How to Become an Investment Portfolio Manager

Career Path Guide 

Although there are multiple paths you can take to become an investment portfolio manager, a very effective route for entering this profession is to follow these general steps:


• Excel in Math, Economics and Business in high school

• Determine if this profession is suited to your personality and professional interests

• Pursue a bachelor’s degree in Finance, Economics or a similar field

• Earn a position as an investment analyst upon graduation 

• Advance into roles of increasing responsibility, such as Associate Portfolio Manager, as you gain experience 

• Obtain financial services industry licensure after you’ve gained the required experience 


Read on below to learn more about what these professionals do for a living, what it takes to get into this field, how much you could earn, and other details of this occupation:



How can I prepare for this carer while I’m in high school?

If you’re a high school student, do your best to excel in courses such as math, economics and business.


Excelling in these areas will help set a good foundation for your university studies by helping you qualify for top business degree programs, and by helping you gain crucial skills with numbers, and a basic understanding of business (which will be elaborated upon during your university years). 



What university/college education will I need?

The qualifications for becoming an investment portfolio manager vary, but you’ll likely need at least a bachelor's degree in finance or economics; some employers will require that you have a master's degree.


Coursework that’s highly relevant includes bond valuations, capital markets and interest rates, financial statement analysis, equity strategies, portfolio management, international economics and trade, and computer research. 





Will I need relevant industry experience?

Investment portfolio managers typically start out as Investment Analysts. From there, they must go on to gain extensive industry experience as an 'associate portfolio manager', 'investment advisor 'or 'research analyst', and have experience in managing a portfolio of roughly $5 million or more.


All of this experience provides a framework for making crucial portfolio decisions, such as buying or selling a security, and determining the underlying economic conditions that affect those securities.



What is an investment portfolio manager?

An investment portfolio manager is responsible for evaluating, managing and monitoring high value investment portfolios, within a banking, securities, or real estate environment.


An investment portfolio manager must identify and analyze areas of potential risk, threats to assets or threats to earning capacity related to the investments and holdings of a client.


Please Note: For this career guide, we are focusing on investment portfolio managers in the field of 'securities' (stocks, bonds, etc.).



What does an investment portfolio manager do?

Investment portfolio managers are generally responsible for performing the following tasks:


• Identifying a client's investment objectives and constraints

• Developing investment policies and strategies, taking into consideration market and economic conditions

• Implementing policies and strategies including security research, selection and portfolio construction

• Monitoring and evaluating investment performance

• Being accountable for short, long or medium term results

• Following anti-money laundering guidelines and procedures

• Suggesting strategies to mitigate risk

• Identifying potential investment opportunities, as well as advising clients on level of risk

• Interacting with other industry experts

• Liaising and communicating effectively with other investment team members



Will I need specialized industry certification?

In Canada, you will need to be licensed as an Investment Manager to work in this field. In the United States, such licensure currently isn't mandatory, although it is typically preferred by employers.


Certification in Canada: In Canada, there are two paths for becoming registered as a portfolio/investment manager, The first, is successful completion of the Canadian Securities Institute’s (CSI) Canadian Securities Course, Investment Management Techniques and Portfolio Management Techniques courses. The second, is successful completion of the CFA Institute's Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.


Certification in the United States: In the United States, employers often prefer to hire portfolio managers that posses the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, offered by the CFA Institute. In order to achieve this designation, candidates must demonstrate a proficiency in financial and accounting terms and techniques, economics and quantitative analysis, as well as have sufficient work experience and education.





Is becoming an investment portfolio manager a good career choice for me?

Becoming a successful investment portfolio manager takes a certain set of personal and professional attributes; if you have the following, you may be well-suited for work in this field:


• You have a keen interest in the field of securities 

• You’re willing to continually stay updated on industry news and information, such as company news, earnings, and fund prices

• You’re willing to work long hours

• You’re highly goal-oriented and have a strong desire to succeed

• You have initiative and demonstrated leadership abilities

• You’re disciplined, broad-minded, and willing to admit defeat if an investment goes sour

• You have high ethical standards

• You have the analytical skills to conduct thorough, objective research and recommend wise investments

• You enjoy consulting with people and directing the work of others



How much do investment portfolio managers earn?

Unfortunately, there is no salary information available from reliable sources for the occupation of “investment portfolio manager”. We can however, get a general idea of what they earn by looking at the salary level of workers in closely related occupations.


Salary in Alberta: According to the The 2019 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the “financial managers” occupational group earn an average annual salary of $102,971.


Salary in British Columbia: As per WorkBC (the government of British Columbia), those working in the "banking, credit and other investment managers" occupational group earn an annual provincial median salary of $90,002.


Salary in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans working as part of the “financial managers” occupational group earn a median salary of $127,990 per year.


Please Note: Portfolio Managers are paid a fixed salary but may also earn substantial bonuses based on the performance of the assets under their management.



Who creates jobs for investment portfolio managers?

Investment portfolio managers are typically employed throughout the financial services industry by banks, financial investment brokerages, investment fund companies, investment management firms and insurance companies.


They can also be self-employed in their own financial services company.



Current job postings

Our job board below has a listing of "investment portfolio manager" postings in your area of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia.



What career advancement opportunities are there?

Career advancement for portfolio managers is typically in the form of managing larger and larger funds as they gain competence and increase their client base. Alternatively, some move on to start their own fund.



What careers are 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 “investment portfolio manager”:


• Accountant 

• Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

• Finance Manager

• Financial Analyst 

• Financial Planner

• Investment Consultant 

• Stockbroker



What scholarships are there for aspiring investment portfolio managers? 

The “Relevant university majors” section below lists fields of study that are relevant to becoming an investment portfolio manager . You can search for relevant scholarships by finding those majors on our "Scholarships” page. 


Success Tip: Apply for any and all scholarships that you even barely qualify for; there are millions of dollars worth of scholarship money that goes unused every year due to a lack of applicants in Canada and the United States!



Sources for this career guide

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


• Portfolio Management: “Seven Essential Steps in Portfolio Management.” Larry Cao, CFA (August 12, 2014). CFA Institute. Retrieved August 9, 2017.

• Students: “Portfolio Manager.” (n.d.). Canadian Securities Institute. Retrieved August 9, 2017

• Financial Advisors: “Portfolio Manager: Career Path & Qualifications.” J. William Carpenter (December 15, 2015). Retrieved August 9, 2017

• Explore Careers: “Banking, credit and other investment managers .” (December 11, 2018). WorkBC website. Retrieved February 12, 2020.

• Financial Careers: “Preparing For a Career as a Portfolio Manager.” Christina Granville (February 9, 2017). Retrieved August 9, 2017

• Occupations: “Financial Analyst.” (March 30, 2017). Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved August 9’17, 2017.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook: “Financial Analysts.” (May, 2016). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved August 9, 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 becoming an investment portfolio manager. Click on the links to see what else you can do with these majors!


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