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A Day in the Life of a Stockbroker

A stockbroker invests in the stock market for individuals or corporations. Only members of the stock exchange can conduct transactions, so whenever individuals or corporations want to buy or sell stocks they must go through a brokerage house. Stockbrokers often advise and counsel their clients on appropriate investments. Brokers explain the workings of the stock exchange to their clients and gather information from them about their needs and financial ability, and then determine the best investments for them. The broker then sends the order out to the floor of the securities exchange by computer or by phone. When the transaction has been made, the broker supplies the client with the price. The buyer pays for the stock and the broker transfers the title of the stock to the client and performs clearing and settlement procedures. The beginning stockbroker’s first priority is learning the market. One broker said, “First you have to decide whether you have an interest in the stock market. This will determine how well you’ll do. If you’re just interested in making money you won’t get very far.” Stockbrokers spend their time in a fast-paced office, usually working from nine to five, unless they are just starting out or have to meet with clients. The new broker spends many hours on the phone building up a client base. Sometimes brokers teach financial education classes to expose themselves to potential investors who may then become their clients.

Paying Your Dues

A college degree is not required, but most brokers have one. Brokers have to be licensed. A license is obtained by passing the General Securities Registered Representative Examination and, in many cases, posting a bond. Individuals may take this test after they have been employed by a brokerage firm for four months. Firms use these four months as an on-the-job training period to prepare their workers for the test. Many states also require the candidate to take the Uniform Securities Agents State Law Examination. These tests are designed to ensure the candidate’s knowledge of all aspects of the stock market. After passing these tests, an individual is considered a trainee. While working full time, he takes classes and trains for up to two years. Employees are expected to take training courses throughout their careers to keep abreast of developments in the field. Those with prior work experience have the greatest opportunities for becoming a stock broker. Few people become brokers straight out of college. Most employers seek applicants who have already succeeded in other fields, such as insurance sales. If you know your interests lie in the market, study economics, finances, computers, and business management in college. Many employers view ambition as the most important quality a candidate can possess.

Present and Future

The stock market is strongly affected by economic boom-and-bust cycles, the most famous of which occured in October 1929-the Great Crash-causing a large number of investors to leap out of the windows of their offices on Wall Street. The industry has matured a great deal since then-now Wall Street offices have sealed upper-floor windows and the markets have automatic limits on how far average stock prices can rise or fall in a given session-but historically only those brokers with iron stomachs have survived in this high-risk, high-stakes industry. The outlook for stockbrokers is rosy, as economic growth is anticipated. Deregulation of the industry is allowing many stockbrokers to expand their responsibilities, bringing about a corresponding increase in thier client base. Increased concern about financing pension plans is also causing many people to turn to stockbrokers for advice, and the stock market continues to attract increasing numbers of individual investors. However, this is a boom-or-bust business, so the upswing won’t last forever.

Quality of Life


Stockbrokering is an extremely competitive business-perhaps the most competitive of all. There is heavy burnout in the early years due to outrageous hours-all-nighters are routine occurrences for eager and ambitious upstarts-and many novice brokers fail to establish an adequate client base early on. Those that stay find the work exciting but anxiety-provoking. There is greater security in larger companies but generally a longer wait for advancement and “the big bucks.”


Those who get through the first few rocky years tend to stay in the field for an extended period. Many find the high salaries a delicious payback for those first years spent toiling “in the trenches.” Leaving for an M.B.A. is common at this point for those want to return for top management positions in the industry.


At this point brokers are enjoying the fruits of their extensive and intensive education and training. Advancement in this field comes in the form of more and bigger accounts or management positions. Occationally, it culminates in partnership in the firm. Some even retire at this point, but most like the industry and stick around for years after they’ve earned pots of money.