How To Start Your Career As a Portfolio Manager

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published February 15, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

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A portfolio manager can help companies manage their investment portfolios. You might enjoy a career as a portfolio manager if you're interested in finance and accounting or have background knowledge of investment management. Portfolio managers can work for several types of companies, like insurance companies, banks and foundations, so there are many jobs in the field that you can choose from. In this article, we examine what a portfolio manager does and explore a list of steps for becoming a portfolio manager.

Related: What Is Investment Management?

What is a portfolio manager?

A portfolio manager is a financial professional who oversees investment portfolios for companies or organizations. Much of a portfolio manager's job involves working with investment portfolios in all stages of their development and ensuring the information they show is accurate. Portfolio managers can also work closely with financial analysts to learn about developments in the industry and make financial decisions based on the information they learn.

Here are a few places you might work as a portfolio manager:

  • Hedge funds

  • Banks

  • Pension funds

  • Wealth management firms

  • Insurance companies

  • Foundations

Related: Complete Guide for How to Become a Financial Advisor

Portfolio manager duties

A portfolio manager supervises each stage of an investment portfolio's creation and use. This means they can work on creating new investment portfolios, managing existing investment portfolios and developing a company's investment strategy continuously over time so that it remains effective and beneficial.

Portfolio managers also communicate with financial analysts at their own company and at other financial institutions, like banks, to determine which investment opportunities or products might enhance a client's portfolio. Many portfolio managers speak with clients directly to develop an investment strategy and provide guidance on current and future investments.

Related: Working With A Financial Portfolio: Definition and Tips

Skills and qualifications for a portfolio manager

Portfolio managers need to have a developed background knowledge of finance and experience with investments to succeed in the field. Some employers might also look for portfolio managers to have a master's degree in finance or a related major, such as economics or business. Portfolio managers also need to understand how to create an investment portfolio and oversee its performance, including how to adjust investments in a way that benefits the client and helps them reach their financial goals.

Here are a few other skills that you might need as a portfolio manager:

  • Collaboration

  • Communication skills

  • Time management

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Organizational skills

  • Knowledge of diversification and its impact on risk

  • Ability to complete a risk-return analysis

  • Knowledge of transaction costs

  • Gathering and analyzing data

  • Determining investment risk

  • Knowledge of relevant markets

How to become a portfolio manager

Here's how you can pursue a career as a portfolio manager:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

Pursue a bachelor's degree in finance or a related subject like business, economics or accounting. Completing a bachelor's degree program at an accredited college or university can provide you with the educational basis you need to be a successful portfolio manager. During your undergraduate studies, you learn about the basics of being a portfolio manager, including information about finance and investments, relevant communication and interpersonal skills and procedures that portfolio managers typically perform like creating an investment portfolio.

2. Gain professional experience

Apply for entry-level jobs in the finance industry. Many aspiring portfolio managers start their careers as research analysts or financial analysts. These roles offer the opportunity to build experience in the field and learn how to analyze data, which can be a large part of a portfolio manager's job. Analysts write reports that portfolio managers can use to develop the portfolios they manage, so it can be helpful to understand both sides of the operation before applying for portfolio manager positions. Some common places where aspiring portfolio managers can find entry-level jobs include bank trust departments, pension funds and insurance companies.

3. Pursue a master's degree

Enroll in a master's degree program in a relevant subject, like a Master of Business Administration degree. Many employers require portfolio managers to hold a master's degree as it can enhance your reputation and provide you with more specialized skills than a bachelor's degree program. Most portfolio managers pursue an MBA in finance, but you can also choose to study a related field like business administration or economics or pursue a Master of Science degree in finance to ensure you get the necessary education to support your career as a portfolio manager.

4. Receive certification and licensure

Apply for certification through an organization recognized in the finance industry. The most common certification that employers ask portfolio managers to pursue is the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification. You can apply for this certification if you hold a bachelor's degree and have at least four years of professional experience as a financial analyst. The certification involves passing three separate exams that test competency and knowledge of industry practices, such as accounting, ethics and economics.

You might also need to apply for a securities license with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). This license applies to portfolio managers who want to become registered securities professionals and work with specialized accounts like mutual funds, commodity futures contracts or managed futures. You can register with FINRA and obtain your securities license by completing exams that your employer can sponsor you for and earning a passing grade.

5. Apply for jobs as a portfolio manager

After building your experience and completing any educational and certification requirements, you can look for jobs as a portfolio manager with companies or financial institutions. If you currently work as a finance analyst, you might look for opportunities to grow in the company you already work for, or you can search for openings at other companies or organizations that need a portfolio manager. As a portfolio manager, you might apply to work for companies that need someone to oversee their pension funds, hedge funds or other assets that a portfolio manager knows how to manage.

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