The Fastest Way to Become a Trader on Wall Street

25/05/202316 minute read
The Fastest Way to Become a Trader on Wall Street

Want to make it big on Wall Street? Even better, want to get there before you’re 30? Or even 25? It’s possible if you put your mind to it. There are a few tricks of the trade that we are going to share with you today. Read on to learn about everything you need to do to fast-track your way to Wall Street from high school to your first grad job at the trading desk!

Study the right subjects in high school

Picking suitable subjects at school will give you a head start and prevent any obstacles down the track.

Having solid mathematical skills can lay the foundation to becoming a highly skilled trader.

Regardless of where you’re studying or what curriculum you’re pursuing, such as the AP, A-Levels, or IB, be sure to take a foundational math subject. Traders need to be analytical as your day-to-day will include doing market analysis and making decisions based on trends you uncover.

Taking extra subjects in Economics or Business will also introduce you to the concept of how markets work and operate and how our financial system works. Don’t worry; you’ll learn more about this as you enter university.

If you are doing the AP check out our blog on the easiest and hardest AP Classes.

CurriculumPrerequisite CoursesHighly Recommended Courses
Advanced PlacementCalculus and StatisticsPhysics, Micro and Macroeconomics
A LevelsMathsFurther Mathematics, Economics, Statistics, and Physics
International Baccalaureate HL Maths, HL EconomicsFurther Maths, Physics, Business
AU/NZ (HSC, VSC, NCEA)MathsPhysics, Economics, Business
Blog Banner
Blog Banner

Best Undergraduate Degrees for Traders

Charisma and tenacity may have got you in the door of a Wall Street firm back in the 80s, but today you’re going to need both of those things and a degree.

While finance and economics are the most common majors among traders, there are actually multiple study pathways.

Let’s have a look at the top degrees for an aspiring trader:

1. Finance

You can’t go wrong with a finance degree if you want to become a trader. As a finance student, you’ll gain a solid understanding of many trading concepts, such as the translation of accounting statements, derivatives, fixed income securities, and corporate finance.

Top 7 Finance & Accounting Schools in the World

2. Economics

In an economics degree, you’ll learn about business cycles, economic indicators, currencies, interest rates, as well as monetary and fiscal policy.

This gives you an economic intuition that you can draw on in a trading career to understand the news flows and current events that may lead to trade decisions.

An economics degree also covers basic regression and statistical analysis, both of which are necessary in futures trading.

Top 7 Economics Schools in the US

3. Computer Science and Statistics

Computer science grads are increasingly in demand as trading becomes more technology driven.

The big firms now employ armies of computer scientists and statisticians in their risk management teams, or to program complicated trading algorithms used extensively in high frequency trading, statistical arbitrage, or market making.

If you are quantitatively-minded, computer science would be an excellent major for a trading career.

4. Applied Mathematics, Engineering, Physics

Mathematical models can be used to predict the risk of any given event – and there’s a lot of risk involved in trading!

Maths, engineering, and physics concepts are very useful to understand quantitative concepts, and can be applied to economics in creative ways.

As you can see, there's no specific degree that will make you a trader, but choosing the course that aligns with your strengths and interests will ensure you excel in your area of trading.

Blog Banner
Blog Banner

The Best Universities to become a Trader

Where you study can be just as important as what you study. It’s no coincidence that every Ivy League school and elite university in the New York area has alumni working on Wall Street. The trading game is seriously competitive, and the big firms are under pressure to recruit the most talented of the pack.

Where would you go if you wanted to source the best minds? To the best universities, of course!

Yep, the big dogs on Wall Street don’t muck around. These firms know the US colleges that are producing tomorrow’s trading stars and they’ve formed “feeding” arrangements with them to make sure they get in first.

Okay, that sounds creepy, but it’s not!

It just means that that the university gives the firm permission to source students directly for its internship and graduate programs.

In many cases, the only way to hear about these jobs is through one of these “feeder schools”.

For example, the top five schools account for more than 15% of jobs at the top 10 banks! These include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and UBS.

Top 5 Wall Street feeder schools

These US colleges dominate the undergrad recruiting pipeline on Wall Street:

1. Harvard University

Consistently ranked first by a variety of rankings lists, Harvard is the best university if you are looking for a career in investment banking. Out of 2,578 survey participants within the Bulge Banks, 91 are graduates of Harvard University!

2. New York University

Considering it is not too far from Wall Street, NYU contributes the second-most graduates to the banks. The Stern School of Business is also well-known for its leading MBA programs.

3. University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)

Hailed to be one of the best business schools in the country, Wharton at UPenn specializes in producing some of the brightest business minds in the country.

4. Columbia University

Also located in Manhattan, Columbia is well-regarded for its economics and finance programs. Seventy survey respondents went to Columbia!

5. Cornell University

Rounding out the top 5 is Cornell. Although located in northern New York state, the SC Johnson College of Business is a favorite with bank recruiters.

While Northeastern and Ivy Leagues certainly have an advantage in big bank recruitment, others are not far behind. The University of Michigan is eighth on the list followed by the University of Texas at Austin. There are also several West Coast schools – UC Berkeley, University of Southern California, and UCLA – along with the University of Chicago and University of Virginia in the top 25.

Blog Banner
Blog Banner

Take a trading course

Even if you are at university and studying a finance degree, they will not teach you to trade directly. A short course is all you need to learn the basics of financial markets and how to trade them.

This is hands down the best career investment you can make as a trader. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a big one, time-wise or money-wise.

Not only will you build the practical skills you need to start investing, but after sitting through two full days of intense trading chat, I guarantee you won’t want to do anything but trade!

It’s great for networking, too, because you’ll be in a room full of other budding traders, all of whom are at different stages of the learning journey.

After the course, you’ll know what area of trading you want to go into, and you’ll have a solid foundation to build upon in your quest to become a big time Wall Street gun!

Crimson Global Academy offers an Investment Club as well as an Economics Club where students learn all about trading!

Start trading!

Now that you’ve got the skills, it’s time to start putting them to work! When it comes to trading, practice is critical.

But you don’t want to go too hard too early, so start by opening a demo account with a broker online to get a feel for the market and simulate live trading.

At the same time, stay up to date with the markets and take note of how your decisions impact them.

Of course, you won’t experience the psychological pressure of having your (or your parents’) hard earned cash on the line, but this is the best way to familiarise yourself with trading software and hone your strategies without the risk.

Once you’ve built up some confidence, you can start trading for real!

You don’t have to invest a massive amount (you’re on a student budget after all!), but making and losing real money will ensure you focus more and develop your trading skills a lot faster.

Blog Banner
Blog Banner

Get an internship

The easiest way to get access to a Wall Street firm trading desk is to reach out to an investment bank. Obviously, it helps if you’re at a feeder school to get a foot in the door, but you still have to prove yourself once you’re there.

Begin applying for summer trading internships at the major investment banks as soon as they put the call out.

The trading positions are going to be the most difficult to get, so apply for stock analyst or trader assistant roles, too.

For every trading internship role at a bank, they receive around 2,000 applications, but your proactivity and willingness to invest time and money in your own trading development will ensure that you stand out in any recruitment process.

Then, once you get this entry position, don’t take it for granted. Work hard and sharpen your trading skills like your life depends on it!

Crimson Careers offers online internships with top banks like HSBC for you to learn from home!

Final Thoughts

The path to Wall Street is complex and intense, but it doesn’t have to be long.

Attending a top-ranked US university may speed up the process, but there’s no reason why you can’t be one of the world’s best traders if you study elsewhere.

Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admissions support company specialising in helping students gain entry to some of the world’s most competitive universities. Our holistic approach provides support across all areas of the US and UK university application process. We assist you to find your best-fit university, create a personalised roadmap, ace your standardised tests, craft the perfect essay, build candidacy through extracurriculars, and more. Find out more about our Admissions Support program.