How to Become a Financial Trader



Although there is no one set path for becoming a financial trader, a very effective route for entering this profession is to follow these general steps:


1. Determine if your personality and professional interests are well-suited for this field

2. Pursue a bachelor’s degree in finance

3. Find entry-level work with a brokerage firm as a student or graduate 

4. Move into a role as a junior trader

5. Pursue any necessary licensing to become a senior trader

6. Gain more responsibility and advance your career as you gain experience


Below, we've covered these steps in greater detail, as well as provided some information on what financial traders do, and what you can do to become one.



What Formal Education Will I Need to Work as a Trader?

If you're trading with your own funds no formal education will technically be required. However, if you’re looking to work at a firm or brokerage, you will need a bachelor’s degree in a field related to economics, accounting or finance. Relevant coursework would include financial trading, securities valuation, investment strategies, and financial and money markets.





Will I Need to Be Licensed as a Trader?

Licensing in Canada: Depending on the type of position you will be getting and the amount of responsibility inherent in that position, some employers may require that you complete the Canadian Securities Institute’s (CSI) Canadian Securities Course and Trader Training Course.


Licensing in the United States: Most employers will require that you have, or are working towards a series 7, 24, 56 or 63 license from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, FINRA. To be allowed to take the exam, you must be sponsored by a company that is registered with FINRA.


Please Note: These regulations would not apply to you if you trade with your own funds.



More About this Career: What is a Financial Trader?

A financial trader is a person who buys and sells financial instruments (such as stocks, currencies or commodities) in a financial market. They might be self-employed and trade for themselves, trade on behalf of the institution they work for, or trade on behalf of a client, acting as intermediary between the client and a securities dealer.



What Does a Financial Trader Do?

Although their duties can vary from job to job, financial traders are generally responsible for perfuming the following functions:


• Informing relevant parties of any trades that occurred during the day that will be of interest to them

• Executing trades electronically or by telephone

• Developing relationships with clients

• Expanding client base by performing marketing activities

• Predicting the movement of the markets by liaising with market analysts

• Buying and selling according to market movements

• Gathering information about securities and companies

• Being prepared to make trading decisions based on small, instant changes in the market





Is Becoming a Financial Trader a Good Career Choice for Me?

Developing not just into a financial trader, but a successful one, has a number of requirements. If you conduct an honest self-assessment and meet all of the criteria below, you may be well-suited for becoming a financial trader, whether for yourself, or as a professional that represents clients:


• Emotional control

• High level of focus

• Flexibility

• Analytical abilities

• Market knowledge

• Risk taker

• Self-motivation

• Willing to work hard

• Able to handle a stressful working environment

• An aptitude for numbers

• The ability to deal with rejection (if representing others)

• Coping skills required to deal with many rapid changes



How Much Do They Earn?

Financial Trader Salary - Canada: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey (the latest figures available at the time of writing), Albertans working as part of the Securities Agents, Investment Dealers and Brokers occupational group earn an overall average salary of $91,124 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (July 17, 2019).


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans workings as part of the Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents occupational group earn a median salary of $67,310 per year.


Please Note: The amount you could make as a financial trader varies quite widely (some actually lose money) based on many factors, including, but not limited to:


• Whether you trade for yourself or represent clients

• The size and type of your employer

• The size of your client base

• The region in which you work

• Your level of education and experience 

• Your pay structure (i.e. if you’re paid salary, commissions, bonuses, etc.)



Who Employs Financial Traders?

Financial traders can find work on both the "buy" side of trading, with investment and wealth management firms, pension funds and other institutional investors, and on the "sell" side, in the trading department of investment dealers and banks. They can also be self-employed, such as if they trade their own capital.



Current Job Opportunities

Our job board below has a listing of "financial trader" postings in your area of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia, when available:




What Career Advancement Opportunities Are There?

Your career advancement potential will largely depend on your initiative and ability. If self-employed and trading with your own funds, career advancement could come in the form of increased profits, and if working at a brokerage or other firm, you might take on more clients, larger accounts, or move into a management or partnership position.


With additional licensing and certification, you could also become a financial broker, or even a portfolio manager, which would involve greater authority to make investment decisions regarding an account.



What are Careers Similar to This One?

Listed below are careers that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as “financial trader”:


• Finance Manager

• Financial Advisor 

• Financial Analyst

• Financial Planner

• Insurance Agent

• Real Estate Developer

• Stockbroker



What Scholarships Are There for Aspiring Financial Traders? 

The “Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career” section below lists fields of study that are relevant to becoming a financial trader. You can search for relevant scholarships by finding those majors on our "Finance Scholarships” page.


Success Tip: Apply for any and all scholarships that you even barely qualify for; there are MILLIONS of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Sources for This Career Guide

The following resources were used to gather information for this career path guide:


• Occupations in Alberta: “Investment Advisor.” (n.d.). Government of Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 21, 2019.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents.” (May, 2016). United States Government Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved June 10, 2017.

• Job Profile: “Financial Trader.” AGCAS editors (August 2016). Prospects website. Retrieved June 10, 2017.

• Careers: “How to Become a Stock Trader on Wall Street.” Joseph Petrick (n.d.). Houston Chronicle website. Retrieved June 10, 2017.

• Careers: “Professional Trader.” (n.d.). Canadian Securities Institute. Retrieved June 10, 2017.



Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to this profession. Click on the links to see what else you can do with these majors!


Top Banner Image: