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Master of Science in Financial Services

Concentrations in Legacy or Retirement Planning Available

About MSFS

The Master of Science in Financial Services (MSFS) is an accredited degree program. MSFS provides you with the tools needed to analyze, plan and implement integrated financial and life strategies. The MSFS degree can be earned in as little as 20 months by following a structured calendar.

Learn how to work effectively with high-net-worth clients and how to better integrate ethical considerations into the financial planning process. Become an expert in the wealth accumulation process. Gain a better understanding of how to work with business owners to develop compensation, succession planning and retirement strategies and how to guide individuals in the areas of tax minimization, retirement planning, and estate planning.

Who should consider an MSFS?

The MSFS is designed to advance the careers of a wide range of planning professionals including:

  • Financial planners
  • Life insurance specialists
  • Trust officers
  • CPAs
  • Attorneys
  • Investment consultants
  • Major gift officers
  • Planned giving officers

The MSFS program includes practical case studies and client/practitioner scenarios so you can immediately apply the new knowledge to your work resulting in increased performance. With the convenience of distance learning, combined with indispensable faculty and peer interaction, the MSFS program also helps you gain entry to advanced markets, corporate clients, and larger cases.

How does the MSFS program work?

The MSFS program combines the convenience of distance learning with the indispensable student/faculty interaction of on-campus resident study. Two, one week on-campus residencies provide traditional classroom instruction and conclude with an exam. Self-study courses conclude with a final exam taken at a Pearson VUE testing center. This degree requires completion of 36 course credits.


General MSFS Program Structure
The program requires two residencies — one residency at the beginning of the program and a second residency at the end. There will be two courses in each of the week-long residencies.

Residency I Courses:

  • GS 803 – Financial Statements and Business Valuation Analysis 
  • GS 831 – Ethics and Human Values

Residency II Courses:

  • GS 807 – MSFS Case Study Project
  • GS 808 – Issues in Advanced Retirement Planning

Required Courses:

  • GS 811 – Security Analysis and Portfolio Management 
  • GS 814 – Qualified Retirement Plans
  • GS 815 – Advanced Estate Planning 
  • GS 817 – Personal Tax Planning 
  • GS 842 – Executive Compensation

Electives (choose 3)

  • GS 838 – Business Succession Planning
  • GS 839 – Planning for Philanthropic Impact in the Context of Family Wealth
  • GS 840 – Building and Managing a Financial Advisory Practice
  • GS 849 – Charitable Giving Strategies
  • GS 859 – Gift Planning in a Nonprofit Context

MSFS w/Concentrations and Designations

With the demand for expertise in retirement income planning higher than ever, learners can now pursue the MSFS degree with a concentration in Retirement Planning.

By first earning the Retirement Income Certified Professional® (RICP®) designation, students can enter the graduate program on track to complete the MSFS degree with a concentration in Retirement Planning.

The course requirements for the MSFS Retirement Planning Concentration are as follows:

12 Courses: 9 required / 3 RICP® courses to be applied as Graduate School credit (See below)

Residency I Courses:

  • GS 803 – Financial Statements and Business Valuation Analysis
  • GS 831 – Ethics and Human Values

Required Courses:

  • GS 811 – Security Analysis and Portfolio Management
  • GS 814 – Qualified Retirement Plans
  • GS 815 – Advanced Estate Planning
  • GS 817 – Personal Tax Planning
  • GS 842 – Executive Compensation

Residency II Courses:

  • GS 807 – MSFS Case Study Project
  • GS 808 – Issues in Advanced Retirement Planning

Upon Completion of GS 808:
Once the student completes GS 808, the final course in the MSFS program, with a grade of B or better, the student will receive graduate school credit toward the MSFS degree for the following three RICP® courses: HS 353 – Retirement Income Process, Strategies, and Solutions, HS 354 – Sources of Retirement Income, HS 355 – Managing the Retirement Income Plan. Each RICP® course will count as three (3) graduate-level credits toward the MSFS degree, for a total of nine (9) credits.

MSFS w/Concentrations and Designations

In this cross-disciplinary Master’s program, you will acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to succeed in legacy planning for the highest capacity clients.  Along the way to your Master of Science in Financial Services (MSFS) you may also earn several other credentials if you do not already have them: Accredited Estate Planner (AEP®), Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP®), and Retirement Income Certified Professional (RICP®).

13 Required Courses

Before Residency I:

  • Complete GS 839 –Planning for Philanthropic Impact in the Context of Family Wealth (CAP® course)

Residency I Courses:

  • GS 869 – Practicum I: Legacy Planning Reimagined 
  • GS 831 – Ethics and Human Values 

After Residency I:
GS 815 – Advanced Estate Planning
GS 817 – Personal Income Tax Planning 
GS 838 – Business Succession Planning
GS 849 – Charitable Giving Strategies (CAP® course)
HS 353 – Retirement Income Process, Strategies, and Solutions (RICP® course)
HS 354 – Sources of Retirement Income (RICP® course)
HS 355 – Managing the Retirement Plan (RICP® course)
GS 859 – Gift Planning in a Nonprofit Context (CAP® course)

Residency II Courses:

  • GS 807 – Case Study 
  • GS 808 – Issues in Advanced Retirement Planning

Upon Completion of GS 808:
After successfully completing GS 808 with a grade of B or better, the 3 RICP® courses will be transferred to the student’s graduate record (9 credit hours).

GS 803 – Financial Statements and Business Valuation Analysis (Residency Course) 
The first part of this course teaches students the "language of business" — accounting. It deals with understanding and analyzing financial statements to evaluate the financial stability and performance of a company. The second part of this course provides students with the knowledge of the fundamentals of equity valuation.

GS 807 – MSFS Case Study Project (Residency Course) 
This course requires the student to develop a comprehensive solution to a financial planning case. The case materials are introduced online. Students are expected to complete both a comprehensive financial plan and an executive summary.

GS 808 – Issues in Advanced Retirement Planning (Residency Course) 
This course addresses current issues relevant to helping clients save for retirement and ensure that adequate retirement income lasts a lifetime. The first day focuses on the retirement savings issues including the retirement savings crisis, determining retirement needs, motivating clients to save, and maximizing savings through tax strategies. Day two primarily addresses the issue of choosing an appropriate retirement income strategy but also addresses a very practical issue, when to claim Social Security benefits.

GS 811 – Security Analysis and Portfolio Management 
This course provides a foundation in portfolio and household investing theory and application.  Our objective is to give you a deeper understanding of the unique aspects of developing portfolio strategies for individuals. It provides an introduction into the economics of investing, portfolio theory, behavioral finance, equity and fixed income instruments, financial products, optimal household portfolio, and tax efficient accumulation and decumulation strategies. Our goal is to give students a mastery of advanced personal investing strategies.

GS 814 – Qualified Retirement Plans 
The course covers qualified defined-contribution and defined-benefits plans, as well as similar arrangements, such as SEPs, SIMPLEs, 457 plans and 403(b) plans. Planning issues are emphasized, with a particular focus on the use of plans in small, closely held businesses. The course includes discussion of the more sophisticated strategies for the small business including ESOPs, 401(k) plans, age-weighted and cross-tested plans and fully insured 412(i) plans, as well as a detailed discussion of life insurance as a qualified plan investment and the tax treatment of retirement plan distributions. The course culminates with the analysis of a comprehensive case study.

GS 815 – Advanced Estate Planning 
An advanced gift and estate planning course which presents an overview of basic gift, estate and generation-skipping transfer tax law and tax computation processes. GS 815 also discusses the ownership and taxation of transfers of property during lifetime and at death in addition to marital, charitable giving, and life insurance planning. Family business entity planning and buy-sell agreements are also addressed in the course.

GS 817 – Personal Tax Planning 
Introduces current tax laws, new cases, revenue rulings and regulations for income tax planning. Presents strategies and techniques for tax reductions, including the laws governing income allocation, tax shelters, income shifting and deduction recognition and timing. Special emphasis on the choice of entity as well as the taxation of distributions from business entities to owners during the formation, operation and cessation of the business.

GS 831 – Ethics and Human Values (Residency Course) 
Residency course. Approaches ethics and human values from the particular perspective of the ethical responsibilities assumed by the financial services professional. This course considers the specific ethical situations encountered by financial services practitioners. Discusses and evaluates responses to these situations in terms of their adherence to ethical principles, such as integrity, justice and fairness and responsibility. Draws on insights from the fields of social psychology and behavioral ethics to investigate obstacles to good decision making that occur at the social and individual level. Considers ways to overcome these obstacles and ensure that behavior aligns with ethical principles.

GS 838 – Business Succession Planning 
Covers advanced topics in business succession planning. Provides an overview of gift and trust taxation to illustrate how charitable transfers facilitate business succession planning objectives. Presents detailed coverage of family limited partnerships and limited-liability companies. Covers sales and gifts of business interests using discounting techniques. The course discusses the use of executive benefit and retirement plan strategies to facilitate succession planning. The course includes a comprehensive case study. This course is also available as self-study.

GS 839 – Planning for Impact in Context of Family Wealth 
The focus of this course is on wealth in families and wealthy families in community with others. By the end of this course, the fundraiser and advisor should have the knowledge needed to elicit client or donor goals for self, family and society and to convene a team to achieve those goals now, later, at death or beyond death, through a financial plan, business exit plan, estate plan, or gift plan.

GS 840 – Building & Managing Financial Advisory Practice 
This course encompasses the concepts of improving the operational efficiency and profitability of a financial advisory practice. The approach used in this course focuses on two major areas: how to increase recurring revenue, profit, and repeatable processes; and how to structure the practice in such a way that it can be sold for maximum profit, if applicable. The course concentrates on the eight essential business and operational disciplines: client acquisition, client management, the consultative sales/planning process, case development, time management, communication, education, and financial management. The final project for this course is a comprehensive business plan containing each of the disciplines, with a focus on increasing the value of the practice.

GS 842 – Executive Compensation 
Covers executive compensation plans, emphasizing owner-employees of closely held businesses. Focuses on the design of cash and bonus compensation, stock options and other forms of compensation with restricted property; life insurance, including split-dollar plans and other death benefits; nonqualified deferred compensation; health and disability plans; and various fringe benefits. Covers plan installation, financing and administration, as well as ERISA, tax, including sections 280G and 409A and other legal and accounting compliance issues. The course culminates with the analysis of a comprehensive case study.

GS 849 – Charitable Giving Strategies 
The focus of this course is on charitable tax strategies, tools, and techniques. By the end of this course, students will have the knowledge needed to open a client-specific or donor-specific conversation about the features and benefits of appropriate charitable tools. The student will then be able to convene a planning team, or in simpler cases, close for the gift.

GS 859 – Gift Planning in a Nonprofit Context
The focus of this course is on gift planning for nonprofits. By the end of this course, students should have the knowledge needed to apply the concepts and processes introduced in GS 839 and GS 849 to develop six- to eight-figure gifts for a specific nonprofit from its highest capacity donors.

GS 869 – Legacy Planning Reimagined (Residency Course)
Legacy planning today means living a financially secure and fulfilling life while also leaving a lasting legacy of more than money. GS 869, taught in Residency, focuses on legacy planning for complex situations, often with business owners, across multiple generations. You will actively practice the listening skills and team building skills needed to emerge as the client’s most trusted advisor. Via case studies, you will learn how to integrate legacy planning into your practice, in collaboration with (and in competition with) family offices, private banks, and best of breed planning teams. You will leave with an action plan for taking the next step in your personal legacy planning practice.

Residency II:

MSFS Case Study Project​ (GS 807)​ | Monday – Tuesday | February 28 – March 1, 2022 | 8:00 am – 5:00 pm ET (to be taught online)

Issues in Advanced Retirement Planning (GS 808)​ | Monday – Tuesday | March 7 – 8, 2022 | 8:00 am – 5:00 pm ET (to be taught online)


Residency I:

Financial Statements and Business Valuation Analysis​ (GS 803)​ | Monday – Tuesday | April 25 – 26, 2022 | 8:00 am – 5:00 pm ET (to be taught online)

Ethics and Human Values (GS 831)​ | Monday – Tuesday | May 2 – 3, 2021 | 8:00 am – 5:00 pm ET (to be taught online)



Executive Compensation (GS 842) | Thursday – Friday | January 20 – 21, 2022 | 9:00 am – 5:00 pm ET each day

Executive Compensation (GS 842) | Thursday – Friday | March 24 – 25, 2022 | 9:00 am – 5:00 pm ET each day

NOTE: The following courses (note name changes) will be taught in the 10-week, online, asynchronous format starting January 3, 2022: 

GS 811/MSFP 538 — Investment Theory and Portfolio Management

GS 815/MSFP 615 — Advanced Estate Management and Planned Giving

GS 817/MSFP 534 — Personal Income Taxation and Decision Making

GS 838/MSFP 543 — Business Succession Strategies

GS 869/MSFP 533 — Legacy Planning Reimagined

Students will be able to enroll between December 13th and January 3rd. To register, please call 888-263-7265, press 2 then option 3.

Tuition: $1,895 (per course)
Admission Fee: $100
Your tuition includes all required study materials, access to convenient online learning tools, your examination, and shipping.

Each professional learns differently. Some like the discipline and schedule of live online classes, and others prefer self-paced study with strong support tools. However you want to learn, the MSFS program at The American College of Financial Services has a proven educational option for you. We have two main categories of learning which are available in various combinations for our degree programs. For more information contact Leah Selekman at 610-526-1385.

Live Online Classes (Webinars):
Attend live, instructor-led classes online from your home or office. These interactive classes offer a convenient, time-saving way to participate in classes without needing to travel. In most cases, you will be taught by the same faculty member who wrote your course. The final exam may be taken online through The College’s Brightspace website or at one of our examination centers. Most webinars offer the option of completing a take-home examination.

Self Study:
The American College of Financial Services' self-study option, known throughout the financial services profession for flexibility, the best textbooks, and strong results, is available for all of courses in the MSFS curriculum. You can study at your own pace, wherever and whenever it is most convenient for you. Complete your program as fast as you like; the self-paced program gives you the opportunity to truly tailor your education to your lifestyle. Our online study aids provide you with the guidance and practice you need to feel confident on the test day.

Applicants to the Richard D. Irwin Graduate School are selected on the basis of academic and professional criteria. To be admitted into the MSFS program, a prospective student must forward to The College: 

  • A completed admission application along with the stated fee;
  • A current resume;
  • A brief description of your career objectives and “Why” the MSFS will help to advance your goals;
  • An official transcript from the accredited institution that awarded your Bachelor’s degree.

Note: A student may take up to three (3) MSFS courses prior to being admitted to the program. Courses passed before admittance will count toward your MSFS degree.

Students admitted to the graduate program have seven years from the date of admission to complete degree requirements. Acceptance of courses completed prior to admission will be determined by the Graduate School Dean. Upon completion of degree requirements, you are eligible to participate in our biennial commencement exercises.

The Office of the Registrar determines and certifies that you have completed all degree requirements. Once certified, you are considered to have graduated with all the rights, privileges, and obligations pertaining thereto.

Degrees are awarded on the first day of the second month following the date the last examination is passed. For example, if a student completed the final course in April, they could commence using the degree June 1.


View the Graduate Student Handbook.