How to Become a Currency Trader: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a currency trader. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements to find out how to start a career in financial trading. View article »

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Currency Trader?

Currency traders, also known as investment banking traders, follow the economic trends concerning the value of U.S. and foreign currencies. Currency traders work for clients to either purchase or sell one type of currency for another. Through trading different types of currencies during optimal economic periods, traders can help their clients make substantial profits or avoid major losses.

Currency traders work in a fast-paced, high-stress environment. However, the large amounts of currency they buy or sell can earn them significant commissions. The BLS reported that related careers in securities, commodities, and financial services sales could expect only an average increase in job opportunities when compared to all other occupations because buying and selling can be done more quickly by computers than people. Currency traders would likely be subject to the same industry changes.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Accounting, business, finance, or economics
Licensure and Certification State licensure may be required; certification is optional
Key Skills Able to make quick decisions, strong communication skills, comfortable handling customers, an eye for detail, knowledge of electronic trading software programs, familiar with economic research strategies, capable of understanding domestic and foreign currency exchange rates
Median Salary (2015) $71,550 (for all securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Steps

Now let's check out the career steps for currency traders.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

People interested in careers related to investment banking often obtain degrees in fields such as economics, financial accounting, or business. Bachelor's degree programs in economics offer courses in macroeconomics, statistics, market structure, microeconomics, public policy, and international trade. Some economic degree programs have concentration options in money and financial marketing. Courses may include economic fluctuations, monetary theory, banking institutions, and international finance.

Success Tip

It can be helpful to complete a summer internship. The BLS indicates that many students choose to complete internship programs with banking and financial trading organizations, especially during summer vacation. Due to the competitive nature of the financial industry, internship experience is important, according to the BLS, because employers often hire individuals who performed well during internships.

Step 2: Obtain Necessary Licenses

Some currency traders may need to be licensed, depending on state laws. Trading currency is a specific type of financial trading, and it may require one or more different licenses. Most professionals who have to obtain licenses usually do so through state financial control boards. Employers, such as bank firms, may have more information on what specific types of licenses are needed for this profession.

Step 3: Become Certified

Professionals do not have to be certified to find employment. Since so many applicants compete for jobs in this industry, certified individuals may have better chances of finding employment. One organization that provides certification is the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute, and they offer the CFA credential program.

It can take up to four years to complete the program on a part-time basis, since individuals must study extensively and complete multiple study session course packets. The program includes three different stages, and individuals must take exams at the end of each stage. Curriculum topics within this program may include professional standards, portfolio management, corporate finance, fixed incomes, economics, derivatives, financial reporting, wealth planning, and alternative investments.

Step 4: Maintain Licenses and Certifications

States that require currency traders to be licensed will most likely require professionals to renew their licenses on a relatively frequent basis. Individuals should check with their state financial control boards to verify license renewal procedures. In many cases, the license renewal process requires professionals to complete continuing education (CE) coursework related to their field of specialty. The CFA Institute expects certified members to participate in CE courses as proof of each member's commitment to professionalism. Individuals who participate in CE programs are awarded with certificates of commitment by the CFA Institute.

Step 5: Earn a Graduate Degree

Currency traders are not required to earn graduate degrees, but the BLS points out that as professionals advance up the corporate ladder, it is not uncommon for them to improve their job prospects by earning these degrees. Many choose to earn Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees. Potential MBA courses may include marketing management, data analysis, economics for managers, operations analysis, and information systems. Some MBA programs allow students to specialize in business areas, such as finance. MBA courses related to finance may include futures and options, financial innovations, emerging market finance, and financial risk management.

To recap, with an undergraduate degree, licensure, and possibly certification, a currency trader can earn about $72,000 to follow the economic trends concerning the value of U.S. and foreign currencies.

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