Career as a stock market trader

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John Cooper works on the trading desk of a bank, one of the world's major financial services companies based in the City of London. He was offered his current position after a summer internship.

How did you get into this career as a stock market trader?

While I was still studying for a Degree in Computer Engineering, I began looking at job options. I knew that I wanted something with more involvement and interaction with people than the opportunities that presented themselves with my computer degree. In addition, I have always had a strong interest in the financial markets.

When this company offered me an internship during my summer holidays, I was happy to accept, and this led to me being offered a permanent position.

What are your responsibilities as a stock market trader?

We trade in the world market on behalf of our customers, most of whom are institutional investors such as insurance companies. Our aim is to maximise the profit they make and minimise the risk. Trades can be made over the telephone or by computer. It's a fast-paced business and you need to make decisions quickly.

What hours do you work?

I'm at my desk by 7.30am to get up to date with market information and any changes in currency values; this helps with the trading decisions throughout the day. By 8.00am I'm busy trading and talking to clients, taking orders and guarding risks. The European market is very active in the early part of the day, then at 1.00pm the focus switches as the US markets open.

Things quieten down by 4.30pm which gives me a chance to go through the day's trades, assessing risks before the process starts again the next day. I get to leave the office by about 6.30pm. It is a long day but there are quiet times as well.

What training have you had?

The majority of the training is carried out in house. There are also some external courses, but most of the training is on the job, working alongside and assisting senior traders.We work together in an open office environment, so people are always available to help and advise.

What skills and qualities do you need for a career as a stock market trader?

The key skill is communication because we are dealing with so many different people throughout each day, having to quickly explain some quite complex matters and build a relationship of trust. Also, the speed of the business and the size of the values we work with require self-confidence, decisiveness and a competitive edge to be successful.

What do you like/dislike about your career as a stock market trader?

The best parts are the interaction with clients and the fact that every day is different. New challenges are always presenting themselves. My main dislike is the early mornings, but I accept that this comes with the job.

How do you see your future?

I hope that in the future I'll have the opportunity to progress to a more senior position within the team and eventually become a head trader. It is possible to move into sales or managerial positions from here, but I think I'll stay in trading because I enjoy its particular challenges.

John's route to his career as a stock market trader

  • Degree in Computer Engineering.
  • Summer internship with Bank.
  • Offered current position.

John's stock market trader tip

  • Be prepared to be thrown straight into the job – it's the best way to learn.

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Salary of a stock market trader

  • Salaries start at around £24,000.
  • A successful trader can earn well over £100,000 with annual bonuses.

Career as a stock market trader

  • This is a highly competitive area and although there are no standard entry requirements, most applicants are graduates. Recruitment for graduate internships (holiday placements) is carried out globally.
  • There are always more applicants than vacancies so places are limited. Part-time work is unusual, although job sharing is becoming more common.
  • Before traders can conduct any business they must qualify to be placed on the Stock Exchange's list of people who are eligible to trade. This requires passing an appropriate examination recognised by the Financial Services Skills Council.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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