Going beyond the advanced diploma


So you have slogged away and achieved the CII Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning, or maybe one of the equivalents offered elsewhere. What now? For many it is a huge sigh of relief, then back to concentrating on their day-to-day work. Others, however, want to keep on going. So what then?

Holding the Advanced Diploma already puts you ahead of others who achieved Level 4 and then stopped. However, I am hearing more regularly from Advanced Diploma holders who want to continue with their studies but do not know where to go next.

Some would argue that further qualifications and study is unnecessary and that having the Advanced Diploma and Chartered on your CV is all you need. But everyone is different and there are numerous pathways your career can take.

Certainly, there is no requirement for anybody to keep going after achieving the Advanced Diploma but if you have enjoyed your studies so far and want to increase your breadth and depth of knowledge further, then gaining a degree or masters degree is a great move forward and can only be a positive entry on your CV.

There are options available and for many this means looking at graduate and postgraduate degree courses. Thankfully, you do not have to put on your best student-y clothes or start hanging out in the student’s union (although for some that may be a welcome change of scenery).

Options include distance learning, distance learning with workshops, as well as attending courses in person either full or part-time. If you hold the Advanced Diploma, you can also be fast-tracked, which is of great importance to time-strapped professionals in financial services.

We have taken a look at some of the options to give you an idea of what is on offer.

  • Edinburgh Napier University offers a distance-learning BA in financial services which requires one year part-time study for holders of the Advanced Diploma, with relevant work experience. You also have options in terms of when to start, with intakes in January and September each year.The BA focuses on finance and the financial services sector, alongside business skills that can be used in any profession. Example modules are monetary theory and policy, marketing financial services, management of financial institutions and regulatory risk management.
  • If you are keen on gaining a masters degree, the Cass Business School at City University offers the MSc in wealth management, which focuses on the financial planning needs of the wealth management sector. The course covers the theory of finance, portfolio management, alternative investments and structured products, among others.As you need to be able to attend in person, you need to be in or near London. You also need to be working full-time as well as have passed CII J10, R01 and four of the six AF exams, including AF5, in order to be accepted. The course is part-time for 12-15 months and starts in September each year.
  • A distance-learning option with single-day workshops in Manchester is offered by Manchester Metropolitan University. Its MSc in financial planning and business management is part-time and studies financial planning concepts, theories and models, and engagement in applied research. Study can last between 11 and 15 months starting in either September or February.
  • Another distance-learning option is the MSc in finance offered by the University of Leicester. You can study full or part-time over two to two-and-a-half years starting in February, May, August or November each year.The course covers concepts of finance and the role of financial management in a variety of organisations and sectors looking at financial analysis and investment, financial statements, strategic financial management and more.
  • Finally, for those looking to gain a masters in business administration, the University of Leicester offers an MBA via distance learning which can be gained part time over two to four years starting in February, June or October each year. As well as the general learning that an MBA provides, you can also specialise in finance.

So if you are considering progressing your qualifications further, it is definitely worth looking at these options. But also be aware that there are other options. They are not for everyone – for many they will be viewed as an unnecessary step too far. But for others it will be another opportunity to learn and grow, as well as provide an extra element to your CV.

Catriona Standingford is managing director at Brand Financial Training