Degree in Financial Planning could offer a myriad of advantages for individuals aspiring to build a promising career in the field. Through focused knowledge, increased career opportunities, professional designations, networking possibilities, client relationship development, and continuous learning, this high-level degree could equip graduates with the skills and knowledge they might need to excel in the complex world of financial planning.
GradSchools.com offers 32 Graduate Schools with Master’s in Financial Planning Programs
Sources: 1https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/personal-financial-advisors.htm#tab-6 | 2https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/personal-financial-advisors.htm#tab-5 | 3https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm#tab-5 | 4https://www.bls.gov/emp/chart-unemployment-earnings-education.htm | 5https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132052.htm | 6https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm#tab-6 | 7https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/financial-analysts.htm#tab-5 | 8https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/financial-analysts.htm#tab-6
Based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Accessed 7/20/2023.
Kansas State University
Metropolitan College Of New York
Oklahoma State University
College for Financial Planning
London Metropolitan University
American College, The
Iowa State University