Becoming a Financial Planner: Career & Salary

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Financial planners help people and organizations manage their money and reach their financial goals.

Financial planners help people and organizations manage their money and reach their financial goals. Professionals with experience managing money who enjoy solving complex problems can excel in this position.

With the knowledge gained through an online Master of Science in Finance degree, working professionals may increase their earning potential. A 100% online degree can give you the confidence to succeed today as well as the ability to adapt your career trajectory as the field evolves.

What do financial planners do?

A financial planner is a type of financial advisor who helps individuals and companies make concrete plans to reach their long-term financial goals. Many organizations use these terms interchangeably, so it’s important to understand the many shapes a career as a financial advisor can take.

There are many regulations in place governing who can operate professionally under certain titles like Certified Financial Planner or Certified Investment Management Analyst. In the U.S., anyone can operate professionally under the title of “financial planner,” but their activities are limited by law.

Filing taxes on behalf of an individual is a common task that a financial planner might undertake. To do so in the U.S., financial planners must have an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). It’s possible to acquire a PTIN without any other professional credentials, but it does not allow the PTIN holder to represent his or her clients before the IRS in matters related to audits or appeals. In other words, clients could be on the hook for any mistakes made by their financial planner.

Some financial planners also specialize in topics such as estate planning, particularly those with taxation expertise, a role that’s as valued as it is delicate. Most financial planners are also self-starters, and may be self-employed or work for a small firm. Many will also find roles in larger firms working as:

  • Investment brokers: These professionals provide accurate investment advice to clients.
  • Insurance specialists: Financial planners can help clients determine what type of coverage they need.
  • Estate planners: Financial planners may work with wealthy clients to create wills, set up trust accounts and obtain long-term care insurance.

After obtaining several years of experience, financial planners have the ability to specialize in a career path that suits their unique interests and skills.

How do you become a financial planner?

Professional credentials are helpful for new financial planners trying to build a career, as they prove to clients that the planner has the experience as well as the accountability that most people seek when paying for financial advice.

For example, many financial planners choose to become Certified Financial Planners (CFP). This title requires a series of exams and membership with the CFP Board, which can help new financial planners jumpstart their careers. The CFP exam requires general knowledge of a host of financial management topics, from taxes and budgeting to investment strategies and retirement.

To be a successful financial planner, it’s important to have excellent interpersonal skills. The role of financial planner or advisor requires working closely with clients on sensitive financial matters.

In addition to strong communication skills, successful financial planners are also adept at:

  • Organization: Financial planners must be able to keep even the smallest details organized to provide the best possible advice to their clients.
  • Problem solving: Anyone giving financial advice should excel at analyzing data to solve complex problems.
  • Self-promotion: Financial planners who work with the public need to know how to market their services to bring in new clients.

Combining soft skills like these with technical abilities like those taught in a master’s of finance program will help you become a well-rounded professional. Consumers and companies alike need to be able to trust their advisors. Displaying competency at every job-related skill can help you stand out as a trustworthy planner.

Obtaining an online Master’s in Finance builds your skill set and makes you a more valuable financial planner.

How much do financial planners earn?

Average wages vary based on location, years of experience and number of certifications. In addition, financial planners who work for financial services firms typically earn bonuses based on performance.

Professionals working for investment firms, as well as self-employed financial planners, typically earn money by charging a percentage of their clients’ assets under management. They may also charge fees or receive commissions.

Here are some national averages for certified financial planner salaries, separated by professional experience level:

  • 1-4 years: $59,000
  • 5-9 years: $73,000
  • 10-19 years: $88,000
  • 20+ years: $98,000

At the high end of the typical salary range, professionals with more than five years of experience can earn over $115,000. In addition, BLS reported that the top 10% of financial advisors earn more than $208,000.

Become a successful financial planner with an online MSF

Obtaining an online Master’s in Finance builds your skill set and makes you a more valuable financial planner.

The online MSF from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University offers an investment finance track as well as a corporate finance track. This flexible structure allows ambitious students to obtain the specialization they need to succeed.

Check out the full curriculum to learn more.


Recommended Readings

Choosing Your Future: Financial Advisor Careers

What Can You Do with a Finance Degree?

Northeastern University Online MSF Program



Investopedia – Financial Planner vs. Financial Advisor

PayScale – Average Certified Financial Planner Salary

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Personal Financial Advisors