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Thread: Profile Evaluation--Finance phd

  1. #1
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    Question Profile Evaluation--Finance phd

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    Hi all,

    I am a junior student and am thinking of applying for a finance phd program in the next couple of years, and here is my profile and concerns:

    Undergraduate: U.S. top 10, major in applied math with minor in econ. GPA 3.85
    GRE: not taken yet

    Math courses: linear algebra(A+), ODE(A), probability and statistics(A), numerical methods(A-), real analysis(A-), stochastic process(A), simulation(A+), optimization(A+), dynamical systems(A), discrete time model(A) .

    Econ courses: Intermediate macro/micro, econometrics, corporate finance, time series, behavioral finance, game theoryTeaching experience: 2 years as TA in math department for courses in linear algebra, ODE, calculus etc.
    Research experience:
    1. Working with a research scientist in data science with focus on using machine learning to forecast political risk and portfolio risk management.
    2. Writing a thesis on solving macro-finance systems and wealth distribution using numerical PDE methods.
    3. Summer quantitative research at a top quant hedge fund.

    Recommendations:
    One from an Econ professor who supervised my thesis (Princeton PhD doing finance but young), one from operations research professor who also advised my thesis (specialize in quantitative finance, decently known), undecided for the third

    Here are my concerns:
    1. I am not sure if I am going to apply for phd right after I graduate, or should I work in quantitative investment (very likely to get an offer at the top hedge fund). How would doing research in a quant hedge fund perceived my the admission committee?

    2. I didn't work as a RA for a professor, how does my research experience look like to the admission? Is this enough to be qualified as "well exposed to research"?

    3. Will the recommendations from professors in departments other than Econ/Business help? Due to my major I am more exposed to professors in Operations Research and Applied Math, does the professors in these disciplines help in my applicatoin?

    Thanks.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation--Finance phd

    Since your major is math, I assume your background is good enough for doing Ph.D. However, a Ph.D. in business is not all about the math. I only focus on your concerns:
    1. Working at a hedge fund: please note that research at a hedge fund is very different from academic research. If your job doesn't relate to academic research, it won't add more advantages.
    2. Research experience: a lot of people here on Urch will agree with me that recommendation letters and research[academic] experience are the most important. So try to grab some research experience with your Professors, show that you can handle large datasets. That said, you should learn some programming languages, R, STATA, Python, for example.
    3. Letters: the world of business academia is small, if you can get letters from Finance professors, it would help a lot. If you can get letters from well-known research finance professors, it would be great. To be honest, letters from math Professors don't help too much in Finance.
    Hope it helps.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation--Finance phd

    Something to add on point 1.
    Working at a hedge fund wont be great prep directly, but actually interacting in the business world will help in a lot of ways. Better teaching and credibility, possible research questions, challenge assumptions from other papers, etc.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation--Finance phd

    Thanks for your advice! I just want to follow up with a question about research experience. For the hedge fund I will be working with, it is a very academic firm and researchers in it constantly publish in academic journals. Would that be counted as a research experience?

    Also, I am wondering if taking research seminars and independent study will be counted as research experience. What is difficult for me is that now it is hard to find RAship in business school since I am not majoring in business, so I would try some alternatives.

    Thanks again.

    Quote Originally Posted by pqhai View Post
    Since your major is math, I assume your background is good enough for doing Ph.D. However, a Ph.D. in business is not all about the math. I only focus on your concerns:
    1. Working at a hedge fund: please note that research at a hedge fund is very different from academic research. If your job doesn't relate to academic research, it won't add more advantages.
    2. Research experience: a lot of people here on Urch will agree with me that recommendation letters and research[academic] experience are the most important. So try to grab some research experience with your Professors, show that you can handle large datasets. That said, you should learn some programming languages, R, STATA, Python, for example.
    3. Letters: the world of business academia is small, if you can get letters from Finance professors, it would help a lot. If you can get letters from well-known research finance professors, it would be great. To be honest, letters from math Professors don't help too much in Finance.
    Hope it helps.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation--Finance phd

    Quote Originally Posted by EconomBarry View Post
    Thanks for your advice! I just want to follow up with a question about research experience. For the hedge fund I will be working with, it is a very academic firm and researchers in it constantly publish in academic journals. Would that be counted as a research experience?
    If the researchers at your firm usually publish papers in academic journals, then your work is, of course, counted as research experience. But I'm just wondering why researchers at your firm usually publish papers in academic journals as that work requires a lot of time and effort. To me, it does not make sense doing so if one works in the industry. Just my personal opinion. However, if you list your RA experience in the resume or the statement of purpose, you better mention clearly what you contribute to their papers (or working papers). You will likely have this question in the interviews.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation--Finance phd

    Your letter writers MUST be from Finance. The admissions process is somewhat network based so if your professors are well-known to the admissions committee members than that will help your application no doubt. From what I understand letter writers from different disciplines (unless its in economics and the letter writer publishes in the big 3 finance journals) is frowned upon and raises further questions about why you want to do your PhD in Finance rather than those other disciplines.

    RA experience is again important but I would stress it must focus on empirical finance research. I'd also try to tailor any RA experience you get to the type of research you'd like to do. I received a lot of questions about why I did corporate finance stuff in my RA experience whereas what I wanted to do was Asset Pricing as an example.

    The rest of your profile seems competitive for top Finance PhD programs.

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