January 8, 2024

Personal financial planning, finance or accounting? Choosing the right pathway


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Students interested in the world of finance have a difficult choice to make: which financial career is the right one? 

With multiple pathways to professional careers, many students struggle with whether to pursue a position in personal financial planning, finance or accounting. 

Fortunately, no matter what professional track you’re most drawn to, multiple options are available for you. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Personal financial planning 

Do you have a heart for people and a desire to guide them in their personal financial planning? If so, the CFP® track could be the right choice for you. 

“Personal financial planning is an ideal career choice for learners who have a passion for helping people, including education, sociology and psychology majors,” said Armahn Hadjian, CFP®, CIMA®, personal financial planning instructor and program director at K-State Olathe.  “Anyone who wants to provide support to clients who are seeking financial guidance would do well in the field of personal financial planning.” 

Hadjian explained there is a misconception that personal financial planning is all about dealing with numbers, but a large part of this position includes providing financial therapy, which is just one of the many reasons that clients seek the assistance of a personal financial planner. This is why it is so important for planners to understand both behavioral and financial therapy when they are working with clients. 

“Part of this role includes working through difficult situations and helping clients see the big picture," Hadjian said. “For example, if we’re working with someone who is planning for retirement while simultaneously helping their child pay for college, there are some big decisions to make. In some cases, we might have to consider that the best pathway forward could be for their child to take out a student loan and pay it off later. Parents can’t take out retirement loans, so their planning needs to reflect that.” 

If you’re thinking about pursuing a career in personal financial planning, it’s important to understand exactly why people choose to work with personal financial planners — and how you can help them make healthy financial choices. People come to personal financial planners for estate planning, retirement planning and everything in-between.  

Although some clients may visit with a planner just once or twice to complete a specific task, many personal financial planners build long-term relationships with their clients, which means you will have the chance to work with clients at different stages in their financial lives. 

Of course, personal financial planning comes with another perk you should know about. 

“Many personal financial planners work remotely,” Hadjian said.  

When you launch your personal financial planning career, you may have an opportunity to work in-person at a company for an agreed-upon amount of time (generally, this will be about two years). After that, many planners choose to continue working for the same company, but on a remote basis.  

This makes personal financial planning an ideal choice for military spouses, veterans and anyone who wants the flexibility that comes from working at home. 

Finance 

Some learners may prefer a career in corporate finance, or the CFA® track.  

With this type of career, you may become a financial analyst, a relationship manager or even a portfolio manager. According to Investopedia, finance majors can expect to study topics that include business fund management, financial markets, security analysis and valuation, financial institutions, investments and securities, risk management and financial forecasting. 

K-State's finance department offers four areas of specialization to learners to ensure that you’re able to study exactly what you’re searching for: finance, management, controllership, service or analyst. If you’re interested in working in a more behind-the-scenes situation and prefer to work with computers and numbers, a career in finance could be the right choice for you. 

Accounting 

Of course, there’s another financial option for learners who want to work in the world of numbers: accounting. Sometimes referred to as the CPA track, an accounting degree will benefit learners who are looking for a career where they will work as professional accountants at financial institutions, government, industry and public practice. 

Accountants may complete tasks such as annual audits, as well as complete a corporate analysis of a company’s financial records. They also may complete corporate tax returns and provide both financial forecasting and decision support for brands. 

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Getting started

If you have questions about pursuing an academic career here at K-State Olathe, reach out to our student services team today. Our student success coaches would love the opportunity to work with you more and to help you decide which pathway is the best one for you. 

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