Becoming a Broker - Is It The Right Career For You?

By: William Smith

"Why do they call him a broker? Because he's broker than you." For prospective brokers, this old joke is definitely something to keep in mind.

If you are a college student with an interest in stocks, perhaps you've thought of becoming a broker. Or maybe you're an older professional who has enjoyed some success in the market, and you're tired of your current nine-to-five. Maybe you've though of becoming a broker as well.

The good news is that being a broker is equally feasible for someone in her twenties and fifties. The bad news is that being a broker is a very difficult job with a high failure rate.

An unfortunate truth is that your sales skills may be more valuable than your intellect and investments knowledge. After all, it is your sales skills that get you your initial clients, and all of the knowledge in the world won't do you any good if you don't have any clients.

Steps To Becoming a Broker

Here is a real catch-22: In order to become employed as a broker, you must pass the Series 7 exam. But in order to even take the Series 7 exam, you must be employed by a brokerage firm.

What this means in reality is that you'll have to find a firm that will hire you on the contingency that you pass the Series 7. Normally, this company will be making an investment in you and paying for your exam.

So you have to impress the firm that you can make it as a broker. Since few brokerage firms typically have help wanted signs in their windows, even getting your foot in the door can be difficult.

And once you have that taken care of, then you have to pass the Series 7. Thirty-three percent of all would-be brokers who take this exam do not pass, and the average score is just 73 percent - a score of 70 is required to pass.

To prepare for the exam, you are given a 700+ page book and about two weeks to have it mastered. Then you are signed up for a seven hour, 300 question multiple choice test on a plethora of investment and regulatory questions.

The most important tips for passing the exam are 1) Master all concepts associated with trading options, and 2) Be intimately familiar with municipal securities; the laws and regulations that govern them particularly.

Recognize That It's A Sales Job

The good news - or bad news, depending on your point of view - is that the information on the Series 7 exam has little to do with what you'll be doing in your first year as a broker.

In fact, you might wonder why you have to wear a suit and tie, or why you had to go to college or even grade school to get this job. Mostly, you'll be expected to get the senior brokers and their clients coffee, and to undertake the dreaded task of cold calling - a euphemism for the despicable act of telemarketing.

Perhaps even worse, you'll be expected to hit up friends, family, neighbors, old classmates, and basically anyone whom you've ever met, and try to convince them to buy stocks.

As you approach the end of your first year, barring tremendous success, you will be especially desperate, since most brokerage firms have quotas for their first-year hires. Think you can book $3 million in assets?

As far as pay, you can expect a salary of between $24,000 and $30,000 plus, hopefully, benefits. But even this money isn't really yours - it represents a draw on commissions, meaning that you are being fronted money that you will hopefully earn from selling products to clients. Only once you earn back your draw do you start to see some real money as a broker.

Are You Scared Yet?

If none of this scares you off, then perhaps you have what it takes to be a broker. More than anything, being a broker requires perseverance.

Once you are able to build a solid client-base, then being a broker can be the dream job you probably imagine it to be. You analyze stocks, review your clients' needs, and make recommendations that fit the big picture.

You are looked upon with respect, and you earn very good money - the average experienced broker is said to make well in excess of $100,000 per year.

But be sure you understand all that becoming a broker entails. If you think that your brokerage firm will hand over millionaire clients to you, you are wrong. No matter how smart you are, no matter how much you know about stocks and bonds, you have to be a salesman.

It is sort of like running for office. You can be the best would-be president in the world, but if you're a lousy campaigner, you'll never see the White House. In choosing a career as a broker, make sure you're aware that there is heavy campaigning for sales involved in the job.

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