Education needed to be a financial planner
A strong educational background is necessary since your decisions will directly impact the finances of your clients. Financial advisors without solid financial knowledge can adversely affect their clients’ lives, plans and goals.
Personal financial advisors typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in areas like finance, math or business, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It can be helpful to have taken classes in areas like investments, financial planning and risk management. Other undergraduate options can include a bachelor’s in accounting or finance. These programs will give you a solid, but broad, knowledge base to build your career.
Those wishing to enhance their career may choose to pursue a master’s degree or a professional industry certificate or certification. A master’s degree can help provide the educational foundation to pursue a role as a financial manager and may also help to attract new clients.
One example is a master’s in business administration (MBA). MBAs are valuable for financial planners because they have a broader scope than a master’s in finance. This additional knowledge can be helpful because you will deal with clients with a wide range of financial goals and needs. Some clients will have business interests, property and other assets that are beyond the scope of what you may learn in a finance degree program.
Another educational option is a graduate certificate in finance. This is a shorter graduate-level program that focuses on specific aspects useful in financial planning, such as budget analysis, risk management and how to spot investment opportunities. Such graduate certificates are different from MBAs because they typically take less time and focus on developing specific skills and knowledge. An MBA program takes longer but provides a broader overview of fundamental business concepts.
However, if you’re focused on time, gaining a bachelor’s degree in business with a certificate in financial planning is an option. A solid base in both general business concepts and financial knowledge and skills can help equip you to professionally manage clients and their finances.
Additionally, professionals may opt for an industry certification instead of, or in addition to, a master’s degree. Certification can be a selling point for clients and is necessary to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®). The CFP certification is offered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards and can be earned only after graduating with a bachelor’s degree, passing an exam and agreeing to the CFP Board’s code of ethics.