How to Become an Investment Broker: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become an investment broker. Research the education requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in investment brokerage.

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Should I Become an Investment Broker?

Investment brokers, also called stockbrokers, act as liaisons between buyers and sellers to manage client portfolios and provide investment advice. They typically charge a commission for each transaction, and signing bonuses are common in this potentially lucrative career. All investment brokers must be licensed, and advanced degrees and certification are usually required for higher-level positions.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Business, finance, accounting, economics or a comparable discipline
Licensure/Certification Licensure and certification are available
Experience On-the-job training is common; advancement is typically commensurate with experience
Key Skills Customer-service, communication, detail-oriented, initiative; strong math skills
Salary $103,260 Mean Annual Wage (May 2014)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Finance-Related Degree

Most investment brokers have at least a bachelor's degree in business, accounting, finance, marketing or economics. Prospective investment brokers should look for programs that provide courses or concentrations specializing in financial and investment planning. These courses typically cover portfolio planning, economic theory, tax treatments, client communication, Series 7 exam preparation, risk analysis and the use of financial software.

Step 2: Take the Licensing Exam

All prospective stockbrokers must complete the General Securities Registered Representative Examination (Series 7) to be licensed. This six-hour-long examination is administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and consists of 250 questions that test basic competency in buying and selling investment options.

Some states and employers also require stockbrokers to complete the Uniform Securities Agents State Law Examination (Series 63) to meet additional securities trade qualifications. Additionally, all practicing investment brokers must register with FINRA, which provides rules of regulation and continuing education opportunities.

Step 3: Complete Certification

Aspiring investment brokers can increase their employment and career advancement prospects by pursuing Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) status. CFP is a multi-step process that requires applicants to have a bachelor's degree, pass an exam, and gain at least three years of full-time experience in financial planning.

The CFA program is a graduate level, self-study option accredited by the CFA Institute, formerly known as the Association for Investment Management and Research. This program was specifically designed to provide specialized skills in investment strategy and portfolio management to candidates with a bachelor's degree and at least four years of finance-related experience.

Success Tip:

  • Be sure to meet the requirements. Certifying agencies typically have standard educational requirements that all potential applicants must meet. For example, to sit for the CFP examination, individuals are advised to be thoroughly familiar with the exam topics that may be found on the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. website.

Step 4: Choose a Company

Investment brokers should carefully consider a brokerage firm's starting salary in terms of the company's training benefits. A firm with a smaller starting salary, but with more training options, such as financing employee MBA programs, can offer faster stockbroker career advancement. As investment brokers build their client bases, they should enjoy sizable commissions and bonuses.

Step 5: Earn an Advanced Degree

Earning an advanced degree can provide an edge in this competitive profession, so prospective stockbrokers should consider a Master of Business Administration or a master's program in a finance-related field.

Success Tip:

  • Get the most from an MBA program. Prospective investment brokers should consider an MBA program that has curriculum developed in conjunction with the Certified Financial Analyst Institute.
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