With all eyes turned toward the stock market these days, it's worth researching who stock brokers are, what they do and what qualifications enable them to buy and sell securities and other financial instruments. The average broker spends time advising individuals and institutions on which investments best fit their long-term goals and then executing their trading orders via an electronic system. Brokers are paid commissions on the securities they buy and sell.
In general, a broker needs some education related to financial work, such as a degree in accounting, business, finance or economics, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most do not need advanced degrees, but professional certification may be helpful for brokers wishing to advance quickly. Some brokers go on to earn master's degrees in business administration, which also can lead to advancement and compensation that is more competitive. These professionals typically earn high wages, but the stresses of the job and potential uncertainty over markets make this a high-turnover field.
The most successful brokers are able to build a strong client base of people who regularly trade on the stock market. In fact, success as a broker is almost entirely dependent on being able to recruit new clients and maintain the ones you have. Pros often must use telephone solicitation to acquire new clients, so those looking at pursuing a career in this field should possess good phone and customer service skills.
Brokers typically work more than 40 hours a week and sometimes well into the evening for several reasons. First, clients who work during the day may not have time to consult with their brokers during normal business hours and must wait until evening or even weekend hours to discuss desired transactions. Additionally, some brokers work for large, 24-hour call centers where they take client phone calls around the clock and must work in shifts. In these environments, brokers are expected to have strong team-oriented and analytical skills, and no criminal record.
If you're looking at this field for a new career or possible career change, keep several things in mind. Many firms hire interns right out of college and go on to train them in their specific stock-trading environment. For career changers, those with finance-oriented degrees and a solid history of customer service, particularly in insurance, may be considered. Larger financial firms have experienced consolidation since the U.S. financial crisis of 2008, so fewer jobs may be available for newcomers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and smaller firms may provide some of the best opportunities, especially for entry-level applicants.
More than anything else, a broker must be a good salesperson. Before brokers can help clients make the best stock-trading decisions, they must secure those clients for the long term, and this requires self-promotion and an ability to convince clients that you have their best interest at heart. Armed with these skills, new brokers can begin the process of establishing themselves in well-respected firms and build up the client base they need to be successful in the long term.
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