Are you a new student considering becoming a professional trader?
You may be asking yourself what is the best college degree for trading?
Let’s go through some of the most commonly recommended options, but with a twist. We’ll actually point out the pros and the cons of each instead of providing a simple laundry list of “stuff to major in.”
So let’s jump in!
You probably saw these choices coming!
Degrees in finance and/or economics can be helpful for traders because you learn the language and general concepts behind financial markets.
T3’s Chief Strategic Officer Scott Redler double-majored in finance and marketing.
Senior Trader Derrick Oldensmith studied economics and business.
Aside from the classroom aspects, when you pursue these areas of study, you’ll come into contact with like-minded students that share your enthusiasm for markets. You won’t do that in the English department!
These degree paths may also give you a leg up when searching for internships and entry-level jobs because you’re demonstrating interest in trading and markets.
The downside? Textbook financial and economic concepts do not necessarily make you money in the real world, where trends go way further than what may seem reasonable.
One of the most common reasons traders blow up is that they short a stock which is overvalued based on traditional measures. Real traders understand that what is overvalued today can become more overvalued tomorrow.
See this GameStop (GME) chart for evidence:
Comfort with numbers is vital for the modern trader, where you must constantly weigh multiple factors to determine your probability of success on any given trade.
And if you’re advanced enough to make sense of complex data sets, you may excel in algorithmic trading and other quantitative disciplines.
This is doubly true if you’re interested in trading futures and options, where most people only have a surface level understanding of what’s going on.
Degrees in math and statistics tend to impress interviewers simply because they are difficult majors.
And you get an awful lot of career flexibility because virtually every type of financial institution is desperate to hire quantitative experts.
However, some numbers-oriented traders may find it hard to accept the inherent short-term irrationality of markets, which is a critical part of trading.
Like math and statistics majors, computer science students are in very high demand within the financial world. Comp sci majors tend to be extremely logical, and very comfortable with technology.
So if you study computer science, you’ll be well-equipped to work in automated trading systems, high frequency & algorithmic trading, and risk management. You’ll also have the opportunity to pivot into careers in the tech world.
On the negative side, computer science is extremely demanding. And if your real passion is trading, you may find it hard to make it through 4 years of writing code.
Studying engineering or hard sciences like physics can also give you a leg up in the trading world. Why?
Because you’ll learn problem solving and quantitative analysis, which are prized on Wall Street. And like degrees in math, statistics, and computer science, engineering and science majors look great on resumes.
Of course, engineering and science degrees are at the upper end of the difficulty spectrum, so unless you’re truly passionate about these topics, you may have a hard time pushing through.
As a general piece of life advice, it makes sense to get a high-value degree that gives you options.
So if you have the aptitude, consider a degree in the majors we discussed above. Even if you don’t want to pursue trading, you’ll take those skills elsewhere. But you don’t need a specific major to become a trader.
T3 Live’s Director of Education Sami Abusaad studied accounting and was actually a Certified Public Accountant before he pursued trading.
The truth is, if you want to become a prop trader, there is no specific degree that will automatically catapult you to success.
Your education is important, but so is your personality and passions. That’s why we look for two specific things when bringing on new traders:
Many traders are former athletes. Scott Redler was a triathlete and runner. Derrick Oldensmith was a kickboxing champion.
Why is a sports background helpful in trading? Because sports force you to make decisions under pressure. You have to weigh your probability of success before taking any action, sometimes in milliseconds.
In a kickboxing match, you can wind up for a big kick. And you might knock your opponent out… or you might get flattened yourself because you opened yourself up to attack.
So you learn to balance the reward you may get (landing the kick) vs. the risk you’re taking (being punched in the face).
The same can be said for things like chess, video games, trading card games, and poker. Every move you make can propel you to victory… or failure.
That’s why we encourage aspiring traders to compete in something. You need to know how you make decisions when you feel all the pressure in the world coming down on you.
Tomorrow’s trading champions are studying charts, reading books, listening to podcasts, and sucking up every piece of information they can.
If you have to be told to do these things, close your browser and stop reading this article. You’ll never succeed.
If you really want to make it, you must have a passion for trading and a positive, results-oriented attitude. That’s your starting point.
If that sounds like you, and you’re interested in joining our team, click here to tell us about yourself.