Financial planning programs are offering firms a chance to take on interns.

The path to a career in financial planning has historically been something of an unexpected detour for many people-taken up as a career change rather than a full-fledged course of study in college.

But that trend is in the midst of a change. The number of CFP-registered education programs has been on the rise in recent years, as has the number of colleges and universities with undergraduate degrees in financial planning.

It's one of the key changes that some say is part of the emergence of financial planning as a distinct and recognizable profession, buttressed by a defined set of educational criteria rather than a vague melding of various financial services roles.

Yet it's a change that could have more of an impact than established financial planners may realize.

With the rise of collegiate financial planning programs, there has also been a rise in the number of young, knowledgeable job candidates looking for the one thing they can't get in college alone: experience.

What many of them are looking for, says Jonathan Guyton, principal of Cornerstone Wealth Advisors in Minneapolis, are internship programs that can provide them a one- or two-year bridge between academia and real-world financial planning.

That's why Guyton, as well as the Financial Planning Association, are trying to encourage more financial advisors to consider such programs.

The biggest selling point, says Guyton, is that the available pool of interns is probably bigger and more talented than it's ever been. It's just a matter of getting established financial advisors to realize it, he adds.

"It wasn't that long ago that if you asked advisors what they're looking for in terms of educational background, they might say finance, accounting or economics, almost like financial planning doesn't matter," says Guyton, a former FPA director who has been one of the leaders in the organization's efforts to encourage more internship programs. "Now if you want someone to come in and make a difference with financial planning skills, you have that available to you."

Currently there are no statistics available on how many financial advisors provide internship programs. Anecdotally, however, the number is generally considered to be low. That's one of the reasons the FPA has put a renewed focus on such programs. The organization recently added an internship program section to its Web site, at, which provides a set of criteria planners can use in setting up a program as well as listings for both potential interns and planners looking to fill internship positions.