Online Family Financial Planning Graduate Certificate

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About the Graduate Certificate

An online Family Financial Planning graduate certificate is a great option for students and professionals who don't want to pursue a master's degree, but are looking to meet the educational requirements to sit for the Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Accredited Financial Couselor (AFC), or Certified Housing Couselor (CHC) exam. The Family Financial Planning graduate certificate is offered in two different options:

  • Financial Planning
  • Financial Counseling

Students enrolled in the financial planning option will enhance personal finance knowledge, gain eligibility to sit for the CFP® Certification Examination, increase networking opportunities, and improve career options. Students enrolled in the financial counseling option gain eligibility to sit for the AFC or CHC exams through the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE).

Family financial planning is an emerging field with job opportunities in areas related to insurance, real estate, investments, retirement, tax and estate planning. Financial planners are increasingly in demand as Americans seek financial advisors to help manage their income, assets, and debts. The Financial Planning certificate also includes a final capstone course for an immersive academic experience that connects the classroom to the career.

Family Financial Planning (FFP) has been registered by the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® Board of Standards. CFP® and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® are federally registered service marks of the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® Board of Standards, Inc. They are granted by the CFP® Board to persons who have fulfilled a comprehensive educational requirement, passed the CFP® Certification Examination, satisfied a work experience requirement, and agreed to abide by the CFP® Board code of ethical conduct.

What Makes the FFP Program Unique?

Watch the video below and hear from Professor Jim Deal about how NDSU's Online Family Financial Planning program stands out from the rest. He discusses how students get to apply the math and financials to real-life family context that people are living day to day.

Program Structure and Curriculum

Both Family Financial Planning graduate certificate options consist of 18 online credits. The Financial Planning option consists of six 3-credit required courses, while the Financial Counseling option is made up of four 3-credit required courses, and two 3-credit electives. These courses range from retirement planning to personal taxation. Students work with their academic advisor on appropriate course selection and sequence. To view the complete curriculum and when courses are being offered, visit the GP IDEA's Family Financial Planning Course Planner page.

Financial Planning Graduate Certificate Plan of Study

Required Core Courses:

Total Credits: 18

Financial Counseling Graduate Certificate Plan of Study

Required Core Courses:

Elective Courses: (6 CREDITS)

Total Credits: 18

Careers and Outlook


Recipients of a family financial planning graduate certificate will be better prepared to enter the growing financial planning field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employement for personal financial advisors is projected to grow 5% from 2020 to 2030. There are 21,500 projected job openings each year for personal financial advisors. U.S. News & World Report states that it's an exciting time to be in the field as there are now more opportunities than ever before. In the past, the majority of finance roles were stockerbrokers or community bankers, but over the past decade financial advisors have more options from small independent practices to large investment firms.

What Can You Do with a Graduate Certificate in Family Financial Planning?

Career opportunities available to persons with special training in Family Financial Planning include:

  • Financial Planning: Financial planners or financial management consultants use their knowledge of investments, tax laws, and insurance to recommend financial options to individuals in accordance with the individual's short-term and long-term goals. Some of the issues that financial planners address are retirement and estate planning, funding for college, and general investment options.
  • Financial Analysts: Financial analysts assess the economic performance of companies and industries for firms and institutions with money to invest.
  • Insurance: Insurance agents specialize in life and health insurance or property and casualty insurance and a growing number of "multi-line" agents sell all lines of insurance.

A graduate certificate in family financial planning prepares you to enter this growing industry and provide comprehensive financial assistance to families in areas such as:

  • Estate and retirement planning
  • Investment advising Insurance and risk management
  • Basic cash flow and debt management
  • Employee benefits and pension departments
  • Tax planning

Partnership with Great Plains IDEA

The Online Family Financial Planning graduate certificate is offered through a partnership with the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GP IDEA). GP IDEA is a consortium of 19 public universities from across the United States, offering online degree and certificate programs in human sciences and agriculture. Through GP IDEA, students are able to take courses from any of the partner universities that all count towards their degree at their home institution.

The courses in this program are taught by the same instructors which teach on campus at the participating universities. Curriculum is specially adapted for the online environment to ensure students receive the same quality education as they would experience on campus. Course schedules are determined by the teaching institution, but do not have set class times, allowing students to access course content when it is convenient for them. Students meet deadlines as outlined by the instructor, and interact with instructors and other students through e-mail, chats, discussion boards, and other interactive methods. Students must have access to a computer, e-mail, and the Internet.

Family Financial Planning Faculty

For information about graduate faculty for this program as well as their current research interests, visit the Family Financial Planning graduate certificate catalog page.


To apply for this graduate certificate, click the "Apply Now" link below to start the application process. The application fee is $35.

The deadline to apply is one month before the beginning of the semester you choose to begin, though it's recommended to apply earlier. Semester start dates can be found on NDSU One Stop's Dates and Dealines page.

The application process includes completing the following:

  • Online application and fees
  • Statement of purpose
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts
  • Test scores

Tuition & Fees

The tuition and fee structure for this program is set by the GP IDEA consortium. Classes you take are charged at the same tuition rate regardless of which university is your home university. Books and supplies are not included in the tuition and fees. Since a certificate is not a degree track, federal Title IV student financial assistance and tuition waivers will not be available for certificate students. Please note that courses offered through GP IDEA are not eligible for NDSU tuition waivers.

Contact Information

NDSU Department of Human Development and Family Science
Phone: (701) 231-7568

NDSU GP IDEA Coordinator

NDSU Graduate School
Phone: (701) 231-5945

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the Family Financial Planning: Financial Planning Option Graduate Certificate program?
In either of the certificate programs in family financial planning, a student can finish in two semesters.

Are students required to come to campus during the program?
No, the program is completely online.

Is a practicum or thesis required for this program?
Students enrolled in the certificate options have no practicum or thesis requirements.

Which university will I receive my graduate certificate from?
If you apply and are admitted to NDSU, you will receive a degree from NDSU even though some of your courses will be taught by professors from other institutions.

What is the difference between earning a graduate certificate and earning a master’s degree in family financial planning?
A certificate is a way of showing that you have completed a coherent set of courses within a certain field. Both the Financial Planning and the Financial Counseling Graduate Certificates cover a subset of courses that are included the master’s program. If you are interested in the certificate program and decide to continue on to the master’s program the courses you take for the certificate program will apply.

Can I transfer previous graduate coursework into this program?
You can transfer up to nine credits into the family financial planning master’s program if they are relevant to the program. The syllabus of those courses will need to be provided to the Department of Human Development and Family Science graduate program in order to determine if the coursework is relevant.

I am employed full-time and have a family. How many credits would you recommend I take each semester?
For students with family and employment obligations we recommend taking three credits the first semester. Then students are able to see how it works with their schedule and can determine how many courses they are able to take each semester.

Can I take some family financial planning classes without being admitted to the program?
You can be admitted to the graduate school as a non-degree student and take family financial planning classes without being in the program. Class sizes are very limited and students who are in the program are able to register first. The instructor needs to agree to allow non-degree students into their class. If you want to register as a non-degree student you have to contact the GP IDEA Coordinator from NDSU’s Office of Teaching and Learning. Non-degree students cannot be registered until a couple weeks before the semester in order to allow students in the program to register.

Is the program accredited?
There is no accreditation in the family financial planning field. Online degrees and classes offered through NDSU Distance and Continuing Education are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and are approved through the academic departments and colleges at NDSU. The Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) Board of Standards has approved the FFP master’s program and financial planning certificate program as sufficient preparation for students to take the CFP Certification examination.

Why go into the family financial planning field?
Family financial planning is an emerging area with job opportunities in areas related to insurance, real estate, investments, retirement, tax and estate planning. Financial planners are increasingly in demand as Americans seek advisers to help manage their income, assets, and debts. Financial service providers from insurance companies to banks to investment firms are extending their services to provide comprehensive financial assistance. Corporations are adding planners in their employee benefits and pension departments. The master's degree in Family Financial Planning not only creates the opportunities associated with graduate education, it prepares the student to take the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) examination.

What impact can I have getting the certificate when there are so many online options for families to use? Is the certificate still valuable today?
Precisely because there is so much “free” information online for families, they need a way to distinguish experts in the field from scammers. Earning the certificate in FFP and then the CFP designation is now more important than ever, because it is a marker for families that you have the necessary background and follow ethical standards of practice.

Is there a required degree to be admitted into the program?
There is not a required undergraduate degree to be admitted. Some experience as an undergraduate with social science courses (e.g. psychology, sociology) or business courses would be helpful.

What is the application process for the family financial planning program?
To be admitted to the program applicants must meet the Graduate School admission and application requirements.

What do I do after I am admitted to the program?
Students admitted by NDSU into the program will be contacted via email by the NDSU GP IDEA Campus Coordinator, Michael Russell. Michael will register students in the GP IDEA database and for classes. Students will need work with their advisor to identify the classes they should register for and then will notify Michael of those classes as soon as possible since class sizes are limited. 

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