Financial Planning Masters Degree Programs

Students enrolled in Masters in Financial Planning programs could learn to how to help others save money, protect wealth and plan for retirement. Through multi-faceted curricula, participants often study to gain the technical, quantitative and analytical skills needed to tackle complex financial problems.

written by Rana Waxman

Masters in Financial Planning Programs: Overview

Masters in Financial Planning programs are often both practical and relevant. Most programs lead to a Master of Science in Financial Planning (MSFP) but other degree types may be available. Master of Science in Financial Services Management (MSFS or MFSM) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Financial Planning are several examples.

Essentially, Masters degrees in financial planning are programs that shine a light on how to prepare and present financial plans to individual clients and client families. They meld off-campus internships with a wide array of lecture topics.

Curricula, which do vary, are often highly attuned to candidates who want to study areas such as cash flow analysis, financial markets, bankruptcy law, federal taxation, much more. Since financial planning occurs in a regulated environment, participants often study relevant licensing, reporting, ethics and compliance standards.

What Is Financial Planning?

Financial planning is a focal area within the broader scope of finance that is all about the management of financial interests and growth of corporate and individual assets. But not everything in a Masters of Financial Planning is all about money and mathematics. In fact, students could be in for a well-rounded course of study.

Most financial planning and wealth management masters programs also aim to help students learn the finer points of client relations and teamwork. To cover these key issues, students might learn how to communicate effectively via courses that draw from the humanities and social sciences.

To this end, upper division courses often explore the psychology behind financial advising. Students could learn how to get their clients to set goals, clarify values, and modify their financial behavior.

Often people have very ingrained attitudes towards money (fears, risk tolerance). Therefore, a course plan could help students define consumer investment and savings decisions. This in turn could foster a stronger grasp of family and human relationships.

These essential skills coupled with robust coursework in statistical analysis, strategy and decision-making are some of the aspects that could make a Masters in Financial Planning a fascinating choice for graduate school.

7 Courses You Might Find on a Financial Planning Syllabusi

  1. Portfolio Management
  2. Investment Management
  3. Estate Planning and Taxation
  4. Insurance Planning and Risk Management
  5. Taxation
  6. Retirement Planning
  7. Financial Consulting

A master’s degree in an area such as finance or business administration can improve a personal financial advisor’s chances of moving into a management position and attracting new clients.ii

Master's degrees in financial planning may take less than two years for a full-time student to finish. Following degree completion, graduates may be prepared to pursue the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification.

Prepare for CFP Certification

Already accredited grad schools might offer Financial planning masters programs that are registered with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. These programs tend to follow guidelines to help prepare graduates to then sit for the CFP® Certification Examination.

What Is the CFP?

The CFP exam covers the general principles of financial and insurance planning, risk management, employee benefits planning, income taxes and retirement planning, investment and real estate planning, debt management, planning liability, emergency fund reserves, and statistical modeling.ii

8 CFP- Recommended Prerequisitesiii

  1. Financial Accounting
  2. Macro- and Micro-economics
  3. Quantitative analysis
  4. Finance
  5. Business Law
  6. Business Ethics
  7. Computer Science: financial applications
  8. Counseling Skills

Types of Masters Degrees in Financial Planning

When it comes to Masters in Financial Planning programs, two of the major degrees to be considered are (1) Master of Science in Financial Planning MSFP or MSFS and (2) MBA in Financial Planning. While there could be some overlap in terms of course work, there are some important differentials to weigh before you make a choice.

Inside an MSFP Degree Program

In some grad schools, a Masters degree in Financial Planning is a 10-course program that includes six required core courses and four elective courses. A course list is a window, so make sure to refer to individual graduate schools to see what they offer.

  • Professional Financial Planning: A course that might discuss risk management and insurance-related concepts and practices. In addition, it may present the tools and techniques necessary to reduce dissipation of assets that might result from unforeseen events, retirement and death
  • Investment and Capital Accumulation: A course that might help breakdown the investment decision process. Students could become familiar with the financial markets, analysis, valuation, taxation, and trading of various domestic and offshore investment alternatives
  • Benefits, Compensation and Retirement: A course that could explore the various types of benefits, compensation and retirement programs and their impact. Students might learn the basic rules of the Internal Revenue Code, ERISA, and the effects of other areas such as securities, family and bankruptcy law
  • Trusts, Gifts and Estates: A course that typically expands on the principles and methods used to plan, administer and tax simple and complex trusts, gifts and estates. Students could also learn about marital deduction planning, tax minimization and asset protection, lifetime gifting, charitable gifting planning and more
  • Financial Planning Processes: A course that could have both an analytical and methodological slant to it. Students could learn how to apply insights from the other courses into financial plans. Related topics could include cash flow, income tax, insurance, investment and estate planning
  • Federal Taxation of Income: A course that may examine federal tax law as it applies to individuals. Students could learn how to determine gross income, deductions and credits, as well as identity of the taxable person, tax accounting and timing principles.

Electives in MSFP programs could provide a means to harness interests and build a bank of expert insight. Do you want to better understand division of property, alimony and child support? Powers of attorney and guardianship? Develop a portfolio of focused skills through the electives you select.

See below for sample topics.

  • Marriage, Separation and Divorce
  • Financial Planning for Non-Traditional Families
  • Elder Planning Techniques
  • Psychology in Financial Planning

To earn their Masters degree in Financial Planning, students might need to complete a final project. A final project could ask participants to anchor their research around an organizational issue related to financial performance.

Through their review of case studies and literature, students might arrive several ways to solve the designated problem. Out of these, a preferred solution and summary in a case study format may need to be presented and evaluated by a committee.

Master in Digital Financial Management

A Master in Digital Financial Management could aim to prepare students to navigate the technologically-driven financial services industry. Students could study to learn about Internet finance and digital banking as well as topics such as P2P lending, crowdfunding and online money market funds.

To bolster managerial skills, students could build global leadership abilities through coursework in negotiation, organizational behavior and ethics. At the same time, this type of program could delve into the legal and economic environments and how to prepare financial reports in the digital age.

Courses in statistical analysis and big data might be rounded out with classes in managerial and financial accounting. Students might also receive instruction in FinTech technologies and cap the academics with a final project.

Masters in Investment Management

A Masters in Finance with a focus in investment management might enable students to gain the necessary skills to raise and manage capital for institutions or individuals. Participants could learn how to analyze, advise, assess risk, strategize and support portfolio diversification.

Investment Management classes could include topics such as Investing and Security Analysis, Global Investments, and Options and Future Markets. In addition, core Masters in Finance courses could provide a solid background in valuation techniques and the structure of financial institutions.

Masters in Finance vs MBA

Masters in Finance vs MBA
Degree Program Description

MSFP - Masters in Financial Planning

A more focused counterpart to the MBA in financial planning prefers to emphasize pure finance and financial planning than the broad business foundation. This may be a good option for those who plan to pursue careers in finance, financial advising, financial departments and the like.

MBA - Masters in Business Administration

A core curriculum expands on operations, marketing, financial accountings, 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.

Financial planning Masters degrees are often similar to finance programs, yet with a narrower focus on the individual or corporate investor. Unlike an MBA degree, the emphasis of a Master of Science in Financial Planning is to prepare students to pursue real-world career paths specific to finance.

Students who pursue this route might start out with a wide spectrum of core finance courses. These are generally intended to cover things such as investment theory, financial institutions, money and markets, and financial statement analysis. Stacked on top, students might take a series of electives and content that pertains to investment management.

What Is an MBA in Financial Planning?

A MBA in financial planning might provide a broad business education. Some programs entail about 36 to 42 credit hours that take students through a series of core courses and may ask them to complete an action research project.

MBA core topics usually expose students to financial accounting, statistics, economics, management and strategy. In a typical MBA program, students gain exposure to all of these areas and, in the process, may develop a sense of how different parts of an organization relate to one another.

For their emphasis in financial planning students might need to take extra courses in areas like investments, retirement, estate, and tax planning.

  • Investment Management: A course that could discuss how to plan, analyze, and manage investments. Evaluate holdings after the fact
  • Financial Modeling: A course that could help students learn how to create models to predict a company’s financial performance
  • Financial Analysis: A course that might prepare students to analyze financial data so as to make a company’s business decisions

Certain MBA CFP programs might also prepare students to take the Certified Financial Planner certification exam.

Learn Financial Planning On-Campus or Online

Do you want to earn a financial planning Masters degree online? Abroad? At a local business graduate school?

On-campus programs could be hands-on. Some schools have centers and labs that may be equipped with the latest tools used to gather and analyze information in finance. Also, today’s grad school often factors in an at-work student body. There may be classes in evenings, part-time and full-time degree options.

Online MSFP programs may make use of up-to-date technology which may give students the option to attend class either on campus or from their home or office. In these programs, online and on-campus classes may take place at the same time, which could foster great discussion among classmates and the instructor.

This high-tech approach often brings together voice, video, data and graphics in a structured learning environment that blends the convenience of online study with the interactive nature of a live setting.

What Might I Do with a Masters in Financial Planning?

Masters level financial planning degrees, because they highlight the practical applications of economics, may have a professional rather than theoretical slant. As a result, graduates may be prepared to pursue various careers in financial advising and private banking. ii Private bankers or wealth managers are personal financial advisors who work for people with a lot of money to invest.

Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of personal financial advisors is expected to grow by 15% between 2016 and 2026.iv This outlook indicates much faster than average growth compared to other professions. iv


The BLS also states that the annual salary for personal financial advisors was $90,530, based on data released in May 2016.v

But the academic path doesn’t need to end here. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in financial planning may also be available. These programs may be geared towards students and executives who want to develop leadership skills, teach or conduct financial planning research.

Apply to Masters in Financial Planning Programs

View our available Masters of Financial Planning programs next. Decide whether a MSFP or MBA in Financial Planning lines up with your career goals. Refine your search with filters for format (online – on-campus) and location (city, state, country). Then, get matched for free. All you do is contact schools directly with the on-page form.

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  • No application fee for April & June terms
  • Some of the nation's most affordable tuition rates, from a private, nonprofit, NEASC accredited university
  • Qualified students with 2.5 GPA and up may receive up to $20K in grants & scholarships
  • Multiple term start dates throughout the year. 24/7 online classroom access
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