Those looking to dedicate their careers to personal finance by becoming financial planners, investment advisers, broker-dealer agents, insurance producers, or CPAs, will find a tremendous selection of programs available to fit their career aspirations. In recent years, the significant increase in the number of branch campuses of esteemed universities with locations beyond major metro areas, as well as the option to pursue these programs online, has made degrees in business, finance, accounting, economics, commerce, and related areas, much more accessible. The accessibility of these degrees has only helped to make careers in personal finance more accessible as well.
With hundreds of degrees available, those aspiring to careers in personal finance often seek the council of academic advisors.
Undergraduate degrees in areas related to business are available through either bachelor of arts (BA) degree programs, which will place a stronger emphasis on liberal arts electives, or bachelor of science (BS) degree programs, which will place more emphasis on math and statistics.
This holds true with the bachelor’s degrees specific to business administration, although a more general Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) is also available:
- Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration (BABA)
- Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA)
These degrees will often involve a specialization or specific area of focus pursued as a major in finance, accounting, or financial services.
Typical four-year bachelor’s degree programs require 120 to 135 hours of class credits. Programs vary, but a typical breakdown of credits is shown here:
- 30 to 36 credits in the major
- 20 to 30 credits in other business courses
- 60 to 64 credits in courses outside of business
More specific undergraduate degrees are also available, including:
- Bachelor’s degrees in financial planning or general financial services, which will focus on investment management, strategic investing and planning, estate planning, insurance, tax planning, and financial consulting services.
- BS in Financial Management, which focuses on managing financial resources and includes courses in financial reporting and analysis.
Although, as with bachelor’s degrees, some graduate level programs result in a master of arts (MA), most programs related to business and finance offered at this level result in a master of science (MS) degree. Master’s degrees generally offer students the opportunity to focus on a specific area of interest like accounting, finance, and business. Highly specialized degrees are also available at the graduate level in specific areas that include:
- Financial planning
- Financial services
- Estate planning
- Trust and Wealth Management
Another popular option is the master of business administration (MBA). While some MBA programs are more general in nature, others offer a specific focus, such as personal financial planning, asset and wealth management, and finance.
Graduate certificate programs are generally designed for students who already hold a general bachelor’s degree and who are interested in learning about personal finance through graduate level classes in a specific area. Certificates are available in highly specialized areas such as financial planning, wealth management, and estate planning.
Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Education
Qualifying to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) through the CFP Board requires a bachelor’s degree or higher in any discipline that includes a financial planning curriculum that meets Board-specified requirements. These may be certificate, undergraduate, or graduate programs. A few examples of the types of degrees available that provide the coursework to satisfy the CFP Board requirements include:
- Graduate Certificate in Personal Financial Planning
- Certificate in Financial Planning
- BS Personal Finance
- BS Business Administration Concentration: Finance-Personal Financial Planning Track
- BS Business Administration/Financial Services
- BBA Financial Planning
- BBA Financial Services
- Masters of Sciences in Financial Services
- MS Housing and Consumer Economics, Emphasis Family Financial Planning
- Personal Financial Planning Specialization (MBA, with a dual concentration in Finance and Accounting/Taxation)
- MBA Personal Financial Planning
- Other MBA programs
Many schools offer degrees to financial professionals who choose to specialize in a specific area. Specialized areas and some related degrees include:
- Wealth management:
- Graduate Certificate in Financial Planning and Wealth Management
- Master of Trust and Wealth Management
- Dual Degree Executive MBA in Asset and Wealth Management.
- Estate planning:
- Certificate in Estate Planning
- Master’s Degree in Estate Planning
- Master of Laws in Estate Planning
- Investment management:
- Graduate Certificate in Investment Management
- Master of Science in Financial Analysis and Investment Management
- Applied Investment Management Program, Undergraduate
- Financial Analysis:
- MS in Financial Analysis
- Executive MS in Financial Statement Analysis
- Master of Security Analysis and Portfolio Management
Taking the Uniform Certified Public Accounting Exam requires 150 semester hours of college level education in most states. Each state has very specific requirements for how credit hours are distributed among accounting, business, and finance courses. Because the 150 semester hour requirement is beyond the standard 120 hours included in most bachelor’s degree programs, some colleges and universities are now offering five-year combined bachelor’s/master’s degree programs in accounting. Students also have other options to obtain the additional hours, including getting a minor in another subject, pursuing a double major, or getting a graduate degree or graduate certificate after completing a bachelor’s degree.