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Thread: Switch from Finance to Econ

  1. #1
    Finance skidoo1066's Avatar
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    Heart Switch from Finance to Econ

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    I'm currently beginning my second year of a finance PhD at a top 30 school, but I'd like to get into a top 10 or 15 econ PhD program instead. Unfortunately some family issues came up during my first year so my current PhD grades aren't good (3.0), but I anticipate close to a 4.0 this semester and some good (excellent?) rec letters. Any thoughts of unique approaches in applying to a top econ program given my situation?

    A friend who is a (non-econ) professor suggested working at the Fed for a year or two might work well for me.

    I've also strongly considered doing an MS in mathematics (something I've always wanted to do anyway), taking PhD level econ courses with good grades during the MS, and hopefully getting letters from that econ department.

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    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
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    Re: Switch from Finance to Econ

    This switch seems irrational/unnecessary for most career paths, given that the cost is 2-3 more years invested into largely irrelevant work or coursework. You might have your own reasons to do it, but I don't think you'll find many previous examples of students making this switch, which makes it all the more harder to find relevant advice. Are you sure your current PhD program isn't working out for you? Are you sure a top 15 econ PhD program *would* work out for you? (because if not, it's much easier to stay on the current path and find an industry job in 3 years rather than to switch and eventually arrive at the same outcome)

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    Re: Switch from Finance to Econ

    Listen to the people on EJMR.

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    Finance skidoo1066's Avatar
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    Re: Switch from Finance to Econ

    Quote Originally Posted by chateauheart View Post
    This switch seems irrational/unnecessary for most career paths, given that the cost is 2-3 more years invested into largely irrelevant work or coursework. You might have your own reasons to do it, but I don't think you'll find many previous examples of students making this switch, which makes it all the more harder to find relevant advice. Are you sure your current PhD program isn't working out for you? Are you sure a top 15 econ PhD program *would* work out for you? (because if not, it's much easier to stay on the current path and find an industry job in 3 years rather than to switch and eventually arrive at the same outcome)
    Yes, I'm pretty set on attempting this transition - I have put a LOT of time and research into trying to decide whether to leave my current program or not.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not in a BAD department, it's just not a good fit for my goals. I was iffy about accepting the offer in the first place but I gave in to everyone telling me to just take it and... now I really regret it.

    In any case, my question isn't whether I should, but rather how I should.
    Last edited by skidoo1066; 09-10-2018 at 06:01 AM.

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    Re: Switch from Finance to Econ

    Quote Originally Posted by skidoo1066 View Post
    Yes, I'm pretty set on attempting this transition - I have put a LOT of time and research into trying to decide whether to leave my current program or not.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not in a BAD department, it's just not a good fit for my goals. I was iffy about accepting the offer in the first place but I gave in to everyone telling me to just take it and... now I really regret it.

    In any case, my question isn't whether I should, but rather how I should.
    Why even do the semester at your current program? If you insist on getting into an Econ PhD the time to begin that journey is now, not after another pointless semester in a Finance PhD program.

    Aside from that, the advice we can give depends more on your general profile than on the fact you are currently in a Finance PhD. Post your full profile in the usual format and people can advise which areas of your profile need to be remedied.

    TLDR: Drop out of finance program now. Start working towards Econ PhD. Post your full profile to help us help you.

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    Finance skidoo1066's Avatar
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    Re: Switch from Finance to Econ

    In here or in a profile eval post?

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    Re: Switch from Finance to Econ

    Profile eval post will get better focus.

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    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
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    Re: Switch from Finance to Econ

    Quote Originally Posted by applicant12 View Post
    Listen to the people on EJMR.
    This is good advice in this case.

    I am in a business school, so I am personally biased towards saying stay in B-School. If your goal is to place into a top finance department, you have a better chance of doing so from a T30 finance department than a T15 econ department. Is your backup to place in a top 50 finance department? top 10 is an incredibly difficulty goal no matter where you are, top 50 is a really good placement that gives you almost everything a top 10 placement gives you.

    That said, I think the best way to transition at this point is to drop the finance program and somehow justify your transfer. I am inclined to advise getting a master's there and avoiding the topic that you were actually in the PhD program, but I wouldn't actually lie, you need those letters, and I don't really know how to state it. Bottom line is, you may have gotten into a top 20 econ program before you started the finance program, but spending time in another PhD and dropping out is a terrible signal. I don't want to discount your family issues, but if it happens twice it is harder to dismiss.

    Thinking this through, you need to work really closely with at least one professor from your current school and get them on your side. I would probably aim for a straight transfer with a strong letter from that professor.

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    Re: Switch from Finance to Econ

    OP posted the same thread on EJMR (Switch from Finance to Econ << Economics Job Market Rumors), and I think even though EJMR has problems of its own, it has some people who really do from time to time give serious and good advice.

  10. #10
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    Re: Switch from Finance to Econ

    Yeah, after reading that EJMR thread I feel that OP is suffering from some kind of grass-is-greener syndrome. This is pretty common among PhDs, switching PhD programs will rarely ever help, and if you remain really unhappy with your current trajectory, I think the best advice I can give is that you should start considering industry. Many early-stage PhD students don't seem to realize that the solution to their disillusion may be to place into industry rather than switching academic tracks. In your case I'd also say there should be a serious concern over whether you're over-estimating your own competitiveness. This quote is especially telling:


    My goal is to get a faculty position in a top 10 finance department. Even the PhD coordinator at my current school told me that this department will never have a placement like that.
    People who *rationally* make statements like that probably already have 2-3 high-quality working papers or works in progress with established co-authors by the second year of their PhD career. In your case, your main complaint is being "unsatisfied" with the program's quality after getting a 3.0 GPA, which smells of resentment over bad grades, which is both myopic and sends the signal that you aren't anywhere near the stage of research where you should have any rational confidence about your own research potential, especially considering you haven't even mentioned a single thing about your own research agenda in all these previous complaints. Your one criterion seems to be "flexibility", something that students who are already on a successful research path don't usually talk about. I suspect you haven't started any significant research yet, don't know where to start, and are looking for further reasons to absolve yourself or to hit 'restart' on your PhD career. Sufficient to say these are highly myopic reasons to invest several of the best years of your life to switch your research environment, which is only a small part of your output. Lower your expectations and just focus on producing the best research you can. There are very few valid reasons to switch PhD programs laterally after one year (and they're mostly personal - e.g. facing sexual harassment or bullying, or strong locational preferences). Even something like having a top 5 paper in your second year wouldn't be a good reason to switch, because you would have no problems on the job market if you have actual hard evidence of your research ability.
    Last edited by chateauheart; 09-17-2018 at 01:15 AM.

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