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Wondering about careers in financial planning?

24 Oct
A financial planner gives a presentation to a pair of clients

If you’re currently working in the financial sector, you may be looking to advance and take your career to a new level. But you don’t want to have to put your career on hold and give up your personal life to pursue an advanced degree. Careers in financial planning can be rewarding and lucrative for the right person, and an online degree program can give you the flexibility you need to succeed and move ahead on your own terms.

In this article, you’ll learn what financial planners do, how to become one, and whether making the transition into that career is a good move for your future.

Are Careers in Financial Planning Good Choices?

Financial planners, also known as financial advisors, work with their clients to create long-term plans so that the clients can reach their personal financial goals. Planners consider the needs of individuals as well as those of their families. Financial planning may include creating a budget, savings plan, retirement savings plan, investment strategy, and insurance and tax strategies. Once these plans are in place, the advisor might monitor the client’s investments, recommend adjustments and periodically report results. A financial advisor also educates clients so that they can understand more complex financial issues.1,2

A career in financial planning is terrific for someone who enjoys working closely with people and who wants to help others to make the most of their money and achieve their goals. However, it can take time to build client relationships, which can help you attract wealthier clients and become a top earner. Experts in the field recommend that anyone considering a career in financial planning should be motivated by forms of success other than money alone.3 Financial advisors point out that there is a psychological component to the job: The stronger a planner’s empathy and people skills are, the better that person can understand clients’ goals and concerns.4

For those who are well-suited for the complex role of a financial advisor, it could be a lucrative career choice. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for a personal financial advisor in 2021 was $119,960.5

Careers in Financial Planning: Focus Areas

In the financial planning/advising field, there are seven areas of focus involved in providing strategic planning for clients.6

Asset Allocation and Investment Planning

To develop an investment plan, an advisor will consider various elements, such as online investing. A key to a successful investment strategy is the smart allocation of funds.6

Cash Management, Debt Management and Budgeting

The financial planner reviews a client’s expenditures and draws up a budget based on the client’s goals. For any outstanding debt, the advisor will investigate refinancing opportunities.6

Education Planning

Planning for a family member’s education cost is challenging because education costs are increasing faster than the inflation rate. A financial advisor will review the individual’s progress in education funding and examine potential financial aid sources.6

Estate Planning

An essential part of a person’s financial plan is estate planning. This ensures that family members will be taken care of when that individual has died, and it dictates how assets will be managed, administered and distributed. It involves updating the person’s will, and possibly setting up a living trust and a durable power of attorney.6

Financial and Tax Planning

It is extremely important to consider the implications of an individual’s income tax in an overall financial planning strategy. An experienced financial advisor will coordinate the client’s objectives and goals with tax issues and planning concepts.6

Retirement Planning

In recent years, the burden of retirement planning has moved from employers to employees, and the social security system may change in the future. Therefore, an advisor will help clients to review their retirement requirements, available assets, savings and anticipated retirement timing, so that a sensible plan can be implemented.6

Risk Management and Insurance

In this area of financial planning, advisors will help their clients obtain the amount of insurance that they need. This may include health, homeowner’s, auto, life, general liability and long-term care insurance. The goal is to reduce the person’s exposure and risk.6

What Are the Prerequisites for Careers in Financial Planning?

Most people who are interested in becoming a financial advisor begin by earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or another business-related field. Financial planning also requires that you have some on-the-job training, working with seasoned advisors to learn day-to-day tasks and how to build and develop a client base.4

To heighten your credibility, sit for the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification examination.7 To be eligible for this exam, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree and three years of professional experience in the field.4

Financial advisors who want to take their careers even further, and to advance to more senior-level roles, will enroll in a master’s program in business administration or finance.4

What is an MS in Financial Planning?

Depending upon the university, a master’s in financial planning might be called a Master of Science in Financial Planning (MSFP) or a Master of Science in Finance (MSF). Both degree programs prepare management and finance professionals to work as financial planners.

With an MSF degree, you have a wide choice of rewarding careers in addition to financial planning. Possible occupations and salaries for a finance professional with an MSF include these:8

  • Vice president of finance—$163,940
  • Chief financial officer—$134,080
  • Valuation manager—$131,747
  • Actuary—$116,436
  • Corporate controller—$115,057
  • Finance and insurance manager—$111,644
  • Portfolio manager—$100,122

For Careers in Financial Planning, is an MS in Finance Valuable?

In addition to the many career options that become available with a Master of Science in Finance (MSF), you might pursue specialization in an individual area such as banking and financial services, portfolio and risk management, financial analysis, capital markets, quantitative finance or insurance and international business.8 Specialization makes you even more valuable to a future employer, as you’ll have an elevated level of expertise in a particular area.

The higher your education level and the deeper your experience, the greater earning potential you’ll have.

Expand your opportunities. Earn William & Mary's Online MSF.

In the Online Master of Science in Finance (MSF) program from the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, you can earn a prestigious degree while balancing your career and personal life.

Designed for working professionals, this degree program is centered on principled value creation; financial modeling, analysis and decision-making; global financial strategy; and effective communication of complex financial information and strategies. It’s a rigorous, comprehensive curriculum that will prepare you to be competitive in many business areas, from financial planning to corporate finance. Study with a faculty of industry experts and complete the program in as few as 15 months.

To get started, reach out to one of our Admissions Advisors today.