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Should hopeful advisers try for a 4-year degree?

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Let’s say you wanted to hire another planner for your practice. If you’re like many advisers I’ve spoken with, you’d probably choose someone who was seasoned and experienced over someone who had just graduated from college or university.

It may be time to reconsider that instinct.

Four-year degree programs are multiplying and they’re turning out smart, educated future planners, according to School's out: Making the case for a financial planning degree by Financial Planning's assistant managing editor, Maddy Perkins.

“I would encourage advisers to move away from the conventional belief that the only way to cut your teeth in this industry is by learning on the job,” she tells me. “I think many advisers who are hiring will be surprised by the work these professors and students are doing — and, on a macro level, how they’re helping shape the future of the industry.”

When your daughter or nephew asks you how to become an adviser, what should you tell them? A four-year degree is a “no brainer,” Perkins suggests. “It makes getting a job easier and they can hit the ground running once they get hired.”

Find out where our annual list of financial planning degree programs at colleges and universities fall on the map.
July 26

In other ways, of course, experience plays an important role. Planners who have dedicated their time and efforts to pro bono work have a lot to teach students — and the advisers who might hire them.

“Planners who don’t do pro bono planning are missing out on a lot,” says Financial Planning's senior editor and West Coast bureau chief, Ann Marsh, who wrote profiles of our Pro Bono Award winners.

Read more: How advisers are advancing financial literacy

“Those who offer their expertise for free say that helping people who have no other means of getting that help is one of the deepest satisfactions they’ve experienced,” she says. “I do think more fiduciary planners should make it a habit.”

Marsh tells me she was inspired by the winners, as well as the other nominees. “It’s incredibly moving to encounter those planners who devote so much of their careers to helping those who could never pay. Done right, planning enables people to avoid pitfalls like predatory lending, craft plans to pay for college and retirement, and realize their dreams.”

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