Stock Trader

Career Information

A stock trader at a computer
Tetra Images / Brand X Pictures / Getty Images

Job Description

A stock trader buys and sells stocks on behalf of investors who may be individuals or companies. You can dismiss the image in your mind of traders frantically yelling out buy and sell orders on the crowded and noisy floor of a stock exchange. Those days are just about gone. The majority of stock traders sit at desks in offices that are maintained by the companies that employ them. They spend their time in front of computer screens, trading stocks electronically.

Only a small number of traders still do auction-style trades on the floor of a stock exchange like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). For more about the move from face-to-face to electronic trading read The Death of the Trading Floor by Stephen D. Simpson (Investopedia).

Employment Facts

There were 355,000 securities, commodities and financial services sales agents, including stock traders, employed in 2012. The majority of stock traders worked for investment banks. Trading stocks is a challenging and often stressful job that requires the ability to make decisions very quickly.

Educational Requirements

To work in this occupation you typically need a bachelor's degree. Make sure to take courses in business, finance, accounting and economics. You will probably receive on-the-job training from the company that hires you.

Why Do You Need to Know About Educational Requirements?

Other Requirements

Anyone who wants to sell stocks or other securities must take and pass a test called the Series 7 or, more formally, the General Securities Representative Examination.

This six hour exam is administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FIRA). Many employers help their traders prepare for the Series 7.

You must be very good at math if you want to be a trader. In addition you also need certain soft skills, or personal qualities. For example, you should be detail oriented and have strong decision-making and customer service skills.

Job Outlook

Employment of securities, commodities and financial services sales agents, including stock traders, is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2022.

Why Do You Need to Know About Job Outlook?

Earnings

Median annual earnings in 2014 were $72,070.

Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a Stock Trader currently earns in your city.

A Day in a Stock Trader's Life

These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for stock trader positions found on Indeed.com:

  • Execute purchases and sales of investment products in a timely and efficient manner.
  • Research and resolve issues in trading area.
  • Create new market making strategies for electronically traded products.
  • Provide clients with general information and help with their brokerage accounts. 
  • Maintain and document activity.
  • Build quality relationships with industry participants.

Occupations With Related Tasks and Activities

 DescriptionAnnual Salary (2014)Educational Requirements
Real Estate Sales AgentHelps clients buy and sell properties$40,990High school diploma, real estate classes and a license
Sales RepresentativeSells products on behalf of wholesalers or manufacturers

$75,140 (technical & scientific products)

$55,020 (all other products)

Minimum of a high school diploma but many employers prefer to hire job candidates who have a bachelor's degree
Insurance AgentAssist clients with the purchase of all types of insurance$47,860Employers prefer to hire agents who have a bachelor's degree but will consider a high school graduate with proven sales ability
Sales EngineersSells complex scientific and technical products to companies$96,340Bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/securities-commodities-and-financial-services-sales-agents.htm​ (visited June 11, 2015).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Securities and Commodities Traders, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/41-3031.03 (visited June 11, 2015).

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