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Thread: Engineer working in finance and considering a Masters/PhD in Economics. Help please!

  1. #1
    Trying to make mom and pop proud
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    Question Engineer working in finance and considering a Masters/PhD in Economics. Help please!

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    Hi Everyone,

    I'm looking for a bit of advice:

    My Profile:

    Type of Undergrad: B.A.Sc. in Civil Engineering from a top Canadian school
    Undergrad GPA: 3.77/4.00
    Type of Grad: n/a
    Grad GPA: n/a
    GRE: Writing the GRE in December. I wrote the GMAT 4 years ago and scored 770 (49Q/47V), so Iím feeling pretty confident that Iíll do well
    Math Courses: Engineering versions of: Calculus I (A-), Calculus II (A), Applied Linear Algebra (A+), Engineering Math I (A-), Probability Theory for Civil Engineering (A+), Engineering Mathematics II (A)
    Econ Courses: Engineering Economics and Decision Making (A) - essentially, I have no proper economics background at university
    Other Courses: Mostly engineering related
    Work Experience: I have been out of school for seven years. I spent the first three years of my career in project management consulting in the construction industry before pivoting to finance. I have four years of experience spread across two investment analyst/associate roles in the infrastructure space
    Research Experience: None
    Teaching Experience: None (I did some tutoring for a company back during high school/undergrad, but I donít think thatís what theyíre looking for)
    Letters of Recommendation: It wonít be easy for me to get academic letters, since Iíve been out of school for so long. I can likely get at least two strong letters from former employers (one in finance and one in consulting). I might be able to get a letter from an engineering professor who taught me and that I am connected to through a friend, but even if I can get a letter from him, I donít know how strong it would be.
    Research Interests: Behavioural economics (vague, I know)

    Iím in a good-paying finance job right now, but I don't want to continue working on transactions for the rest of my career.

    Iím fascinated by what drives people to make the decisions that they do - especially when they are decisions that are against their best interests. The idea of doing some original research in this area sounds appealing to me, but given my lack of research experience, I canít be certain that a PhD is right for me.

    Would a masters in economics (or a related field) be a good way to dip my toes into the world of academia? If so, could anyone recommend some programs that would be a good fit for my interests and lack of an economics and research background? Would I be a good candidate to enter a masters program for the 2019 school year, or should i spend some time taking economics courses at the university level to strengthen my profile first?

    Iíve done some internet research and based on their websitesí descriptions, Iíve found the following programs that seem like they are more open to candidates with a lack of engineering experience:

    University of Zurich MA Business and Economics (Minor in Behavioral Economics)
    London School of Economics MSc Economics
    Duke University MA Economics
    University of Oxford MPhil Economics
    University of Cambridge Advanced Diploma in Economics
    Erasmus University Rotterdam MSc Economics and Business - Behavioral Economics Program
    Queen Mary University of London MSc Economics
    Monash University MS Applied Economics and Econometrics
    UCLA Master of Applied Economics

    Based on the reading Iíve done on this site, I think I should add the following schools to my list: Pompeu Fabra University, Tilburg University, Bocconi University, Tufts University.

    If my ultimate goal is to continue on to a PhD, am I looking in the right places?

    Iíd really appreciate any advice that anyone out there could send my way! I donít want to spend a lot of time and money wandering down the wrong path.

  2. #2
    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
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    Re: Engineer working in finance and considering a Masters/PhD in Economics. Help plea

    The research-oriented master's like MPhil Oxford will likely reject you; they're more selective programs that tend to expect students to do some research by the end of the degree, and you're simply too far behind in coursework for that to be feasible. Non-research oriented master's may accept you (without funding), but keep in mind that they naturally don't place well into PhD econ programs. Exceptions exist for those who do exceptionally well, but again, it's really hard to predict your aptitude for the subject given that you have essentially no formal exposure. Even top math majors sometimes switch to econ and find it immensely confusing (or uninteresting). That said, a master's in econ is probably your only option, and I think you have a decent list. Just be mindful that this is a very uncertain path and it may take more years than you expect to build up a profile that's competitive for econ PhD admissions. You certainly won't get admitted in any econ program if you apply in the first year of a master's program before any course grades in econ coursework exist.

  3. #3
    Within my grasp!
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    Re: Engineer working in finance and considering a Masters/PhD in Economics. Help plea

    I would tell you to look at finance PhD programs in the 25-75 range with faculty doing behavioral finance, and you could even apply to those programs this application cycle. You lack the math theory coursework necessary to get into a top 25, but a lot of finance PhD programs outside the top 25 will take a chance on a bright engineer with financial industry experience even if they lack math theory coursework or econ coursework (I assume your engineering math classes covered ODE's and some necessary multivariable calc topics). Your GMAT scores are still valid and nearly all B-school PhD programs accept the GMAT even if they prefer the GRE. If you can get LOR's from PhD's you currently work with, that would help, and if they are engineers or statisticians who publish in OR/MS/Stat journals on finance topics, a finance adcom might be familiar with them while econ adcoms likely would not.

    If you would rather wait a year and take some extra courses before applying or if you want to do a master's first, the path toward finance would still likely be quicker and easier for you than going the econ route. Going to a good MS OR or Statistics program with faculty doing finance work, or even a good MQF/MFE/MSMF program with a history placing students in finance PhD programs, would make you a good candidate for top 25 and possibly even top 10 finance programs and you would be a more competitive applicant at one of those masters programs than at a European research oriented masters in economics program.

  4. #4
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    Re: Engineer working in finance and considering a Masters/PhD in Economics. Help plea

    Apply to Western MFE and MA. They love quant/math people and often take engineering majors given some econ knowledge. However, professional programs like the MFE cost a lot and may not be ideal if you want to continue to a PhD.

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