Masters of Science in Financial Services

The Science of Planning

About MSFS

The Master of Science in Financial Services (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

The MSFS program includes practical case studies and client/practitioner scenarios so you can immediately address your clients' needs with expertise and confidence. 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 — 12 credits from residency and 24 credits from distance courses.


12 Courses: 10 Required / 2 Elective

Getting Started

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.

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 taught in each of the week-long residencies.

Residency I courses:

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

Residency II courses:

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

Financial Statements and Business Valuation Analysis (GS 803) (Residency I)
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.

MSFS Case Study Project (GS 807) (Residency II)
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.

Issues in Advanced Retirement Planning (GS 808) (Residency II)
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.

Security Analysis and Portfolio Management (GS 811) (Required)
Prerequisite: GS 803 (Financial Statements and Business Valuation). Studies two decision processes: setting the optimal asset-allocation mix (using modern portfolio theory) and analyzing and selecting securities within the asset class. While focusing primarily on the first, briefly reviews security analysis models, capital markets and historic risk/return aspects. Presents theory/practice of identifying optimal allocation of wealth among various asset classes. Presents techniques for quantifying expected risk and return for individual asset classes and portfolios; evaluating portfolio performance; portfolio distribution; applying the dividend discount model; and using options, futures and other investments.

Qualified Retirement Plans (GS 814) (Required)
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.

Advanced Estate Planning (GS 815) (Required)
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.

Personal Tax Planning (GS 817) (Required)
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.

Mutual Funds: Analysis, Allocation, & Performance (GS 819) (Required)
Prerequisite: GS 811 (Security Analysis and Portfolio Management). Provides a basic understanding of the concepts, sources of information and fee structure of mutual fund investing. Presents modern portfolio theory, which utilizes mutual funds as asset classes, and explains how computer-based decision tools support the allocation decision across a pre-qualified set of mutual funds. Focuses on recent empirical evidence regarding performance evaluation and risk characteristics used in pre-qualifying mutual funds for investment.

Ethics and Human Values (GS 831) (Residency I)
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.

Business Succession Planning (GS 838) (Elective)
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.

Planning for Impact in Context of Family Wealth (GS 839) (Elective)
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.

Building & Managing Financial Advisory Practice (GS 840) (Elective)
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.

Executive Compensation (GS 842) (Required)
Covers executive compensation plans, emphasizing owner-employees of closely held businesses. Focuses on 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.

Charitable Giving Strategies (GS 849) (Elective)
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.

Gift Planning in a Nonprofit Context (GS 859) (Elective)
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

Tuition: $1,600 (per course)
Residency Tuition: $2,950
Admission Fee: $375
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 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 Bonnie McCormick 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 Blackboard website or at our EOD 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.

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.

Students who have completed academic requirements by August 31, and are subsequently certified by the Registrar, are invited to participate in commencement. Diplomas are ordered in June and December and take six to eight weeks to ship.

Statement of Academic Integrity
Academic integrity is essential to any educational institution because the main purpose of such institutions is the discovery and transmission of knowledge and the pursuit of truth. Integrity requires that individuals represent themselves as they are, without pretense or exaggeration. In the case of presenting one's work to be evaluated, it is important that the work of others not be presented as one's own.

In academic exercises, as in business enterprises, honesty and straightforwardness are essential. To co-opt the work of another and represent it as one's own is plagiarism. Plagiarism is a violation of the academic integrity policy of this institution and a contravention of professional and personal ethics. For those in the business of evaluating the worth of someone's academic work, plagiarism deliberately creates a misrepresentation of the nature and quality of a student's work.

Just as a true professional must at times put aside personal gain for the sake of doing what is right, a student must reject acting dishonestly or without integrity, and present only that work as his or her own which indeed is his or her work. Anything less is a form of cheating and misrepresentation and is intolerable in an academic community. Acts of cheating or misrepresentation constitute serious violations of academic ethics and can result in the student's failing a course and/or possible dismissal from the program. If a student needs clarification regarding this policy, he or she should seek counsel from his or her course professor or the Academic Dean.


Financial Statements and Business Valuation Analysis (GS 803) | Mondays | Jan. 23, 2017 - March 27, 2017 | 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. ET

Financial Statements and Business Valuation Analysis (GS 803) | Mondays | June 5, 2017 - Aug. 7, 2017 | 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. ET

Security Analysis and Portfolio Management (GS 811) | Tuesdays | April 4, 2017 - June 6, 2017 | 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. ET

Advanced Estate Planning (GS 815) | Tuesdays | April 4, 2017 - June 6, 2017 | 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. ET

Mutual Funds: Analysis, Allocation, & Performance (GS 819) | Tuesdays | July 11, 2017 - Sept. 12, 2017 | 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. ET

Mutual Funds: Analysis, Allocation, & Performance (GS 819) | Tuesdays | Oct. 19, 2017 - Dec. 21, 2017 | 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. ET

Executive Compensation (GS 842) | Wednesdays | Jan. 25, 2017 - March 29, 2017 | 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. ET

Personal Tax Planning (GS 817) | Wednesdays | June 7, 2017 - Aug. 9, 2017 | 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. ET

Qualified Retirement Plans (GS 814) | Wednesdays | Aug. 16, 2017 - Oct. 18, 2017 | 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. ET

Personal Tax Planning (GS 817) | Wednesdays | Oct. 25, 2017 - Dec. 28, 2917 | 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. ET

Qualified Retirement Plans (GS 814) | Thursdays | April 6, 2017 - June 8, 2017 | 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. ET

Advanced Estate Planning (GS 815) | Thursdays | Aug. 17, 2017 - Oct. 19, 2017 | 3:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. ET

Security Analysis and Portfolio Management (GS 811) | Thursdays | Sept. 7, 2017 - Nov. 9, 2017 | 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. ET

Executive Compensation (GS 842) | Thursdays | Oct. 5, 2017 - Dec. 7, 2017 | 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. ET

Building & Managing Financial Advisory Practice (GS 840) | Fridays | July 7, 2017 - Sept. 8, 2017 | 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. ET


Residency - Old Program Structure
MSFS Residency:  GS 808 & GS 831 held at The American College of Financial Services – March 20-23, 2017

MSFS Residency:  GS 808 & GS 831 held at The American College of Financial Services – July 11-14, 2017

MSFS Residency:  GS 808 & GS 831 held at Knowledge Summit, Bahamas – Nov. 7-10, 2017


Residency I — New Program Structure

MSFS Residency: GS 803 & GS 831 held at The American College of Financial Services – April 24-28 2017

MSFS Residency: GS 803 & GS 831 held at The American College of Financial Services  –Oct. 23-27, 2017

To enroll, please call 610-526-1385.