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Bond Trader: Buying and Selling Bonds for a Living

As the pit trader disappears, the math expert rises

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Years ago I worked as a reporter in Chicago, and I had a small office in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Many days, when I needed a diversion, I'd head downstairs to watch the action in the trading pits.

To me, a relative outsider to the pits, the scene was impossible to decipher. There was a lot of screaming, a lot of pushing and shoving. Sometimes an actual fist fight would break out. Hyper-looking people in strange, multi-colored jackets, used elaborate hand gestures to signal buy and sell signals.

I loved watching the place. But I had no desire to work down there.

Today, the trading world is considerably calmer. Although there are still trading pits, most of the investment world has moved to more sedate, computer-based trading systems. The larger-than-life characters who made a living screaming, pushing and trading are fading into history.

Becoming a Bond Trader: The New Breed

Careers in bond trading can be enormously rewarding from a financial perspective. Competition for these jobs at the giant investment banks and other financial institutions is fierce.

And today it's a new style of person that is winning these prized jobs.

"It used to be that the prerequisite to trade bonds on Wall Street was being a lacrosse player," Paul Calvetti, then head of Deutsche Bank AG's government bond desk told Bloomberg News." The prerequisite now is to have a quantitative, analytical background. Without those skills, trading can be like trying to be a carpenter without a hammer."

The Careers in Finance website has a similar take. "Fixed income trading positions call for strong analytical know-how and the wherewithal to manage large amounts of inventory in an often-thin market."

If you have strong math skills, a strong personality, and a degree from a top tier school, odds are that you can get an interview with one of the major financial institutions that hire bond traders.

If you're still in school, particularly in a good school with strong programs in business, math and/or physics, make plans now to meet with a Wall Street recruiter. Odds are a few of them will be recruiting on your campus.

If you already have your degree, start searching for trading jobs on e-Financial Careers and Vault.com.

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