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Career profile: Trader

traderFancy life in the fast lane? Traders can make and lose huge amounts of money in minutes. Could you handle the pressure?

A what?

Traders buy and sell shares, bonds and assets for clients. They have to know what the market is like and respond quickly to changes.

On the job

Traders start work early (at around seven in the morning) as they have to be up when markets open in other countries. On the whole they have to work long hours and be on the ball the whole time. They either buy and sell on behalf of clients or for the bank that employs them.

Traders buy shares (or stocks) in companies that are listed on the Stock Exchange, so if they think a company is going to increase its profits, they might want to buy more shares for their client and then sell those shares when they are worth more, so making money for the investor. They can also buy bonds (which are loans from the government), which are safer but tend to make less money. They also deal in foreign currency, gambling on whether it will go up or down and commodities such as oil or wheat.

The job is divided between analysing market data, making buying and selling decisions and actually making the trades. It can be stressful as huge amounts of money can be made and lost in minutes. So as well as being analytical, decisive and full of energy, traders also need to be able to handle pressure.

Traders are employed by investment banks and investment management companies. In the UK, most of the work is in central London. There are other, much smaller, dealing desks in other big cities, such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.

What would I earn?

Salaries can start at around £20,000 for trainees but as you get more experienced, you could expect to earn more than £100,000 a year.

What qualifications do I need?

Most traders are expected to have at least a 2:1 degree (equivalent to a grade B). To get onto a degree course you will need at least five GCSEs (grades A-C) and two good A-levels.

Once they have been taken on by an employer, new traders will be give on-the-job training. Before they can act on behalf of a client, however, they need a qualification recognised by the Financial Services Skills Council. This will make give them entry to the Stock Exchange’s list of ‘approved people’ who are qualified to trade.

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