There’s lots of information on the internet relating to trading and becoming a trader, so it’s important to know who you can trust. At OSTC and ZISHI, we recognise that all traders are individual and that each has a different journey into the trading world.
Trading is a practical and “hands-on” undertaking – and any approach to learning to trade should reflect this. We try to emphasise the practical as much as possible, using simulators and trading software to ensure a direct experience of the markets.
This article consists of five sections, each of which will be explored in detail:
- Choosing the right trading qualification
- Focusing on the right market(s)
- Numerical ability
- Finding support and expert guidance
- Glossary of OSTC trading and market terminology
By the end of the article you should have a clearer idea of the process of learning to trade.
1. Choosing the right trading qualification
We at OSTC believe it is worth earning a qualification while learning to trade. Our courses range in duration from as little as three days right up to five weeks for the longest one.
Traditional university degrees tend to focus predominantly on theory and, understandably, approach subjects from an academic perspective. While our courses do cover the more theoretical aspects of trading, our approach is largely practical and hands-on.
We offer a number of different courses that cater to different levels and capabilities.
The courses we offer include:
- Level 2 Certificate in Financial Trading
- Level 3 Diploma in Financial Trading
- Level 5 Advanced Diploma in Financial Trading
- Level 5 Advanced Diploma in Options Trading
- Level 7 Diploma in Applied Financial Trading
All of our courses are delivered and supported by experienced and successful trainers, traders in their prime who understand what it takes to succeed in the financial markets.
What can each course offer?
Our courses are suitable for those just starting out and those who already have some experience and are looking to expand their knowledge. Let’s dig a little deeper into each of the courses we offer.
Level 2: Certificate in Financial Trading
Our Level 2 course is 100% portfolio-based, breaking down into four modules completed over four days. Upon completion you will have received a foundation level of knowledge on markets and trading as well as an Ofqual certified qualification.
The modules are specifically designed to enhance a students’ ability to trade and will help them to:
- Cultivate their understanding of the trading world
- Recognise trading opportunities
- Gain experience in hedging, risk management, futures, and options trading
There are a number of benefits to the Level 2 course.
- Learning from top experts
Students will learn from leading educators and trainers with extensive experience of financial markets and trading.
- Learning transferable skills
While the main focus of the course is trading, students will also be given training on more broadly applicable skills such as time management, independence, resilience and research. These skills are important to potential employers and allow delegates to stand out in a crowded employment space.
- Provides the perfect foundation
The Level 2 course provides the perfect foundation for either entering the markets at a junior level or expanding your knowledge via one of our more advanced courses.
What will I learn in practice?
The short answer is anything and everything relating to trading. The course covers the key theory and language before allowing students to apply their new-found knowledge via paper-trading and simulation.
Level 3: Diploma in Financial Trading
Our Level 3 course spans three weeks and consists of three modules, all of which are designed specifically to enhance your ability to trade successfully in the global markets.
Benefits of the Level 3 course include the following:
- It is an important stepping stone
Building on the solid foundation provided by our Level 2 course, the Level 3 Diploma will broaden and deepen your understanding of financial markets. As such, it is the perfect stepping stone to higher levels of qualification. In addition the qualification holds 16 UCAS points which can support University entry.
- Enhanced employability
As with the Level 2 course, students will be learning transferable skills such as independence, research skills and professional conduct, all of which help to enhance employability and allow students to stand out in a highly competitive workplace.
What will I learn in practice?
Over the three-week duration of this course, students will address a range of subjects and tasks relating to trading and the markets. Key subject areas include:
- Fundamental analysis – understanding the significance and potential impact of macro-economic information and data
- Technical analysis – understanding how to analyse and predict price action via charts and price data
- Trading strategy – understanding the basic strategies available to traders and finding what is right for you
Traditional, class-room based education cannot hope to adequately cover these subjects. Rather, a more practical, hands-on approach allows students to fully come to terms with these complex and multi-faceted areas.
Students are also asked to maintain daily logs which allow ideas and concepts to be developed over time. These logs further serve as important reference points for future use.
Level 5: Advanced Diploma in Financial Trading
Our Level 5 course in Financial Trading holds 32 credits and covers three modules over four weeks and takes students to a professional level of competency.
Benefits of the Level 5 course include the following:
- Provide you with an unrivalled level of training
Students learn from experienced and successful industry practitioners, allowing them to build and improve their knowledge, skills and behaviours. A range of practical tasks and exercises allow students to develop their expertise.
- Study a range of markets and asset classes
Students will be introduced to a range of different products, instruments and asset classes including Fixed Income (Bonds & STIRS), Commodities (both Hard & Soft), Equities (including Indices) and Foreign Exchange.
- Deepen your understanding
Trading is a complex and multi-faceted undertaking. Furthermore, each and every trader is individual and will approach the markets in their own way. The Level 5 course emphasizes the importance of market psychology and understanding which specific approach is best for you.
Learning a skill as complex as trading requires not simply an understanding of the relevant theory but also practice. The Level 5 course emphasizes this need and allows students to practice in real-time markets using tier-1 front end trading systems whilst in a protected simulated environment. Students maintain a diary of daily activity building in content as the students knowledge and practical application skills build over time.
The Level 5 is externally recognised by the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment, one of the world’s leading financial professional bodies, at associate membership level. Successful Level 5 achievers are able to progress to membership via the CISI integrity test and gain the designated letter ASCI demonstrating professional recognition.
Level 5: Advanced Diploma in Options Trading
Along with our Level 5 Advanced Diploma in Financial Trading we offer this more specialised course which, as the name suggests, focuses on options. Options are a little more complex than many other financial instruments – over the four-week span of this course we cover all of the relevant theory and practice.
Benefits of this specialised course include the following:
Advancing your knowledge of a complex subject
Options are more complex in both nature and trading than many other types of financial instrument. Many market practitioners have only a limited understanding of options and are intimidated by the apparent complexity of both the theory and practice of this subject. This course allows students to steadily build and expand their knowledge of both options and option trading.
The trainers delivering this course are experienced and successful traders who can explain the key concepts in clear and easily comprehensible terms. From absolute basics through to advanced concepts such as volatility trading and option risk management, this course covers all the key areas in depth.
While option theory forms a significant and essential part of this course, practice is equally important. Practical tasks and our proprietary option simulation software allow students to put key concepts and strategies into practice – to improve their trading ability by sim-trading as well as classroom learning.
Similarly to our Level 5 Advanced Diploma in Financial Trading the Level 5 Advanced Diploma in Options Trading is externally recognised by the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment, one of the world’s leading financial professional bodies, at associate membership level. Successful Level 5 achievers are able to progress to membership via the CISI integrity test and gain the designated letters ASCI demonstrating professional recognition.
Level 7: Diploma in Applied Financial Trading
Our Level 7 Diploma in Applied Financial Trading is a pioneering 4-week course aimed at individuals who wish to pursue a career as a financial trader, or a career within multiple job role profiles within the financial sector.
It is the highest individual vocational trading qualification learners can achieve and is recommended for those who already hold a Level 5 Advanced Diploma in Financial Trading, Level 5 Advanced Diploma in Options Trading, or a 2:2 honours degree. Unlike our Level 5 Diplomas, the Level 7 covers both options and futures markets.
This pioneering course holds 30 Level 7 credits and benefits include:
Developing your professional competence
Throughout this qualification, learners will develop their knowledge of trading, management and supervision of both futures and options within financial markets.
With mandatory units including Global financial markets and operations, Financial derivatives – Futures and Options, and Applied financial trading techniques, the course prepares learners for a range of financial services roles such as: Futures Trader, Options Trader, Market Maker, Financial Markets Analyst and Risk Manager.
The qualification is recognised by the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments (CISI), one of the worlds leading financial professional bodies, at Associate Membership level which allows learners to use the designated letters ACSI and demonstrate professional recognition and integrity. In collaboration with the CISI and on completion of their integrity test, initial associated membership is included within the programme.
Learners will develop the ability to practically apply the knowledge, understanding and required skills to trade futures and options actively within the financial markets. They will employ complex trading strategies and practice in real-time markets using tier-1 front end trading systems across multiple asset classes and products whilst in a protected simulated environment.
In addition, learners will learn to the highest practitioner level and be able to demonstrate the appropriate knowledge, skills and behaviours desired by future employers within the sector.
Advanced research skills
This course will also give learners highly developed research skills, as they complete mandatory research tasks based on current economic activity and a trading diary showing how this has been implemented in real trading situations. The diary content builds over the duration of the programme as the learners knowledge and application grows, as does trading strategy complexity and sophistication.
Which course is right for you?
Depending upon a range of factors such as existing knowledge, experience and your ultimate goals, a particular course may be right for you.
For example, our Level 2 course is a perfect introduction to the world of trading for 16+ learners who have little or no existing market or trading knowledge. By contrast, for perhaps older students who already have some relevant experience and/or knowledge, one of our Level 5 courses or our Level 7 course might be a better choice. If students do opt for a higher-level course, they also need to consider the type of markets and instruments in which they are interested.
To this end, self-assessment of abilities, preparation and market research are all important in making the right individual choices.
How to make sure you are ready
So you know you want to become a trader – what are the practicalities?
- Do you need any prior qualifications?
For our Levels 2-5 Certificates and Diplomas, the only formal qualification that is required prior to enrolling on one of our courses is a Maths GCSE of grade A to C. Other qualifications from A-levels to relevant degrees are, of course, useful but by no means essential. For our Level 7 qualification, learners must already hold a Level 5 Advanced Diploma in Financial Trading, Level 5 Advanced Diploma in Options Trading, or a 2:2 honours degree.
- Do you have the right mind-set?
Our courses are intensive and necessarily demanding – we are aiming to prepare students for the competitive and fast-moving world of the financial markets, and ultimately make them work ready. That means having the right mind-set, being positive, resilient and energetic.
- Do you have the time?
To get the most from our courses we recommend that you devote all of your time during the course to the required studies and practice.
2. Determining the Market(s) you want to focus on
It’s worth undertaking some research on the financial markets before deciding upon a specific course. It is useful to have a broad understanding of the individual markets and instruments on which you would like to focus before starting your educational journey to trading.
So what are the different markets?
Markets are differentiated in a number of ways, some of which like geographical location are clear, while others are less obvious. You may want to trade a particular type of asset or commodity and, in this context, it is worth considering some of the major asset classes. Asset classes are simply groups of assets or commodities with similar characteristics and include the following:
- Equities: Within this group are individual stocks and shares (e.g. Vodafone or Barclays) and stock indices (e.g. FTSE 100 or S&P 500). Cash stocks and shares tend to trade on stock exchanges (e.g. LSE or NYSE) while indices are often traded using derivatives such as index futures or options.
- Fixed Income: Bonds, both government (e.g. Gilts or T-Bonds) and corporate fall into this category. Short Term Interest Rates (STIRs) are often also included in this asset class.
- Commodities: Can be further sub-divided into Metals (precious, semi-precious and base), “Softs” (e.g. Coffee, Cocoa, Sugar) and Agriculturals (e.g. Wheat, Soybeans, Dairy).
- Energy: Includes Crude Oil and distillates (“cracks”), Natural Gas, Power, etc. Emissions are usually included within this category.
- Foreign Exchange: Also known as “Forex”and “FX”, this is one of the heaviest-traded asset classes with the majority of trade taking place between banks and large institutions (“inter-bank”).
It is worth undertaking some research into the characteristics peculiar to each of the above individual asset classes.
Further key choices
The previous section considered some of the key asset classes available to traders. Some traders may specialise in one particular class while others may be more generalised in their trading.
Another important choice is that of instrument. For example, if you decide to trade equities (stocks and shares), do you want to trade “cash” equities (i.e. the actual shares on the relevant stock exchange) or equity derivatives (such as stock options)?
Again, research into these questions is recommended.
3. Numeracy & Literacy
It is unsurprising that a degree of numerical ability is helpful to traders. After all, days are spent with numbers, buying and selling, making calculations about profit, loss or risk.
But literacy is also important. Traders typically spend time reading reports and analysing data. In this respect a reasonable level of literacy is clearly helpful.
Anything that you can do to maintain and improve the two core skills of numeracy and literacy will improve your chances of becoming and remaining a successful trader.
Trading simulators can improve numeracy while simultaneously providing users with hands-on experience of trading. TT (Trading Technologies) and Stellar Trading are examples of companies that may be worth checking in this regard.
Trading conferences and events
Keep an eye out for industry events and conferences which take place regularly in major cities and financial centres. Look out for keynote speakers operating in areas in which you are interested – you may even get the chance to ask them questions. Conferences provide the opportunity not only to learn and to network but also to look for employment openings.
4. Support and expert guidance
The path to becoming a trader can be arduous and challenging. You will need to show resilience and character to get to the markets and then to succeed in one of the most competitive of environments.
Support and guidance, particularly during the early stages of your journey, is vital. Our trainers are experienced and fully understand the challenges that you will face. They can provide the support and guidance so critical to all proto-traders. They will provide you with encouragement and motivation and make sure that you work hard on all of the areas necessary to making it as a trader.
The support that our students receive allows them to:
- Develop the necessary skills in a structured and progressive manner
- Focus upon areas of weakness and build upon strengths
- Be honest and objective in reviewing and assessing performance
- Bounce back from losses and setbacks – and remain positive
- Develop the right mental approach to be a successful trader
- Choose the right individual market(s) and instrument(s)
- Apply newfound knowledge efficiently and productively
High quality support and guidance can make all the difference in the challenging world of trading.
The world of trading and financial markets is full of jargon and technical language. It is worth trying to familiarise yourself with some of this terminology at an early stage. To that end a glossary is provided below – it is by no means exhaustive but does include some of the most frequently-used terminology from the markets.
|Algo trading||Algorithmic trading that is executed primarily by a computer rather than by a person|
|Bid||The best buying price currently available in the market|
|Bond||A financial instrument – essentially an IOU – a way for governments or companies to borrow money|
|CCP||Central Counter Party – the Clearing House that sits in the middle of trades and guarantees contract performance|
|CME||The Chicago Mercantile Exchange, one of the leading exchange groups|
|Equity||A stock or share, usually traded on a stock exchange|
|EUREX||The German-Swiss exchange – key contracts include the Eurostoxx Index and German government bonds|
|Euronext||The Paris-based exchange – a key contract is Milling wheat|
|Exchange||A venue where trading takes place – basically a market-place|
|Expiry or Expiration||The time and date upon which a contract such as a future or option stops trading|
|FX||Foreign Exchange or Forex – the trading of currency pairs – exchanging one currency for another – e.g. USD/GBP|