Online Degrees in Financial Planning

Online degrees in financial planning prepare students to help individuals and businesses maximize their earning potential and their investments. During these programs, students gain a greater understanding of the global economy and financial markets, while learning strategies to improve individual performance over time.

Although nearly anyone can pursue an online degree in financial planning, these programs are mostly geared to students who have an interest in math, business, and helping others. The ideal participant is one who loves to crunch numbers and look for new and innovative ways to invest money in a responsible yet lucrative way.

Because of the rapid growth in this field, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that demand for personal financial advisors could rise by as much as 27 percent from 2012 to 2022. The main driver of this growth, notes the BLS, is our aging population. As the number of baby boomers grows and that demographic reaches retirement age, a surge in the need for financial planners is expected to come into play.

According to the BLS, most personal financial advisers have a bachelor's degree. However, campus-based and online business degrees in financial planning are available for students wishing to pursue any level of education.

Because most financial planners already hold a bachelor's degree or higher, certificates in financial planning are generally geared toward professionals in the field who want to further their education. For example, students may want to brush up on their knowledge to prepare for the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) exam given by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. Certificate programs cover topics such as risk management, investments, tax planning, and retirement planning.

Bachelor's degrees in financial planning cover the basics of the field, including how to manage risk and assets to help clients meet their goals. They should also prepare students to earn the CFP certification. Master's degrees in financial planning are also available for individuals who want to go more in-depth in a particular area or combine their financial knowledge with business skills via an MBA with a concentration in finance.

A PhD in personal financial planning is the terminal degree in this field. Thus, it prepares students to work in policy, academia, or research rather than consulting directly with clients. Doctoral degrees in financial planning include both in-depth coursework and independent research or analysis and can take three to five years to complete.

The following chart includes each degree type and some of the potential jobs they could lead to:

Degree Level

Length of Completion

Potential Careers


Certificates usually take 6 months to two years to complete and are geared to professionals who already have a bachelor's degree.

Personal Financial Advisor, Financial Clerk

Bachelor's Degree

Bachelor's degrees typically take four years of full-time study.

Financial Manager, Personal Financial Advisor, Insurance Underwriter, Financial Analyst

Master's Degree

Master's programs take an additional two years of schooling after completion of a Bachelor's degrees.

Financial Manager, Personal Financial Advisor, Financial Analyst

Doctoral Degree

Doctoral degrees can be completed in 3-5 years after completion of an undergraduate degree.

Financial Analyst

Average Salary
Expected Job Growth
(2014 - 2024)
Personal Financial Advisors201,850$123,10029.6%
Credit Counselors34,110$49,48015.5%
Financial Analysts281,610$97,64011.7%
Financial Examiners49,750$88,9409.7%
Financial Clerks, All Other34,540$41,8709%
Loan Officers305,700$76,2608.1%
Financial Managers543,300$139,7206.8%
Tax Preparers70,030$45,3401.6%
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Personal financial advisers must possess strong math, analytical, and interpersonal skills in order to develop solid financial plans and communicate those plans to clients. Advisers should also have a knack for gaining the trust of clients, as well as the ability to present highly technical products and strategies in a clear and concise manner.

Because of the unique skillset required, classes in a financial planning degree program can run the gamut from espousing technical skills to soft skills and interpersonal development. Courses offered in these programs tend to focus on a wide range of financial principles, like tax planning, global finance, and even business psychology.

Although curriculum can vary depending on the school, most financial planning programs offer some variation of the following courses as part of their core curriculum:

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Global Finance
  • Principles of Financial Planning
  • Retirement Planning
  • Estate Planning
  • Banking and Financial Markets

Since financial planning is a standalone degree option, most students don't choose a specialty in the field. However, many choose to earn a related degree instead based on their career goals. Popular options include degrees in finance, business administration, business, and organizational leadership.

The career one hopes to pursue should play a role in the degree type and level chosen. For example, someone who already has a bachelor's degree may only need to pursue a certificate in financial planning to find entry-level work. Meanwhile, a student who hopes to work as a financial analyst may want to pursue a master's degree in finance in order to hit the ground running. At the end of the day, the perfect degree for each students depends on where they hope to end up.

Because most financial and business concepts are learned in a traditional classroom, online degrees in financial planning are fairly commonplace. Students who participate in these programs take advantage of a wide range of educational technologies including web conferencing, virtual role playing exercises, and online message boards and chat rooms.

The fact that financial planning degrees are now offered online has been a boon for working professionals who hope to work in this field. By participating in an online degree program, students can continue working full-time and taking care of their families while they earn their advanced degree or finish their financial planning certificate program.

While some financial planning degrees can be earned entirely online, schools may also offer hybrid programs that require some on-campus work or presence. Before signing up for a program, students should read through any and all requirements to make sure they understand the commitment in its entirety.

Although financial planning degrees can lead to numerous careers in business and finance, some careers have more potential than others. Here are some of the most popular careers people with this degree enter upon graduation, along with relevant wage and employment data form the Bureau of Labor Statistics:


Anticipated National Growth 2012 - 2022

Mean Annual Wage in 2014

Financial Analysts

16 percent


Financial Managers

9 percent


Insurance Underwriters

-6 percent


Personal Financial Advisors

27 percent


Financial Examiners

6 percent


Financial Clerks

11 percent


Financial Planning College Degree Program, Franklin University, http://www.franklin.edu/financial-planning-major-course-descriptions
May 2014 National Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
Financial Managers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm
Insurance Underwriters, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/insurance-underwriters.htm
Personal Financial Advisors, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/personal-financial-advisors.htm
Financial Analysts, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/financial-analysts.htm

With two children and a full-time job, my schedule is very hectic--WGU was put on this earth for me! I was able to submit work when it was convenient for me and work at a pace that best suited me, not the highest person in my class (as I've experienced with many traditional schools). - Carlisha Moore 
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