How Can I Begin a Career As an Equity Trader?

Research what it takes to become an equity trader. Learn about education requirements, job duties, salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Finance Investments & Securities degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Equity Trader?

Equity traders buy and sell stocks. They may conduct transactions online or on the floor of a stock exchange. In addition, they carefully monitor market trends and the performance of individual equities. Based on their analysis, they may advise investors on domestic and foreign stock purchases. Some equity traders also spend time contacting potential clients to offer their services.

See the table below for some career facts on equity traders.

Degree Required Bachelor's or master's
Education Field of Study Finance, economics or business
Licensure/Certification Licensure typically required; certification optional
Key Responsibilities Advise investors on the best stocks to buy, form new business relationships and keep contacts with current clients
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% for all securities, commodities and financial services sales agents
Median Salary (2015)* $71,550 for all securities, commodities and financial services sales agents

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as an Equity Trader?

Equities are stocks -- pieces of ownership that companies sell to the public and other companies in order to generate money. As an equity trader, you're responsible for advising investors on the best stocks to buy. Your work depends on finding clients, and like many sales positions, you may need to form new business relationships or contact customers in order to demonstrate your expertise. Because your salary and career development opportunities are connected to the number of clients you serve and the success of those investments, the job can be challenging. This is typically a fast-paced line of work -- equities are traded throughout the day on several domestic and foreign stock markets.

What Education Do I Need?

A bachelor's degree in finance, economics or business can prepare you for work as an equity trader, and some traders hold a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Before you can fully represent clients' investment interests, you must register with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and pass its Series 7 exam. You may also need to pass FINRA's Series 63 exam to verify you understand how to protect clients' interests and meet industry regulations.

What Can I Do To Be Competitive in the Job Market?

A career as an equity trader can bring a high salary, but that also means you may face sharp competition for jobs and promotions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of employed securities, commodities and financial services sales agents was expected to grow 10% from 2014-2024, which is faster than average compared to all other career fields. Though this sector has since recovered from the financial crisis of 2008, job growth may be limited by the continued expansion of online trading venues.

To stand out from the competition, you can gain relevant experience through college internships. Joining a professional organization, like the Security Traders Association of New York, might lead to networking opportunities. Job applicants with professional credentials are often favored by employers -- consider earning the CFA Institute's Claritas Investment Certificate, which requires completion of one exam. If you have at least a bachelor's degree and four years of relevant experience, you can earn the CFA Institute's Chartered Financial Analyst certification by passing a series of three exams.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of trading stocks, you could consider becoming a commodities trader. Your job duties would largely mirror those of equity traders, but you would be buying and selling commodities, like wheat, corn, oil and gold. The minimum educational requirement for this job is a bachelor's degree. Alternatively, you could get a job as an investment banker, in which your job would involve facilitating relationships between investors and companies that need loans, as well as setting up IPOs, mergers and acquisitions. To get a job as an investment banker, you usually need to have at least a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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