How to Become a Wall Street Trader

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Wall Street is often glamorized as a fast-paced, exciting place to be in the financial industry. Because of this, many people dream about becoming professional traders at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The process, however, often requires years of preparation, education and licensing. As a result, only those who follow a precise career path are able to join the ranks of this elite group of traders.

Start out as a trainee at a brokerage firm, which is how many NYSE traders begin. While working at a brokerage firm, trainees learn about the financial industry, the nuances of different financial instruments, how to carry out trades for clients, and the regulations that govern the financial industry. Trainees become brokers after obtaining their series 7 and series 63 brokers licenses, which allows them to solicit trades and officially register with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Apply for membership in the NYSE or work for a person or firm that has a membership. The cost of buying a membership, or "seat," is based on supply and demand, and can range from a few thousand dollars to more than $1 million. According to the NYSE, as of 2010, the price for membership per year is $40,000. To obtain membership, a broker or firm must be a member of FINRA or a Self Regulatory Organization (SRO).

Submit to a background check. Because of the sensitive nature of the day-to-day transactions that are carried out within the financial industry, applicants are required to submit to FBI fingerprinting and a general background check. Despite the fact that most trading is done electronically, the NYSE is still a relatively crowded environment. Because of this, traders that expect to be active on the NYSE trading floor also need to submit to a routine medical examination to ensure they are in good health before being approved for trading.

Attend orientation. Applicants who are approved for membership must attend the NYSE's New Member Orientation Program. This includes traders who have reapplied after being inactive for more than six months. During the orientation, an exam is administered. The exam must be passed before a trader can become active on the NYSE. Exams are offered once a month.

Receive your badge number. All NYSE traders must have a badge number before they can begin trading. Your badge number contains your floor location and must be visible at all times while on the trading floor.


Additional licensing may be required depending on the type of financial instruments you are trading.


If you are brokering for your own trading account, you assume all financial risk. Other qualifying criteria may be required at the discretion of the NYSE.