As useful as our look at 25 great financial planning schools is for the people we hope will be reading Financial Planning in the years to come, it's also invaluable as a roadmap for planners already in the business. Our list of some of the leading schools with degree and/or certificate programs gives you a glimpse of where to recruit as your practice grows, or where those who may be competing with you one day for clients are deepening their knowledge of personal finance and beginning to form professional networks.
Our cover story also illustrates the build-out of the planning profession. We counted 336 CFP Board-registered certificate, undergraduate and graduate degree programs, plus 40 more programs still in development. In addition, many schools are bolstering their current lineup, both on campus and online, trying to lure both college-age financial planning students as well as career changers. As the pace of growth in advisory academics accelerates, the dreams of a few visionary planners decades ago may be realized: to see the field of financial planning grow to the point where it is fully backed by an academic field.
That can't happen too soon, says FP senior editor Ann Marsh, who wrote the cover story and helped compile all the data for our list. "From a societal perspective," she argues, "so much private wealth is not well-managed - of both high-net-worth and middle-class investors. With just a couple hundred thousand planners in the profession, most of the 115 million American households who need them go un-served. As a result, the 25 schools that appear on FP's list this year are playing a vital and valiant role by pushing the entire field forward. Because planning is an inherently interdisciplinary practice, young planners today can also learn their trade in business schools through a wide variety of departments that include finance, economics, psychology and even agriculture. There are valid arguments for both approaches, which collectively produce a crop of planners with a wide variety of expertise."
That's led to some thoughtful discussions on campuses across the country.Northwestern University decided to revamp all of its certificate courses around new CFP Board objectives. "It's a massive curriculum overhaul," Peter Kaye, Northwestern's dean of undergraduate and professional programs, tells Marsh. "We really do want to have an educational program that reflects the skills that people need to do the job well professionally."
But before those skills can be developed, it's vital that these programs are marketed properly to attract students. As the woman on our cover, Katie Simmons, tells Marsh, her choice of the advisory profession was hardly a long-term plan. "I got lucky," says Simmons, who was nearly lured into other fields. "I feel like this was a really great last minute career choice." Countless students and career changers will find themselves at a similar crossroads.