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Thread: Profile Evaluation for PhD in Management/Accounting/Finance

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    Profile Evaluation for PhD in Management/Accounting/Finance

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    White, American , female interested in a career in academics. I spent several years on Wall Street, first as an investment banker and then as a private equity associate.

    Undergrad: Double major in Finance and Accounting, 3.94/4.0 scale from a good, private school (think BC, ND, etc.)
    GRE: 330 (expected)
    Work experience: Investment Banking, Private Equity
    Research Experience: A very brief stint as a undergrad, for a professor who wasn't the best. The research didn't really go anywhere and he ended up retiring, though he would probably still write me a letter of recommendation if I asked.

    Since college, I have considered a PhD in finance but wanted to explore the working world first. Now I have decided it is time to go back (5 years out) but am no longer sure that finance is the right discipline for me. My areas of interest for research are corporate governance, capital structure, entrepreneurship and accounting fraud (took some accounting grad classes around fraud, and loved them), some of which I know are cross disciplinary. I also am lacking in the math department with respect to a finance or accounting PhD (no linear algebra, or diff eq.).

    I guess I'm looking for some advice. I have had a few current Finance PhD students suggest applying to Accounting programs, as they say it is easier to get in and to matriculate (taking that with a serious grain of salt, obviously).

    I don't care too much about program ranking, but more about finding something that is a good fit for me. I think management could be interesting, and I bring a unique perspective on entrepreneurship and governance from the realm of private equity. I suppose I am just not entirely sure if my profile is competitive or convincing for any of the disciplines, especially those that favor impressive math skills like finance and accounting and if so, what can I do to make myself a more compelling candidate?

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for PhD in Management/Accounting/Finance

    It seems you're very worried about Math. You did have courses related to Math during undergrad, right? Did you get good grades? If you had good grades, and when you take the GRE you get a very high quantitative score (for Finance, aim a perfect score), this should be compelling enough. I'm starting my PhD in Marketing, not Finance or Accounting, but the Math is not a walk in the park. I'm taking courses at the Economics department and they take Math very seriously.

    I think you should look for published academic papers that you find interesting and that should fit with your background. Then, see who published those papers. Then you'll see if they are from Finance or Accounting, for example.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for PhD in Management/Accounting/Finance

    Thanks for your reply.

    So generally, I think you are correct that the math is concerning to me. I destroyed the GRE math sections but I haven't taken calculus since high school and outside of my finance degree, I didn't do much in the way of math (though I suppose you could call finance a math degree). I haven't had time to go back and take diff eq or linear algebra which I know are critical for finance PhD.

    As far as subject matter, I have done a good bit of research and am interested in topics in both managament and finance so I was hoping perhaps management would be slightly less quantitative relative to theoretical finance. I know a lot of the finance student have impressive math background (engineering, Econ, etc.) and I worry that they would leave me in their dust but to you point perhaps I should wait a cycle and get more comfortable with it since it seems to be central to all the disciplines.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for PhD in Management/Accounting/Finance

    A lot depends on what your interests are. I know you keep on saying that you seem to have cross departmental interests, but you really should try to focus that down a bit. If you have a background in and find management interesting, then that is what you should do. If you are only interested in it because you think that you are not prepared enough for the math required for finance or accounting, then you shouldn't do that. Trust me a PhD is hard work. If you're constantly looking over your shoulder wondering if you should have done a different field, or if you interests are truly in a different field, you won't make it through the program. A lot of days the only thing keeping us going is our love of the field.

    So if your concern is the fact that you don't have the math background for your desired field, the great thing is that you can get that background from a local university in a couple of semesters. This will not only give you the credentials required on the application (I know a lot of programs ask if you've taken linear and diff eq), but also give you the required skills you'll need in the program.

    If I'm way off base here and you actually have an interest in management and the research done there, then go for it. Ease of matriculation is certainly a subjective measure with every department wanting to claim that theirs is the hardest. All programs are difficult to get into. Finance might be marginally more difficult since they generally receive more applications, but I'd hazard a guess that that difference is marginal.
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    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
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    Re: Profile Evaluation for PhD in Management/Accounting/Finance

    I am a 5th year accounting PhD student and based on the little bit here I would recommend accounting. As Xan said, you should do what interests you the most, but your list of topics comes from both finance and accounting and most of those can be done in either field. Long term, top finance publications get more value in an accounting department then top accounting publications in a finance department.

    The GMAT is more common in accounting. If you decide that you want to go accounting, I would recommend taking the GMAT. Sure, most programs except both, but I think that you are better off with GMAT.

    Doing well in an accounting/finance degree from a respected school is enough undergrad coursework for you to be considered almost anywhere. It sounds like the last time you took math is high school calculus. Calculus 3 and Linear Algebra are really useful. Diff. equations is fine to have, but I would take calc 3, linear algebra, probability, math stats, and real analysis first. Additionally intermediate microeconomics and econometrics are more important than differential equations, you may have had these in your finance degree. For finance, you will need to show some more math in a formal manner, for accounting, you can get in somewhere without it, but it would be nice to have. You will want to brush up on some of this stuff either way. MIT OCW is good and Khan academy is nice for calc and LA.

    We have a student that came in last year with a similar background to you. Good private school, IB experience, great test scores, and he did a MAcc in the year before he applied to PhD programs. This is useful to put you back into an academic environment, let you get more serious exposure to research, and help you to get current letters. The classes in the degree itself aren't useless, but aren't the main reason for this strategy.

    Feel free to ask more questions.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for PhD in Management/Accounting/Finance

    I think showing potential to learn what is necessary is more important than what you already know.

    I believe Math is critical for Finance, maybe a little less or a bit more depending or your interests. But I don't think schools expect an applicant to have the Math knowledge necessary. It's more important to show that you have the potential to learn what you need during your PhD. Your profile seems more than good enough in this aspect.

    I had a Math bootcamp here before actual PhD classes started, and many of the students were Finance or Accounting PhD students. The professor was explaining something, and then he said something like "in 3 years you'll probably be studying and understanding this stuff". The professor didn't seem to expect us to be ready for the classes, but expected us to be able to learn when the time comes, and the time may never come depending on your interests.

    Take my example. During interviews, the professors told me clearly that, for my concentration, one thing they expect from an applicant is experience with programming. And, well, I was very honest with them. The last time I programmed anything was about 20 years ago, when I programmed Pascal using cassette tapes. I thought I was finished after that, because I clearly didn't have the knowledge they expected.

    However, I showed them that I was aware of that weakness of mine, talked a little about some things I had already done to overcome that, and my future plans to develop the programming skills I needed. Told them that acquiring that kind of skill was actually one of the reasons I wanted to do a PhD. I was accepted.

    If they are concerned with that, but the rest of your profile is good enough, you'll probably have the opportunity to convince them during the interviews.

    PS - Do not choose a concentration just because it seems easier, ok?

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