Investors looking to enter the world of foreign exchange can find themselves frustrated and quickly spiraling downward, losing capital rapidly and optimism even faster. Investing in forex - whether in futures, options or spot - offers great opportunity, but it is a vastly different atmosphere than the equities market. Even the most successful stock traders will fail miserably in forex by treating the markets similarly. Equity markets involve the transfer of ownership, while the currency market is run by pure speculation. But there are solutions to help investors get over the learning curve - trading courses. (Currency trading offers far more flexibility than other markets, to learn how to get started, check out our Forex Walkthrough.)
See: Forex Trading Rules
What's Out There?
When it comes to forex trading courses, there are two main categories:
1. Online courses
2. Individual training
Online courses can be compared to distance learning in a college-level class. An instructor provides PowerPoint presentations, eBooks, trading simulations and so on. A trader will move through the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels that most online courses offer. For a trader with limited foreign exchange knowledge, a course like this can be invaluable. These courses can range from $50 to well into the hundreds of dollars. (If you're a beginner, check out Top 7 Questions About Currency Trading Answered for an overview of basic concepts.)
Individual training is much more specific, and it is advised that a trader have basic forex training before entering. An assigned mentor, typically a successful trader, will go through strategy and risk management, but spend the bulk of the time teaching through placing actual trades. Individual training runs between $1,000 and $10,000.
What to Look For
No matter which type of training a trader selects, there are several things they should examine prior to signing up:
Reputation of the Course
A simple Google search shows roughly 2 million results for "forex trading courses." To narrow the search, focus on the courses that have solid reputations. There are many scams promising giant returns and instant money (more on this later). Don't believe the hype. A solid training program won't promise anything but useful information and proven strategies. (Read Getting Started In Forex for more on defining a strategy.)
The reputation of a course is best gauged by talking with other traders and participating in online forums. The more information you can gather from people, who have taken these courses, the more confident you can be that you will make the right choice.
Good trading courses are certified through a regulatory body or financial institution. In the United States, the most popular regulatory boards that watch over forex brokers and certify courses are:
- Securities and Exchange Commission
- Chicago Board of Trade
- Chicago Mercantile Exchange
- Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
- National Futures Association
- Futures Industry Association
- Commodity Futures Trading Commission
However, each country has its own regulatory boards, and international courses may be certified by different organizations.
Time and Cost
Trading courses can require a solid commitment (if individual mentoring is involved) or can be as flexible as online podcast classes (for Internet-based learning). Before choosing a course, carefully examine the time and cost commitments, as they vary widely.
If you don't have several thousand dollars budgeted for one-on-one training, you are probably better off taking an online course. However, if you plan on quitting your job to trade full-time, it would be beneficial to seek professional advice - even at the higher cost. (Read Get Into A Broker Training Program for more information on becoming a broker.)
Staying Away from Scams
"Make 400% returns in a day!" . . . "Guaranteed profits!" . . . "No way to lose!"
These and other catchphrases litter the Internet, promising the perfect trading course leading to success. While these sites may be tempting, beginning day traders should steer clear, because any guarantee in the world of foreign exchange is a scam. (Read more about day trading in Would You Profit As A Day Trader?)
According to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in a May 2008 release, forex scams are on the rise:
| "The CFTC has witnessed increasing numbers, and a growing complexity, of financial investment opportunities in recent years, including a sharp rise in foreign currency (forex) trading scams.
The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (CFMA) made clear that the CFTC has jurisdiction and authority to investigate and take legal action to close down a wide assortment of unregulated firms offering or selling foreign currency futures and options contracts to the general public."
To ensure a trading course is not a scam, read its terms and conditions carefully, determine whether it promises anything unreasonable and double-check its certification for authenticity. (Find out how to protect yourself and your loved ones from financial fraudsters in Stop Scams In Their Tracks and Avoiding Online Investment Scams.)
Other Ways to Learn How to Trade
While trading courses offer a structured way of learning foreign exchange, they aren't the only option for a beginning trader.
Those who are talented self-learners can take advantage of free options online, such as trading books, free articles, professional strategies and fundamental and technical analysis. Again, even though the information is free, make sure it is from a credible source that has no bias in how or where you trade.
This can be a difficult way to learn, as good information is scattered, but for a trader starting out on a tight budget it can be well worth the time invested.
The Bottom Line
Before jumping in with the sharks, getting trading advice in the highly volatile forex marketplace should be a top priority. Success in stocks and bonds does not necessarily breed success in currency. Trading courses - either through individual mentoring or online learning - can provide a trader with all the tools for a profitable experience. (For more on this subject, read 8 Basic Forex Market Concepts and Forex: Wading Into The Currency Market.)