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want to do phd but worried - help!

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want to do phd but worried - help! [#permalink] New post 15 Aug 2009, 21:18
Hi all, I am considering doing an accounting phd, but I have some reservations. First a little background on me:
- undergrad and MS accounting with 3.8 and 3.9 gpa
- 5 years of work experience
- 750 GMAT

- Would I have a shot at a top school, say top 15? Actually, what would even considered a top school, PhD wise? Would it be 1-10, 1-20, 1-30?
- I felt that undergrad and masters college was challenging but also very doable. I have heard that the PhD program is much harder. Would I probably be struggling hardcore?.. like I said, I'm probably below average when it comes to smarts..
- I understand that there will be a comprehensive exam after 2 years. What kind of material will be on it (math, stats, general accounting knowledge, complex accounting topics)? Will the comprehensive nature of the exam be like the CPA exam? much much harder?
- Will I have a life while I am doing the phd program or will I be studying 10 hours a day? Is most of the studying done in the first 2 years, and then application / research the next 3?
- How strong does your math have to be to be accepted into / survive a phd in accounting program, and then do well as a professor? Sadly, I do not consider math one of my strengths. Although I have received A's in every math class I've ever taken, I attribute it to hardcore studying and memorizing (and subsequently forgetting everything afterwards), rather than actual math ability. Also, I finished my calc (1st semester calc) requirement when I was in high school and didn't have to take any calc in college, so I forgot it all for the most part. How much will this hurt me? I did take business stats for my undergrad business degree and liked it a lot... but this would be considered too basic compared to the math in the PhD programs?

Sorry, I wrote a mouthful. Any feedback appreciated though!

Last edited by risys82 on 02 Mar 2011, 19:24, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: want to do phd but worried - help! [#permalink] New post 26 Aug 2009, 19:25
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risys82 wrote:
Hi all, I am considering doing an accounting phd, but I have some reservations. First a little background on me:
- I am not really the smart type... maybe even a little slower than average. I had to work really hard (maybe even 2 to 3 times as hard) to get what I have.


Hi Risys. Don't be so hard on yourself. The average PhD student isn't Einstein. They've had to work as hard as you to get to where they are. The fact that you know you have to work hard is a positive and will set you up well for doctoral study.

Quote:
- undergrad and MS accounting both from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with 3.67 and 3.91 gpa


That's a solid foundation right there. I don't care how slow you think you are, you're no dummy. :)

Quote:
2 years of big four audit experience, 2 years of SOX experience at newly public company (first year sox implementation)


Could help if you weave it into your S.O.P. Think about how your experience informs your research interests.

Quote:
certified public accountant, certified management accountant, certified internal auditor


I'm not from the accounting field so I don't know how this counts in your application. It's likely other applicants will have similar credentials. It's up to you to work it into your S.O.P to your advantage.

Quote:
haven't taken gmats yet but I am a weak exam taker.. like I said, I'm a slow thinker so I don't know if I'll even finish, probably going to be sub 700 if I had to guess..


Take the preparatory tests and see how you cope. You won't know until you've tried. Sub-700 will be a problem but if it is your desire to pursue a PhD you have to call upon that strong work ethic that has brought you this far to study and train for the test.

Quote:
Would I have a shot at a top school, say top 15? Actually, what would even considered a top school, PhD wise? Would it be 1-10, 1-20, 1-30?


Your grades are there but I can't say much without your GMAT score, without knowing who your references are and what they have to say about you, and without knowing your research experience. Getting into a top school is a crapshoot even for the most qualified applicant.

There are different measures for what qualifies as a top school. Some go by way of research output, some just look at corresponding MBA rankings. However, you need to decide what constitutes the best school "for you", which boils down to research interests (subject/topic/methodology), who do you want to work with, how well is the department going to take care of you etc.

My thinking when it comes to "top schools" is this. Broadly speaking, if you want to place at a top school IMMEDIATELY after the completion of your study, you almost certainly have to go to another top school. In this case, "top" is pretty much limited to HBS, Kellogg, Stanford, Columbia, Booth, Wharton, Yale, MIT, Haas, Ross and Stern (note: this is for the school's general placement record; some individual departments have better records than others). Other variables such as the department you've studied in, who you've worked with and, most importantly, the strength of your research come into play as well. There's no guarantee that receiving your doctorate from one of those schools leads to an initial placement in another (nor does it mean that getting your PhD from another school won't allow you to place in one of these schools).

Quote:
I felt that undergrad and masters college was challenging but also very doable. I have heard that the PhD program is much harder. Would I probably be struggling hardcore?.. like I said, I'm probably below average when it comes to smarts


You've proven you can work hard. You need to decide if you think you can make sustainable original contributions to the field of accountancy. If you can, then go for it.

Quote:
I understand that there will be a comprehensive exam after 2 years. What kind of material will be on it (math, stats, general accounting knowledge, complex accounting topics)? Will the comprehensive nature of the exam be like the CPA exam? much much harder?


Sorry, not in the field. It would be best to contact the schools or current/former students to find out what the specific requirements are.

Quote:
Will I have a life while I am doing the phd program or will I be studying 10 hours a day? Is most of the studying done in the first 2 years, and then application / research the next 3?


There will be ebbs and flows, but you will be studying constantly yes. Depending on the structure of your program, you will do most of the generic "studying" in the first couple of years, but even in the latter three you're still "studying" by way of literature reviews and whatnot just probably not continuously formally assessed.

Quote:
I am not a fan of public speaking. Frankly, I get a little shaken up whenever I have to.. I guess that this is something that I can work on, but how badly will this hurt me?


You'll have to get used to it to present at conferences and fulfill whatever teaching duties you may have. It will get easier. Just make sure you're always prepared.

Quote:
How strong does your math have to be to be accepted into / survive a phd in accounting program, and then do well as a professor? Sadly, I do not consider math one of my strengths. Although I have received A's in every math class I've ever taken, I attribute it to hardcore studying and memorizing (and subsequently forgetting everything afterwards), rather than actual math ability. Also, I finished my calc (1st semester calc) requirement when I was in high school and didn't have to take any calc in college, so I forgot it all for the most part. How much will this hurt me? I did take business stats for my undergrad business degree and liked it a lot... but this would be considered too basic compared to the math in the PhD programs?


As it is a quantitative subject, I reckon you would need to know a fair bit of math. I can't speak of the depth of math and stats you'll need to know as again, I'm not in the field. It's best to ask the schools. According to Stanford's Accounting PhD course requirements, this is the bare minimum you'll need to know upon entrance:

Linear Algebra
MATH 113: Linear Algebra and Matrix Theory
Analysis
MATH 115: Fundamental Concepts of Analysis
Probability
MS&E 220: Probabilistic Analysis or
STATS 116: Theory of Probability
Optimization
MS&E 211: Linear and Non-linear Optimization
Statistics
STATS 200: Introduction to Statistical Inference

I assume this is similar in other programs.
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Re: want to do phd but worried - help! [#permalink] New post 27 Aug 2009, 12:08
A lot of what Buttermaker replied is true so I won't repeat it.

1) GMAT: hardcore studying = good GMAT results. The GMAT is a game and you need to figure out how to beat that game. To be 'fast' or 'slow' (whatever that means) is not as important as recognizing question types, knowing how to eliminate wrong choices, taking educated guesses, and so on. You need to dedicate quite a bit of time to study properly, but this website is probably the most useful tool to see what materials you'll need and how to approach your study.

2) PhD vs undergrad/MS: I come from a professional background too and I had to work a lot to get through the first few semesters, and there were plenty of times where I thought "this is too hard, I won't make it". But the thing is, it seems like all the others with more math/science-friendly backgrounds (graduate engineering, statistics, economics) looked like they were having a tough time too. So yes, it's harder than it ever was, and that's how it's meant to be, but with focus and hard work you'll get through. A lot of the tough math I learned during the first semesters during my PhD I have quickly forgotten as well.

3) PhD workload: Different schools = different PhD program structure, so I can't generalize, but I worked a whole lot in the first semesters (leading to the comprehensive exams), including many sleepless nights trying to come up with proofs of obscure econometrics and game theory theorems -- very remotely useful to what I do now in accounting. After the comprehensive exams, everything you do is basically elective so you can do it at your own pace, and no one makes you do anything in particular.

4) What's a top school: damned if I know! There's no threshold that I know of, but as a general rule, people move down rather than up (e.g. they get a PhD from a better school than their first placement). There are exceptions to everything.

5) Public speaking: work it out. There usually won't be that many people during your PhD presentations in workshops or seminars, and you'll likely be much more nervous if you don't master the paper/subject you're presenting. Sometimes the guy who wrote the paper is in attendance, so that's where the nervousness will come from, not your fear of publicly speaking to 6-8 people.

6) Comprehensive exams: The structure differs from one school to another. At my school, there was a set of 'core' exams that everyone in Accounting, Finance, Operations Research and Economics had to take (Microeconomics, Econometrics, Game Theory). Those exams were basically similar to the exams given in the first semesters' courses. There was also another set of 'accounting' exams which followed the same pattern, e.g. whoever gave PhD seminars during your first few semesters came up with an exam closely related in content to what you saw. The form of those exams could vary a lot: essays, problem-solving, optimization problems + interpretation, writing referee reports, and so on. All of your focus of the first few semesters should be on those comprehensive exams, but they're usually not any harder than the courses themselves.
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Re: want to do phd but worried - help! [#permalink] New post 13 Sep 2009, 03:57
Thanks for your very informative responses. I still think its worth it for me to go for it and will give it my best. I'm currently studying for the GMATs, and will keep you all posted.
Re: want to do phd but worried - help!   [#permalink] 13 Sep 2009, 03:57
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