- Worldwide, only 13.79% of open stockbroker job advertisements list a degree as a requirement, according to our research.
- To become a stockbroker, you must cultivate a specific mix of soft and technical skills, the most important of which are featured in this article.
- Make passing the mandatory Series 7 and Series 63 exams your primary near-term goal.
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, stockbrokers earn a median pay of $64,770 per year or $31.14 per hour. On top of this, the job outlook is also improving, with a projected growth of 4% from 2020 to 2030.
An above-average wage along with the popularity of movies like “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Boiler Room” has made stockbroking one of the most popular career choices for young people.
However, for most people, the idea of becoming a stockbroker seems like an unattainable dream. After all, it’s a highly competitive field and it’s commonly thought that brokerage firms require all their employees to have a degree.
In this article, I’ll dispel the myth that you need a degree to become a stockbroker. Plus, I’ll outline some of the skills you need to succeed in this field together with the most important certifications you should pursue.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
What does a stockbroker do?
A stockbroker is a finance professional who helps clients buy and sell investments. This could include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other securities. Furthermore, the job of a stockbroker can include giving advice and making recommendations to clients based on their investment goals, and executing trades on behalf of them.
As a rule of thumb, stockbrokers need to be up-to-date on the latest market news and have a deep understanding of how the markets work. They also need to be able to work with clients from a wide range of backgrounds and be able to build trusting relationships with them.
As for places of employment, stockbrokers typically work for brokerage firms, investment banks, or other financial institutions. Nowadays, however, there are also many self-employed stockbrokers who work from home.
Do you need a degree to become a stockbroker?
No, you do not need a degree to become a stockbroker. While many stockbrokers do have a college degree in business or finance, it’s not a requirement, and the data we gathered shows that more than 86% of open stockbroker jobs worldwide do not require a degree.
Have a look at this chart to see the differences between countries:
Here are the exact figures:
- Worldwide, there are 46,953 no-degree stockbroker jobs available out of a total of 54,462. Thus, 86.21% of stockbroker jobs worldwide do not require a degree.
- In the United States, there are 22,272 no-degree stockbroker jobs available out of a total of 26,759. Thus, 83.23% of stockbroker jobs in the United States do not require a degree.
- In the United Kingdom, there are 1,451 no-degree stockbroker jobs available out of a total of 1,609. Thus, 90.18% of stockbroker jobs in the United Kingdom do not require a degree.
- In the European Union, there are 4,753 no-degree stockbroker jobs available out of a total of 5,599. Thus, 84.89% of stockbroker jobs in the European Union do not require a degree.
- In Australia, there are 198 no-degree stockbroker jobs available out of a total of 260. Thus, 76.15% of stockbroker jobs in Australia do not require a degree.
- In India, there are 239 no-degree stockbroker jobs available out of a total of 302. Thus, 79.14% of stockbroker jobs in India do not require a degree.
Now that we’ve shown that you don’t need a degree to be a stockbroker, let’s look at the exams and other criteria you should think about.
What are the requirements for becoming a stockbroker?
Without a degree, you’ll need to make sure that you’re fully certified, licensed, and registered to work in the securities industry. In the United States, this means passing a series of exams that are offered by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the governing body that oversees stockbrokers and other financial professionals in the United States.
FINRA requires that all stockbrokers pass these two licensing exams:
- Series 7 – General Securities Representative Exam. This exam covers topics like securities products, regulations, and investment strategies.
- Series 63 – Uniform Securities Agent State Law Exam. This exam covers topics ranging from state securities laws to ethics.
There are no educational requirements for taking the Series 7 and Series 63 exams, which also suggests that you do not need any degree to become a stockbroker.
Now, when it comes to the Series 63 exam, there are hardly any prerequisites. However, for the Series 7 exam, things become a bit more complicated. To be eligible to take Series 7, you must be sponsored by a broker-dealer firm. Finding this sponsorship without a degree can be the tricky part, as many firms prefer to hire people who have at least a bachelor’s degree.
But, as always, there are plenty of exceptions. For example, you might get your foot at the door if you aim for an assistant position at a mid-sized firm instead of a large, well-known firm. Or, if you gain first-hand experience as a self-employed stockbroker, you might be able to convince a sponsoring firm that you have the drive, skills, and knowledge necessary to pass the Series 7.
For further encouragement, know that the Series 7 exam on average has a pass rate of about 65%. And, according to the Wall Street Journal, Series 63 usually has an even higher pass rate of about 86%. These percentages tell us that as long as you are willing to do the work, you are more than likely to pass these exams.
Now, in addition to these two mandatory exams, I also suggest aspiring stockbrokers consider these three additional qualification exams:
- Series 6 – Investment Company and Variable Contracts Products Representative Exam. This certification covers mutual funds and other packaged investment products.
- Series 3 – National Commodities Future Exam. This certification will focus on futures contracts and options on futures.
- Series 65 – Uniform Investment Adviser Law Exam. If you are planning on earning your wages by anything other than commissions, then you will need to take and pass this exam.
Now, let’s go over the skill set you will need to have in order to pass these exams and become a stock broker.
Stockbroker career paths that don't require a degree
Depending on your goals and ambitions, there are different career paths you can take as a stockbroker:
- Retail stockbroker. Retail stockbrokers work with smaller retail investors and provide them with investment advice and execution services.
- Institutional stockbroker. Institutional stockbrokers tend to have more experience and knowledge than retail stockbrokers. They also generally work at bigger firms with more resources.
- Research analyst. Research analysts are responsible for providing research and analysis on different investments.
- Investment banker. Investment bankers are responsible for helping companies raise capital by issuing and selling securities.
- Portfolio manager. Portfolio managers are responsible for managing the investments of their clients.
- Financial planner. Financial planners provide advice on a wide range of financial topics, from investment planning to retirement planning.
If you have the entrepreneurial spirit, you can also always start your own company. This is obviously a more risky option, but it can be very rewarding if done correctly. Plus, you will have more flexibility in your work.
There are many different career paths you can take as a stockbroker and it all depends on your goals and ambitions.
What skills does a stockbroker need?
A professional stockbroker will need to have a combination of soft and technical skills:
- Great communication skills both in writing and in person. Stockbrokers will be constantly communicating with clients, colleagues, and upper management. Further, you need good sales skills to be successful as a stockbroker.
- The ability to think on your feet and make quick decisions. In the world of finance, things can change in a blink of an eye. A good stockbroker needs to be able to understand new information and make decisions quickly.
- A strong understanding of the financial industry. This one is a given. A stockbroker needs to have a strong understanding of the financial industry, understand different types of investments, and be up-to-date with the latest news and changes in the world of finance.
- Strong analytical skills. A good stockbroker needs to be able to analyze data and understand complex financial reports. After all, the main role of a stockbroker is to understand and analyze financial data in order to make educated guesses about investment opportunities.
- The ability to take risks. This is perhaps the most important skill of a stockbroker. A stockbroker needs to be comfortable with taking risks. After all, this is what the job is all about – buying and selling financial assets in hopes of making a profit.
- Accounting principles. A stockbroker must have a strong understanding of accounting principles. This knowledge will be used to understand financial statements and make informed decisions about investments.
- The ability to handle stress and stay calm under pressure. There will be times when things are going well, and times when they are not. A good stockbroker needs to be able to handle the stress and stay calm under pressure. If you are not good at managing stress, your sense of judgment will eventually start to crumble and your performance will falter.
Now, let’s dive right into the steps you need to take to become a stock broker without having a degree.
Steps to becoming a stockbroker without a degree
Follow these steps to become a stockbroker without a degree:
1. Learn the basics of finance and math.
If you want to be a stockbroker, it is important that you have a firm understanding of finance and math.
To become familiar with finance, start learning about stocks, bonds, and other securities. You should also familiarize yourself with investment strategies and financial regulations.
A great way to start learning about international business principles is to start by reading classic literature on this topic. A note of caution here – there is a lot of sham literature on this topic. Avoid books with titles like “Become The Next Warren Buffet in 7 Days” like the plague. This kind of material is usually written by people with no real experience in finance and you will not find proper investment advice in books like these. Stick with proven experts, and take any advice with a grain of salt.
Once you have a general understanding of finance, I suggest you also get a subscription to a well-known financial magazine like Barron’s, The Economist, or Forbes. In addition, make it a habit to stay up to date with what’s current in the world of international business. As you can probably guess, keeping a keen eye on trends is one of the keys to being successful in the stock market.
As for math, nowadays investment software such as the Bloomberg Terminal tends to do most of the heavy lifting for you. But, you will still need to be at least somewhat proficient in mathematics to become a successful stockbroker. This is because everything in the world of finance is in constant flux, and you need to be able to work with numbers quickly and accurately to succeed.
2. Improve your communication skills.
A full-service broker is expected to offer the services of a financial advisor to their clients. This means that they need to be able to not only understand complex financial concepts but also explain these concepts to their clients in simple terms.
“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” – This famous quote by Albert Einstein is often used in the world of finance to explain why being able to communicate complex ideas in simple terms is so important.
If you want to become a stockbroker, start paying attention to how you communicate with people. While you do not need a communications degree, you do need to be at least somewhat good with people to succeed as a stockbroker.
After all, you will be responsible for other people’s money. And, frankly, I am struggling to think of a more sensitive subject than this one – good people skills are a must. For starters, you can join a Toastmasters club, take public speaking classes, or read some books on this topic.
3. Take an online stock trading course.
As you will not be getting your education in a formal setting through a business degree, it is important that you take some time to learn about the stock market on your own. One of the best ways to do this is to take an online stock trading course.
There are a lot of these courses available, but consider that the majority of them are led by fake gurus who are out to make a quick buck. They don’t earn a living by trading stocks, they earn a living by selling you their courses.
That is not to say, though, that there are no good stock trading courses available. You will need to do your due diligence to find them, but they exist.
Here are a few trustworthy stockbroking and stock trading courses I recommend:
- Financial Markets (Yale University)
- Practical Guide to Trading (Interactive Brokers)
- Artificial Intelligence for Trading (Udacity)
- Oxford Algorithmic Trading Programme (Saïd Business School, University of Oxford)
Taking an online course is by no means a requirement, though. You can also become a successful stockbroker by making use of other resources such as books, newspapers, magazines, and watching financial news channels, many of which are absolutely free.
4. Join stockbroking communities.
If you want to become a stockbroker without a business degree, you will need to start networking as soon as possible. This is because the vast majority of jobs in this field are found through personal connections.
A great way to start networking is to attend investment-focused events in your area. These events usually have guest speakers from the industry who are happy to chat with attendees.
You can also use social media to connect with potential mentors in the industry. A solid place to start would be Reddit. You can start with these 4 investing communities on Reddit:
Yes, there are a lot of trolls and memes on these subreddits and forums. But if you look hard enough, you can find a lot of valuable connections and case studies from these communities.
5. Gain first-hand trading experience.
While you don’t need to have years of experience in the market to become a successful stockbroker, it will help if you have at least dabbled in trading before taking your Series 7 and Series 63 exams. This is because these exams cover topics like order types and risk management, which are best learned by doing.
The best way to gain some trading experience is to open up a practice account with an online broker. Several reputable online brokers offer their users to trade with fake money. This way, you can learn without any real financial risks.
Another great way to get some experience is to volunteer your time at a brokerage firm. This will give you an opportunity to learn about the inner workings of this industry and make some important connections.
If you get lucky and show yourself in a good light, you might also manage to secure a Series 7 sponsorship and a future job.
To find a firm to intern at, I recommend starting with smaller, local brokerage firms. They are usually more open to taking on people without an educational background in finance and are more likely to give you the opportunity to learn a variety of tasks, not just making coffee.
Also, don’t be afraid to start at the bottom. You will need to put in the hard work and prove your worth before you can hope to rise through the ranks.
6. Pass the series 7 and series 63 exams.
As we have already established, you will need to pass the series 7 and series 63 exams to become a stockbroker. These exams are administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and cover topics like investments, ethics, and regulations.
Luckily, there are plenty of resources available to help you study for these exams.
The website of Kaplan Financial Education is a great place to start. They offer a variety of study materials, including practice tests and video lessons. Some of these resources are completely free, so I highly suggest you check this site out as a part of your exam prep.
After you have passed your exams, you will need to become a member of FINRA in order to start working as a stockbroker. As long as you fit the requirements of FINRA, this process is relatively straightforward. All you have to do is submit an application and pay the associated fees.
You can find more information about the membership process on the FINRA website.
7. Get a job with a broker-dealer firm.
Once you have passed your exams, you will need to find a job with a brokerage firm. These firms are the ones that actually employ stockbrokers and allow them to trade on behalf of their clients.
Now, before you jump head-first into the job market, there is one more important career aspect you need to figure out. Do you want to become a full-service broker or a discount broker? Allow me to quickly summarize the differences between the two.
- Full-service broker. A full-service broker provides a wide range of services to their clients, from being a simple investment advisor to being responsible for the entire investment portfolio of a client. They also tend to work with high-net-worth individuals and charge higher commission rates for their services. As a full-service broker, you will be expected to have an in-depth knowledge of the financial industry.
- Discount broker. This type of broker, on the other hand, simply executes trades on behalf of their clients. In general, discount brokers don’t provide any investment advice or financial planning services. Discount brokers usually work with smaller retail investors and charge lower commission rates.
Once you’ve decided which type of firm you want to work for, your next step is to start applying for jobs. The best way to do this is to reach out to your network of contacts and see if they know of any open positions.
If you have already found a sponsor for your Series 7 exam, you will probably have a job opening in this firm. In fact, most sponsors expect you to work for them after you have passed your exams.
Another great way to find a job is to use an online job board like Indeed or LinkedIn. Make sure to tailor your resume and cover letter for each position you apply for. Applying for jobs can be a full-time job in itself, so make sure to give yourself enough time to do it properly.
In conclusion, becoming a stockbroker without a degree is definitely possible. But, you must be a very efficient self-learner and you need to be prepared to do a lot of networking and hustling to get your foot in the door.
I sincerely wish you the best of luck in your career journey. Thank you for reading!