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# The end is near

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VP
Joined: 11 Dec 2006
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03 Apr 2009, 11:51
So, there is a month to go before my MBA finishes. I have had a job, lost a job, and need to find another job...

Can someone please please please persuade me why I should not apply to do a PhD starting 2010. I really can't afford for my life to descend into academia.

For some reason, it remains sorely tempting. Like a sore tooth you can't resist prodding. I think that actually working on a paper which I am trying to build into a journal article, and likely becoming a Research Assistant to the Prof while I look for work isn't helping. Plus, NYU is the top rated PhD program...

but 5 years of poverty? Someone talk me out of it...
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Re: The end is near [#permalink]

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03 Apr 2009, 12:37
If you land a teaching gig at one of the top b-schools it can be not only pretty easy but very lucrative. I guess the question is, will what you want to do for work be worth the pay and hours. I know the teaching load at Kellogg is not that high, and the support for research is very strong. THen there is all that outside consulting work that professors do that pays incredibly well. It seems like a great gig if you enjoy teaching and researching topics...but yes getting to that point is very long and boring.
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Re: The end is near [#permalink]

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03 Apr 2009, 12:39
Using the word "lucrative" and "easy" wasn't what I had in mind for talking me out of it, River!
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Re: The end is near [#permalink]

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03 Apr 2009, 12:46
Talk to some of your professors about it - more than a number of them would be more than happy to share with you their own personal experiences, gripes, highlights, etc.

From the outside, academia can seem like a great gig, a great life. And for some, it is. But it also helps to hear firsthand from them what it's REALLY like.
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Re: The end is near [#permalink]

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03 Apr 2009, 13:03
Well, if you want us to talk you out of it.

You'll need to buy a lot of tweed, the 'academic' way of doing things isn't the real world, you'll need to buy a pipe, and research on option pricing theory is pretty pointless, but for some reason people win nobel prizes for it.
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Re: The end is near [#permalink]

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03 Apr 2009, 13:05
I hear these professors and Phd candidate assistants get great side consulting work at some of the top banks and innovative hedge funds. Location of NYC doesnt hurt either

3underscore wrote:
Using the word "lucrative" and "easy" wasn't what I had in mind for talking me out of it, River!
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Re: The end is near [#permalink]

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03 Apr 2009, 13:26
It is very easy to talk you out of this. There is never a good time to do a PhD. It does not make financial sense no matter how you define ROI. This is why money should not be your criteria.

A PhD is training for research. research is about asking and answering interesting questions. An interesting question has two characteristics at the very minimum - 1) A lot of people care about it , and 2) you have the ability to solve it. So you will need to go through the torture of broad methodology and research methods training in your first two years. If you get the opportunity to work in an area that you really care about, do it. It seems like you have that opportunity. A PhD in Finance will start you off at \$130K an as assistant professor at good schools (you will have to teach MBA students in your first semester, so goes the deal) and you will make more than that in industry. In academia, you will get summers off, breaks between semesters, you will travel the world. etc etc etc. In return for all the flexibility, you agree to work very very hard.

Also, it will take you MUCH less than five years if you know your area of interest. Spend some time with your favorite faculty working on a publication - this is your test. You will either enjoy the process of developing an idea from conception to completion, and then transferring the knowledge via the publication, or you will hate it.

You will always have a chance to go into industry, start up on your own or become an academic. But plan for academia and see how it goes (Just don't tell your advisor). You need 3 major publications to make tenure at most schools, 5 major at the best schools and of course many others. It is really not easy, but the rewards so outweigh the pain that it is a no brainer if you find a topic you really like.

best wishes
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Re: The end is near [#permalink]

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03 Apr 2009, 14:23
3underscore, I've given this some thought as well but for different reasons: I'm not interested in research or publishing or finding the new black scholes or anything like that. I eventually would like to teach part time (or maybe one day full time) at some university... and although a PhD is that traditional path to teaching it isn't the only one, and I've found people who have successfully moved into teaching roles sans PhD.

I also talked to some people who are in the PhD program at the GSB, and frankly, it sounds awful. First off, there's the issue of getting into the program. It's ridiculously hard, especially if you want to get into finance or economics. That's no surprise of course, but still. Then there's the work. They work like dogs from what I can tell. They have full course loads, exams out the ears, have to TA classes and then on top of all that need to get seriously involved in research and writing. Assuming you can handle all that, it's scary what the 1st year exam pass rate is - something like 50% of PhD's at Booth can't pass the 1st year qualifying exams. That's astronomically stressful and freaky.

Granted, life post-PhD is probably pretty decent, but getting there is a multi-year marathon whose success seems anything but guaranteed (Unlike an MBA where it's virtually impossible to fail out of school). Then there's the reality of the coursework. Someone once said to me that a PhD in almost any discipline is really an exercise in "applied math".
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Re: The end is near [#permalink]

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03 Apr 2009, 18:27
I had thought about the PhD option a bit a while back as well. I decided against it for a couple of reasons.

1) While I love the idea of teaching in the future, I'm not 100% certain that it's something I'd want to do as my primary career. This is an expensive path to go down (in terms of lost income, time) if you're not certain that it's worth it. Like rhyme mentioned, I found that there are ways to do this without a PhD. Yes those avenues are less traditional, and can perhaps be trickier to pursue, but they do exist.
2) I know that teaching is not the only thing you can do with a PhD, you can go to consulting, work in industry, etc but unless you're fascinated by the area you'd be researching as part of the PhD, it seems an awfully complicated and long path to take.
3) Personality wise, I've never been one to particularly love the process of research. The thought of doing it for 3-5 years is painful rather than exciting. Probably a sign that it's not meant for me.

Just a few thoughts
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Re: The end is near [#permalink]

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03 Apr 2009, 18:31
As someone who has one (but not in the business field), I can give you a simple litmus test.

Ask yourself, do you want a Ph.D.? If you hesitate, hem and haw over it, I would advise you to look for something else. If you have that "I can just feel it my bones" vibe, and think it's the right thing, do it.

I do not regret my experience in my Ph.D. program, the good memories far outweigh the bad, and more importantly I've built many great relationships during that time.

However, there will be days where you will absolutely *hate* it. Try manually setting up an experiment for half a day, going out for a quick coffee break, then coming back to find out the A/C air has caused some of the precisely placed components to get ever so slightly misaligned. Try swallowing hard and realizing that your 1.5 years of work so far is leading you down a path that you're not sure you want to do a Ph.D. in, so you put all that hard work away and find another advisor to start all over again.

I don't know what the stipend for a b-school Ph.D. candidate is, but it's not very much for an engineering candidate, so I don't even have to go into the financial issues.

You will need every ounce of the passion/the naivety you had when you first started the program to help you through the bad days. If my experience is anything to go by, there won't be too many bad days, but the bad days will be *really* bad. A lot of your Ph.D. experience will depend on your advisor, so choose wisely.

This is a gross generalization, but here's a rough rule of thumb. If you have a young advisor seeking his tenure, you'll work much harder and get a lot more stress (because both of you will make mistakes because of inexperience) but you should finish faster. If you have an older, more established professor as your advisor, you'll get less stress because he'll most likely take a more hands off approach, but if you're not self-motivated you can end up taking all five years (if not more.) Also, this can be considered a good or bad thing, but with a more established guy, you'll have a chance to help out in a plethora of different projects/fields. This is generally how it works in the science/engineering world.

Best of luck with your decisions.
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Re: The end is near [#permalink]

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03 Apr 2009, 19:58
Regarding the option to teach later (particularly just for the fun of teaching), my impression has been that if you are moderately successful in your business career and if you're not trying to teach at a top 15 school, it's not extremely difficult to teach as an adjunct at a business school. Again, this has just been my impression from limited personal experience...anyone else have any input on this?
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Re: The end is near [#permalink]

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04 Apr 2009, 06:52
No one looks good with elbow patches on their jacket and bad shoes.
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Re: The end is near [#permalink]

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04 Apr 2009, 07:21
I think that getting a PhD should never be anyone's "backup" option.
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Re: The end is near [#permalink]

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04 Apr 2009, 10:01
scorcho wrote:
No one looks good with elbow patches on their jacket and bad shoes.

I *am* British.

The researching and elements and the whole idea of a PhD have always lurked at the back of my mind. Ever since my undergrad professors tried to get me to do the MSc, in a blatant attempt to draw me into academia. That was Economics, and in part of my mind the ground between Economics & Finance is a distinctly grey shade.

I will keep you posted as it develops - I may move this thread over to the PhD side of the forum. I guess the way to move forward is speak very fully with the Profs and PhD's to see whether it really fits in with my plans. The idea that a PhD can be done quicker than the five years is important to me - I have a few fields in mind (though they would likely turn out to be dead ends, as I feel that is the PhD way).

MSDay - the PhD isn't my backup option, and never ought be considered such. But, in the way decisions are made in this household, it kind of has to be. I have had PhD brochures sitting around the house since September, much to the contempt of SWMBO. While having been at the back of my mind, two or three things have adjusted. 1) That Finance is actually a viable academic topic outwith economics, a move that is a dramatic shift from British academic mindset. 2) Learning of the structure of the programs in the US and how things progress. 3) Spending two semesters working on an academic paper, which I have no idea where it might get published. The last makes my position as a viable PhD candidate extremely different. I am old for a PhD, and until recently was foregoing what would be my dream worklife role. So now I get look outside that, and outside what is my comfort zone of initial considerations (I am seasoned in the finance industry and know the game).
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Re: The end is near   [#permalink] 04 Apr 2009, 10:01
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