Best Online Certified Financial Planning (CFP) Programs 2021

| TBS Staff

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An online Certified Financial Planning (CFP) program provides students with a strong option for entering the financial planning field.

These programs take less time than a Master’s degree program and allowing students to study on their own time, without having to make major sacrifices in their professional or personal lives.

Certified financial planners must earn certification through passing the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) exam. The best online Financial Planning Certificate programs prepare students for this exam through a curriculum geared toward CFP standards. All the online Certified Financial Planning programs in our list prepare students to pursue careers as financial planners, and to earn CFP certification.

Most people lack the qualifications to accurately develop their own long-term financial plans, often not knowing where to start. However, a professional certified financial planner can simplify the process of financial planning for individuals and families and try to help them get the most of out their money for the long run.

The Best Online Certifiied Financial Planning Programs

Oklahoma State University true View School Profile $$$ Stillwater, OK 61% 43% 40% Oklahoma State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

OSU teaches more than 35,000 students across five campuses and a large selection of online programs.

OSU offers a graduate certificate in family financial planning that meets education requirements for the CFP exam. Courses take place entirely online and cover topics like estate planning, investing, and personal income tax.

To receive their certificate and qualify for the exam, students must complete 18 graduate-level credits.

Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree with a GPA of at least 3.0 and submit three letters of recommendation.

Kansas State University true View School Profile $$$ Manhattan, KS 64% 46% 25% Kansas State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1863, K-State teaches more than 22,000 students across over 400 graduate and undergraduate programs.

K-State offers a graduate certificate in personal financial planning that is CFP Board-registered. The 18-credit certificate takes place fully online through eight-week-long courses. The curriculum covers retirement and estate planning, insurance, and taxation. Certificate students may apply their credits to the master's program in financial planning.

Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree with a GPA of 3.0 for the last 60 credits.

Penn State World Campus true View School Profile $$$$ University Park, PA 71% 48% 100% Pennsylvania State University World Campus is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Penn State began offering online courses through its World Campus in 1998 and now boasts more than 150 online programs.

Penn State offers an undergraduate certificate in financial planning that fulfills educational components for the CFP exam. Students take 18 credits in courses such as investment and portfolio analysis, principles of taxation, and retirement planning.

To graduate, students must also complete a capstone project.

Applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED. Some prerequisites may be required.

North Dakota State University true View School Profile $$$ Fargo, ND 58% 56% 47% North Dakota State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

NDSU enrolls more than 12,000 students across numerous areas of study and has garnered recognition for its programs in business, communications, and more.

NDSU offers an online graduate certificate in family financial planning that prepares students to sit for the CFP exam. Courses include the fundamentals of family financial planning, estate planning, personal income taxation, and a capstone course emphasizing case studies.

NDSU provides this program in partnership with GPIDEA, a distance education alliance.

Applicants must submit official transcripts.

Colorado State University-Fort Collins true View School Profile $$$ Fort Collins, CO 69% 42% 24% Colorado State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

CSU comprises three campuses, all of which offer rigorous academic programs on-campus and online.

CSU offers a graduate certificate in applied finance for students seeking to enhance their business skills. The program consists of 11 credits in business analysis, financial markets and investments, and electives of the student's choosing.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in any field with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Some prerequisite coursework may be required. Students may begin the program in the fall or spring semesters.

Southern Methodist University View School Profile Dallas, TX 78% 24% 9% Southern Methodist University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded on Methodist principles, today SMU teaches over 12,000 students in graduate and undergraduate programs.

SMU offers a certified financial planner certificate that prepares students to sit for the CFP Board exam. Courses are offered in an online synchronous format. Students complete the program in 11-24 months, depending on their preferred pace.

Courses include insurance and risk management, retirement planning and employee benefits, and a financial planning strategies capstone.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree.

Cleary University View School Profile Howell, MI 38% 66% 47% Cleary University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1883, CU emphasizes business arts throughout its academic programs.

CU offers a master of business administration with a concentration in financial planning that also confers a graduate certificate. The certificate portion consists of six courses in topics like investment planning, income tax planning, and financial plan development. To graduate, students also complete five additional business courses.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree.

California Lutheran University View School Profile Thousand Oaks, CA 76% 55% 11% California Lutheran University is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

Founded in 1959, CLU teaches roughly 4,000 students from a range of faiths each year.

CLU offers a graduate certificate in financial planning for students pursuing CFP certification. Classes take place fully online and are typically taken one at a time, allowing students to finish the program in just 18 months.

Courses include tax management and strategy, principles of estate planning, and risk management and insurance. Students also complete a capstone.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit two letters of recommendation. The program waives GMAT score requirements for students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Husson University View School Profile Bangor, ME 55% 78% 50% Husson University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

Founded in 1898, Husson teaches 3,800 students in graduate and undergraduate programs.

Husson offers a certified financial planning certificate for students looking to take the CFP Board exam. Courses include federal taxation, risk management, and investments. Students can apply their credits toward a business administration degree at Husson.

Applicants must be admitted as non-degree-seeking students prior to beginning the program. Students may receive credit for prior courses upon a transcript evaluation by the university.

Bryant University View School Profile Smithfield, RI 81% 56% Bryant University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

Founded in 1863, Bryant boasts nearly 100 courses of study, including numerous business specialties.

Bryant offers an online financial planning certificate that qualifies students for the CFP exam. The program can be completed in just 12 months. Course sequences align with CFP exam dates to bolster student success.

The CFP program is administered by Bryant's Executive Development Center. Students may choose either a self-paced curriculum or an instructor-led course sequence, depending on their needs.

Courses include insurance planning and risk management, employee benefits and retirement planning, and a financial planning capstone.

This program does not require an application process. Students may enroll at any time.

Best Online Programs

Online Certifiied Financial Planning Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Featured Online Certifiied Financial Planning Programs

What is a Certified Financial Planner?

Also known as a financial advisor, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), having earned their designation through approval with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, provides their clients with financial advice, helping develop a plan toward the future to achieve financial goals. Whether aiding individuals, families, or companies, a Certified Financial Planner assesses the needs and resources of their clients in order to help them accomplish what they desire financially. The CFP certification shows an individual has met professional standards.

What is a Certified Financial Planning Certificate Program?

Certified Financial Planning Certificate Programs cover the same core curriculum; however, they vary in length, style and the delivery method. The programs, typically composed of six to nine courses, provide students with the education and training necessary to pursue or advance careers in the financial planning field, without requiring the time or monetary commitments a full graduate degree involves. A Certified Financial Planning Certificate Program allows students to focus on the fundamentals of financial planning, taking a direct route toward developing their careers.

The CFP Board, a non-profit organization, fosters professional standards in personal financial planning through establishing and enforcing education, examination, ethics, experience and other requirements for CFP certification. Schools meeting the requirements can provide a CFP Board – Registered program.

How to Become a Certified Financial Planner

To earn the title of Certified Financial Planner, an individual must pass the Certified Financial Planner exam, offered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. A certificate in financial planning helps prepare students for CFP certification and meet CFP prerequisites through advanced education, curricula designed to CFP standards, and professional experience opportunities.

Certified Financial Planner Certification

CFP certification requires individuals to meet the “four Es” of initial certification requirements: Education, Examination, Experience, and Ethics. Individuals must pass the CFP exam to achieve financial planner certification, but must meet the qualifications to do so.

Prerequisites for qualification include, at a minimum, individuals have a relevant bachelor’s degree, and must have at least 6,000 hours of professional experience (about three years) via the Standard Pathway or 4,000 hours (about two years) via the Apprenticeship Pathway. Also, CFP professionals agree to follow a code of ethics, set forth by the CFP Board of Standards.

See also: What Can I Do with an Economics Degree? and What Can I Do with a Business Degree?

Certified Financial Planner Jobs & Salary Information

Certified Financial Planners have the option to pursue a variety of general or niche careers in the field of professional finance. Many Certified Financial Planners find success through self-employment, such as through small advisory firms, while plenty of others work for banks, large investment firms, insurance companies, or financial brokerages.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Planner Jobs currently enjoy growth at a much faster rates than other jobs. Considering the rising retirement population in the US due to the Baby Boomer generation reaching retirement age, sound retirement and financial planning advice from well-qualified financial planners may remain in high demand. Also, lifespan expectancy continues to increase, making for longer retirement periods, and a greater need for people to have effective, long-term financial plans. Also, many companies no longer offer retirement benefits for their employees, as a result, many people develop personal retirement plans of their own, often consulting with personal financial planners.

Due to many financial planners receiving their payment based on a percentage of the money they handle, an ever-growing client base (and an ever-growing pool of money) means average salaries for financial planners may see a steady increase across the board in coming years.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average annual salaries for Certified Financial Planner jobs include:

AVERAGE ANNUAL SALARIES FOR CFPS
Job Salary
Financial Analyst $81,760
Financial Manager $121,750
Personal Financial Advisor $90,530
Securities, Commodities, or Financial Services Sales Agent $67,310
Source: BLS Bureau of Labor Statistics

Financial Planner Associations

Like many professions, financial planners have the option of joining professional organizations, which can help boost their professional network and business through offering useful connections, resources, and recognizable trustworthiness.

Membership with NAPFA comes with the benefits of a strong professional network with community engagement, career-search resources, and professional conferences. In addition, membership with NAPFA acts as an attractive stamp of approval to potential clients, signifying quality and trustworthiness. Clients may easily find local financial planners through the NAPFA member search engine. For members 33 years of age or younger, NAPFA offers the Genesis program, with peer-to-peer networking designed to aid individuals new to the profession in getting their careers off the ground. Membership with the FPA offers access to unique professional development and networking resources. Through local chapters, national conferences, international connections, and newsletters and member benefits, FPA members receive exposure to a variety of tools and venues to build their businesses and careers. Moreover, FPA membership provides a stamp of approval for potential clients, who may utilize the member search engine to find financial advisors local to their area.

Header Image Credit: Moyo Studio | Getty Images

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