How to Be a Stock Broker

Five Parts:Getting StartedPlanning Your FutureGetting Fully QualifiedSucceeding in Your CareerSample Resume

Did you just finish watching Wall Street? Well, being a stockbroker doesn't involve that much glitz and glam, but it's pretty awesome. A stockbroker is a financial adviser who counsels clients (corporations or individuals) on appropriate investments to fit their abilities and goals.To be a stockbroker, one must work for a brokerage house -- buying and selling stocks on the stock market is limited to members of the stock exchange. A broker is also known as a securities sales agent or securities and commodities sales agent. Here's everything you need to know!

Part 1
Getting Started

  1. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 1
    Go to a good college. it might be hard but you can do it! sometimes you can use some help from your parents or guardians! It used to be that anyone with a knack for numbers and a lot of friends could become a successful stockbroker. Not so anymore! If you want to stay competitive, you'll need to get your degree. Economics, finance, mathematics, accounting or business management are all good fields to get your undergrad degree in. And the better college you go to the more prospects you'll have later on the game!
    • Especially if you're going to grad school, keep your grades up. The better your grades, the more -- and better -- schools will open up to you. Not to mention knowing what you're doing when you hit the exchange floor!
  2. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 2
    Look into internships. Some brokerages hire interns during their last year of college. Hit up your campus' "Investment Club" -- or start one if it doesn't yet exist! Getting that dream internship could make your path to being a billionaire a lot easier.
    • This is your best bet if you're not looking to get your MBA and want to get going as quickly as possible. But know that relaxing is totally a viable option. Plenty of people take a couple of years off, go back to get their MBA and get in the game a little bit later. Also: people are more likely to trust a 28 year-old with their money than a 22 year-old, so feel free to keep that red solo cup and package of ramen in your hand for a second or two more.
  3. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 3
    Consider getting your MBA. Alright, so having an MBA isn't necessary per se, but if you want to rise to the cream of the crop, having an MBA will put you at the top of that prospective employee stack you're bound to find yourself in eventually. More and more people are getting them, making them par for the course. This step could aid in job advancement, larger signing bonuses and higher compensation.
    • Again, feel free to take a few years off between undergrad and your MBA. Getting some viable work experience (even if it's menial labor at a bank or a firm) will make your options grow tenfold as well. Showing that you already have a grasp on what you're doing or want to do will get programs to take you more seriously.
  4. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 4
    Educate yourself. Read. Watch. Expose yourself. Learn. This is a field where you can very much make yourself better on your own time. So read books! Watch financial news shows. Follow different stocks and see what rises and what falls. While Joe is off breeding ferrets and Jim is playing football, you'll be ensuring that you walk out of school with a six-figure income to start.
    • Try William Bernstein's "The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio," or Mark Hebner's "Index Funds: The 12-Step Program for Active Investors."[1] The Wall Street Journal or NY Times financial section won't hurt either!
    • You probably know a half a dozen people who at least dabble in investments. Ask them about what they know! The only reason you need an educate now is because that's the current academic trend. Back in the day it was just people who took an active interest in it. So tap into all your resources as soon as you can, as often as you can.
  5. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 5
    Start your own investment portfolio. When you get old enough, start taking care of some of your own money (if you're under 18, it will have to be in your parent's name). Work with a family member who's doing it and see how you can start building proof of your know-how. If you wouldn't trust you with your own money, why should someone else trust you with theirs?!

Part 2
Planning Your Future

  1. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 6
    Consider your options. There are three paths your career could take:
    • Be a full-service broker. This would be working at a firm like Merrill Lynch or Morgan Stanley.[2] In order to succeed here, you must be very sales-oriented.[3] They will set you up with a space, get you trained and give you a salary to start off until you pass the trial period.
    • Be a discount broker. Charles Schwab or Fidelity are two examples of discount brokers.[2] If you're more service-oriented, this is for you. You will generally always be on salary, making less commission, but mainly assisting those who come to you, buying and selling but not giving advice.[4]
    • Be a bank broker. This is pretty straightforward -- you work at a bank. The bank's customers come to you to buy fixed annuities and to make other, often more conservative, choices.
      • Discount brokers generally have to know a little bit about everything (rollovers, stock options, margin accounting, derivatives, bond ladders, etc.), whereas full-service brokers usually specialize in one area, like IRA rollovers or employee stock options.[2]
      • Full-service brokers are responsible for finding their own clients. However, they also are given workspace and a salary to start off. With discount brokers, you pay your overhead costs and make less commission.[5] It's really a give and take.
  2. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 7
    Research firms. If you've narrowed it down to what type of broker you want to be, you'll still need to decide on which firms you want to apply to. Just like a pair of pants (one that you'll be wearing for decades), it needs to fit you just right. The main thing to consider? Size.
    • A big firm can often offer you a competitive training package, making you feel more firm in your grounding and alleviate your financial start-up woes. However, you may feel like you're a teeny fish drowning in a large pond.
    • A small firm can give you the attention you desire and feel more personable (in addition to offering a higher commission rate), but they may not be able to offer you the clientele or training of a larger program.
  3. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 8
    Get trained at a firm. You'll need to get a few months' on-the-job training before you can take your license and be a full-fledged stockbroker, but you can still get to work. It all depends on where you're employed. Some may call it an internship, some will just consider it pre-training, some will offer more money than others. Whatever form yours takes, it's a necessary step pre-examination.

Part 3
Getting Fully Qualified

  1. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 9
    Take your mandatory exams. There are two basic tests you must take:
    • The Series 7. Formally known as the General Securities Registered Representative Examination. This test is given by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and is the most difficult test you will take (lasting 6 hours). After passing it, you'll be a "registered representative," or stockbroker. You have the authority to sell all securities and investments except for real estate, life insurance and commodities futures.[6] It costs $290.00 currently.[7]
    • The Series 63. This one is just about conducting business and the various laws that govern transactions. It's a lot shorter (75 minutes) and much easier.[5][1] This one costs $96.00[7]
  2. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 10
    Consider taking other exams to specialize. They're not exactly necessary, but they do make it so nothing is off-limits to you. Those exceptions mentioned with the Series 7? Those go away once these tests are passed.
    • The Series 65. Your firm may require you to become a "Registered Investment Adviser." You must take the 65 for them to use professional management platforms.
    • The Series 66. Just a combination of the 63 and 65.
    • The Series 3. This test is required to sell commodities futures contracts.
    • The Series 31. To sell managed futures funds, you'll need to take this test. It's usually obtained in lieu of the 3.[5]
  3. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 11
    If you're in the UK, know that the testing process is completely different. The Series tests just aren't a thing. Across the pond, you could have either a CFA Society UK Level 4 Certificate in Investment Management, a CISI Level 4 Diploma in Investment Advice, a CISI Level 7 Master's in Wealth Management, a Fellow or Associate of the Faculty or Institute of Actuaries, or a Manchester Metropolitan University BA (Hons) in Financial Services, Planning and Management.[8]
  4. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 12
    Handle the piles of paperwork. After your exams are in the bag, you'll need to complete your registration with FINRA/NFA, and register with the Securities Commission of each state that you plan on working in. Here are the basics:[7]
    • Pass a background check (anything beyond a minor traffic violation may disqualify you)[5]
    • Get a fingerprint card
    • Complete paperwork for both state and federal levels
  5. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 13
    Meet quotas and get past your first year. If only the hard part were over. Now that you're a legitimate broker, you gotta meet expectations. Depending on your firm, they'll probably give you six months to a year of a base salary to give you time to build up your clientele. This will be the hardest part. In fact, many take several years before they're really comfortable. It's stressful, but it's worth it.
    • The majority of people who drop out drop out now. The money doesn't come in like they want to, they're not good salesmen, they can't stand the long hours prospecting, they get dropped because they don't make enough for the firm, whatever. If you can get over this hump, you're golden.
  6. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 14
    Take continuing education courses. In order to maintain your license, you'll need to attend seminars and take continuing education classes.[1] Your employer will facilitate this for you. Just keep up! The market is constantly changing.

Part 4
Succeeding in Your Career

  1. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 15
    Build your client base. Once more, there are three traditional ways you can do this:
    • Cold calling or door-knocking. You literally grab the phone book (those surprisingly do still exist) and start making phone calls with a smile plastered on your face. You could also get a list of names from the county clerk for a neighborhood and go door-knocking. Yes, dogs may chase you.
    • A list of possible clients. You can either buy these from a marketing firm or your employer may give them to you. Considerably better than being accused of trespassing.
    • Going through your own network. Hitting up friends, friends of friends, long lost uncles of friends of friends, joining exchange clubs and various organizations to hit their members, etc.
  2. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 16
    Get over the learning curve. Quite obviously, the stock market is not a 2 + 2 = 4 kind of place. There are a billion factors going on at once that you have to learn to account for. You'll be giving people advice and risking their hard earn money. There's quite a lot to get used to. Quite a lot being a vast understatement, of course.
    • The amount of money you bring home will increase with each year. The easier your job gets, the more money you'll make, surprisingly enough. It's really getting the ball rolling that's the hardest part.
    • Initially you'll be working all the time. Whenever you can get to clients, you'll be working. That means nights, weekends, and holidays. But when you have a firm client base, you'll find yourself working 6 hour days and taking time off whenever you need. It just could take years to get there.[5]
  3. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 17
    Get used to the constant sales pressure. You'll be meeting quotas from day one. If you don't get people to cave to your salesmanship, your job is on the line. Until you have a bank of people you can depend on to invest with you, the pressure will be on 24/7. It can be quite a lot for some people.
    • Again, if you're not a super salesman, a discount broker or bank broker may be more up your alley. Sales is not for everyone. You could also start at a bank or discount, build your network, and then go to a full-service broker.
  4. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 18
    Get persuasive. Your entire job is about getting people to trust you. To trust you with their hard-earned money. That's asking a lot! Not to mention you'll probably be a complete stranger. How are you even going to get your foot in the door?
    • This is where getting a mentor comes in handy. There are psychological tricks of the trade that all the pros use to keep people from quite literally hanging up on them or banging the door in their faces. Needless to say, you'll develop quite the thick skin.
  5. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 19
    Effectively communicate. Let's put it simply: you're going to know a lot of terms and concepts that the average Joe doesn't. That's how you have a job. Instead of rolling around all those acronyms and concepts that people don't understand, you'll need to get on their level. Can you take everything you know and make accessible to everyone? Hope so!
  6. Image titled Be a Stock Broker Step 20
    Work for an independent broker. Raymond James or LPL Financial are two examples of independent brokers. They offer virtually every project and their employees see payouts in the range of 80-95% (full-service may start you out at around 40% at the beginning of your career, working your way up slowly but surely).
    • You need an established client base to do this. A very, very large client base. For this reason, CPAs and tax preparers often have a leg up in this department. It's something to aspire to, for sure. After a while in the game, this is a definite possibility.[5]

Sample Resume

Sample Stock Broker Resume


  • Brokers can also pursue certification as a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) after working four years and passing three exams.
  • Both FINRA and the NASAA require scores of 70%, except for the Series 7, 63 and 65, which have passing rates of 72%; the Series 66 has a passing score of 75%.[9]


  • Stockbrokers and sales agents often work more than 40 hours per week, including evenings and weekends
  • A stockbroker career is very competitive and stressful, resulting in a high turnover.
  • Many brokerage firms prefer to hire brokers who have demonstrated success in other financial fields.

Article Info

Categories: Finance Careers