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Master's Degree Programs in Financial Planning

Master's degree programs in financial planning are fairly common and help prepare students for careers as financial planners for organizations and/or individuals. Explore common coursework and requirements for these degree programs here.

How to Earn a Master's Degree in Financial Planning

Master's programs in financial planning are usually offered as a Master of Science (MS) in Financial Planning, an MS in Finance with a concentration in financial planning, or an MS in Personal Financial Planning and are commonly available in online formats. These degree programs may range from 30 to 36 credits, with some being completed in as little as 1 year, and while these programs typically don'r require a thesis, some programs may require a final capstone course, project, or case analysis as a culminating experience. Some master's degree programs in financial planning are also approved by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) indicating the curriculum is designed to help prepare students for their Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification exam, but most of these programs typically include core courses in financial planning with some elective coursework for individualized study.

Personal Financial Planning

Courses in financial planning or personal financial planning generally provide students with an overview of the various financial decisions one needs to make over the course of a lifetime. These courses may also examine careers in financial planning and some may fulfill some of the education requirements for the CFP exam. Other specific topics for courses in personal financial planning include social security, insurance, managing finance statements, income tax planning, retirement, and more.

Investments

Another course that may satisfy some requirements for the CFP exam is a course in investments and/or investment management that explores how to make investment decisions. These courses may discuss different financial market theories, asset pricing models, and other techniques used to make informed financial investments. Students in these courses may also explore concepts like risk profiling, client communication, derivative products, and investor behavior.

Estate Planning

Students in estate planning courses could discuss the different methodologies and policies for estates used in financial planning. Some courses may also explore the taxation of estates and/or other related areas, like gifts and trusts. These courses may be state-specific, count towards the CFP exam, and/or examine the different professionals involved in estate planning, such as estate-planning attorneys, partnerships, life insurance, trusts and more.

Risk Management and Insurance Planning

Risk management and insurance planning courses may also meet educational requirements for the CFP exam and examine the various risk management theories and use of insurance to minimize loss. Students in these courses may also explore a variety of issues connected with the subject, such as the different legal considerations for contracts. Other specific topics may include personal risk analysis, product analysis, risk strategies, and the evaluation of insurers.

Financial Reporting/Analysis

Some financial reporting and analysis courses may be offered as electives, but typically explore different financial statements and how to examine these statements to use for decision-making and planning processes. These courses usually include a lot of accounting concepts and help students brush up on their accounting skills. Students in these courses may also discuss topics in cash flows, balance sheets, income statements, valuation methods, and other financial performance indicators.

Admission Requirements for Master's Programs in Financial Planning

Students wanting to apply to a master's program in financial planning or personal financial planning typically need to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and may need to meet a minimum GPA requirement, generally around a 3.0 or higher. Most of these programs do not have prerequisite requirements for admissions, but some courses may have prerequisites that require students to complete foundational courses prior to advanced coursework. Some of these programs may require applicants to take and submit test scores from the GRE or GMAT, while other programs may not. Some programs that require the exams may waive these test scores if they meet certain criteria, such as education requirements, work experience, and/or advanced professional certifications, such as a CFP or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). Common application materials for these programs include transcripts, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and/or a resume.

Online and on-campus master's degree programs in personal financial planning or financial planning are typically offered as MS degree programs. These programs may help prepare students for the CFP certification exam, can be completed in as little as 1 year, and usually include core courses in areas like financial planning, estate planning, and risk management.