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What Do Energy Traders Do?

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Although the field of energy trading was dealt a blow in the wake of the Enron scandal of 2002, the job market is still alive and looking for new recruits. Energy trading is a high stress job, but the rewards can be fulfilling for those who are ready to work hard.

Primary Responsibilities

The main task of a energy trader is to buy or sell shares of energy at a given price to make a profit. This can be energy in the form of natural gas supplies, petroleum stocks or electricity shares on the power grid. Energy traders use computer software programs and other analytical tools, such as meteorological data to help determine which way energy prices might be headed. For example, if an energy trader sees a weather report forecasting a record breaking heatwave, he will try to buy up shares of electricity at the current price. When the heatwave hits, demand for electricity will rise, which makes the electric shares worth more money and, thus, the energy trader profits.

Secondary Tasks

Energy traders use a number of tools to help predict energy prices. Keeping these tools in shape is one of the key secondary tasks of an energy trader. Many traders keep their prediction formula in financial spreadsheets. To calculate correctly these spreadsheets need to be updated constantly with current financial data. Depending on the size of the energy trading firm and the energy trader's position, there may be mandatory securities paperwork that needs to be filed during a sale or purchase. The energy trader who performed the sale may need to do this paperwork himself or have it handled by an assistant.

Skill Set

As with other fast-moving financial jobs, such as stockbroking, energy trading is highly stressful. A successful energy trader should be able to work well under pressure and make quick decisions. Teamwork is also important on the trading floor, especially for those just starting out in the business. Hours on the trading floor can be long and difficult, sometimes stretching out into 10-hour, 11-hour or 12-hour shifts. In addition, many trading companies have trading desks that are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Those embarking on a career in energy trading should have a high stamina and ready to put in the necessary hours.

Background Data

Most people who enter the financial world as an energy trader have at least a bachelor's degree. This can be in business or finance, but also in other fields such as petroleum engineering, geology or meteorology. Unlike other financial trading fields, such as stockbroking, currently no license or certification is needed to become an energy trader. In a competitive marketplace, such as New York, pursing additional education in the form of a master's degree or financial certification can help to land a position as an energy trader.


Nathan McGinty started writing in 1995. He has a Bachelor of Science in communications from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in international journalism from City University, London. He has worked in the technology industry for more than 20 years, in positions ranging from tech support to marketing.

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