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How to Become a Portfolio Manager

By: Kaplan Schweser
December 11, 2020
Female Portfolio manager standing in front of chalkboard

Portfolio managers work closely with analysts and researchers to conduct company research, monitor trends in investment, and make market predictions to help businesses and individuals make important investment decisions. It’s an incredibly desirable career target for aspiring finance professionals. If you have your sights set on a career in portfolio management, there are a number of things you can do now and in the near future to set yourself on the right path.

Step 1: Complete Your Education and Internships

If you’re currently enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program in a finance-related field, you’re on the right track. A degree in business administration, accounting, finance, or economics will provide the right base upon which to build your career as a portfolio manager.

Your college years also provide you a great learning opportunity outside the classroom in the form of internships. Research the firms in your area offering finance internships, and apply. An internship can teach you a lot about the investment industry and give you a first-hand look at the career path that leads to a portfolio management career, as well as the day-to-day tasks associated with it. But internships are also invaluable networking opportunities. Your role in the organization will afford you the opportunity to create relationships with employees and other interns. You will also build a reference list of people who can vouch for you as an employee and team member when you begin looking for jobs. It may even open the door to an opportunity at the firm where you are completing your internship. Don’t overlook this critical step in the process.

Finally, consider earning your MBA or a master’s degree in finance. This probably won’t be necessary for finding an entry-level position at a firm, but it will likely be something you’ll want on your resume as you begin advancing upward.

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Step 2: Secure Employment

The best way to get to the position you want is to start by identifying a company you want to work for where you can secure an entry-level position, typically as a financial analyst. Because these positions are quite popular, and openings are competitive, you need to set yourself apart. Your resume is the first impression you will make with a hiring firm, so it’s incredibly important that your resume reflects the qualities you’ll bring to the table as an employee. Remember, everyone applying for the position probably has an academic history similar to yours, so it’s important to demonstrate some of the soft skills that make you an exceptional potential employee.

If your resume lands you an interview, the same rules apply. It’s important to prepare in advance. Determine the three or four things that set you apart from the field. These are the things you want the interviewer to know about you by the time the interview is over. In the interview, keep these things top of mind, and you’ll be prepared to frame your answers in a way that reflects them.

Presenting yourself as the ideal employee doesn’t end when you get hired. In fact, as a new employee looking to move into a portfolio manager position, every day is a small part of your next interview. Simply put, companies promote successful, exceptional employees. The quickest way to move up the ranks is to become a student of the industry and the company, and make the most of every opportunity to demonstrate your value.

Step 3: Advance Your Knowledge and Demonstrate Your Commitment

Once you’ve landed a position in the right company and begin attaining experience, it’s time to accelerate your upward mobility to the portfolio management position you want. One way to advance your knowledge and demonstrate your commitment to your employer (or other potential employers) is to earn your CFA® charter. The CFA exam is a three-level examination offered by CFA Institute. Charterholders estimate they spent an average of 300 hours of study per level. There is no question it’s a challenging exam, but passing it can make you one of just 150,000 CFA charterholders worldwide.


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