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Completing a part-time PhD: Yay or Nay?

Hi,

I've been following the quantnet forum for a number of years, and enjoyed the discussions online. Lately, I was contemplating about the use of a PhD, and was hoping to get more experienced view(s) of whether this undertaking might be a rationale decision.

I'm currently based in a very small financial market, with a limited number of quant funds and roles available. To illustrate the point, there are probably less than 10 quant equity funds in the market, although I can't speak for other asset classes. I've been quite fortunate to land a role in this industry, and am currently a quant researcher in an equity fund. I foresee progression in this role (to portfolio manager) will be slow, since most of the pms have 20-30years of experience. As such, I'm thinking if doing a PhD part time is beneficial for my career, since my progression to portfolio manager is already destined to be slow. Additionally, it allows me to carve a niche in econometrics/machine learning type approaches that I believe, will set me apart from other practitioners.

As there are limited mentors in my industry to seek guidance from, I'm keen to get the different views from this forum.

If it helps to tailor responses to my specific situation, some individual facts about myself are:
1. Completed my undergrad studies in actuarial science and finance (with a thesis on asset pricing).
2. Completed my masters in operations research/stats from a top 10 school.
3. Total of 4 years of industry experience, 3 years as an actuary and 1 year as an quant researcher.
4. Completed professional designations in finance and actuarial (CFA, FRM and FSA).
5. Applying for a PhD in Economics/Quant Finance, hoping to focus on econometrics or machine learning type approaches.
6. Motivation for applying for this PhD programme is both practical (for career) and passion (I want to publish high quality journal articles as a personal achievement).

Thanks,
Random dude
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
I'm thinking if doing a PhD part time is beneficial for my career,

my 2 cents..

Very difficult. The career aspect is not strong enough motivator when the going gets rough. Part-time PhD probably means never PhdD. Horizon is too long.

5. ML? it will take 2-3 years to get up to speed, let alone do 'original' work.

I would avoid PhD(c), PhD ABD..
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_but_dissertation
 
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TehRaio

Well-Known Member
What do people think of perhaps starting full time for maybe 1 or 2 years:
  • the 1st article/chapter which should be the foundation of the degree
  • design subsequent derivative projects from there which would be completed part-time
  • It would allow the student to focus 100% at the beginning which is essential to really get started.
  • Diminishes opportunity cost
 
What do people think of perhaps starting full time for maybe 1 or 2 years:
  • the 1st article/chapter which should be the foundation of the degree
  • design subsequent derivative projects from there which would be completed part-time
  • It would allow the student to focus 100% at the beginning which is essential to really get started.
  • Diminishes opportunity cost

I was actually thinking of clearing coursework part-time, then transitioning to full-time for the remaining 2-3 years for research....

Would that be a better way of doing things?
 
you are based in the US then?


Not based in the U.S, but the program is 4-5 years, with the first few years being coursework.

I'd have thought that coursework is relatively manageable to clear whilst working full-time. Good research takes time and focus so I'd have thought that giving up 1-2 years of work to focus on PhD would be worthwhile in the longer run.
 

TehRaio

Well-Known Member
Not based in the U.S, but the program is 4-5 years, with the first few years being coursework.

I'd have thought that coursework is relatively manageable to clear whilst working full-time. Good research takes time and focus so I'd have thought that giving up 1-2 years of work to focus on PhD would be worthwhile in the longer run.

As long as the program doesnt require you to be full time, and you can effectively complete coursework part-time, while reserving a couple years to full time research, seems to me like you have a sound plan.
 

Andy Nguyen

Member
I was in a PhD program once and there was an old guy that seemed to study there forever. Was told that he did all his courses and just working his dissertation. He has kids and wife coming in few days a week. Seemed very miserable.
2 years later, I left to do my MFE and he was still there working on his dissertation. Sounds like PhD ABD.
This is to say, PhD for most mortals like us is a full-time, full effort struggle. I can only imagine it's much harder to go part-time.

Those successfully got a PhD in hard science got my upmost respect.
 

Liam

Well-Known Member
Coursework part time then research full time sounds like a sound plan.

All I will say is that I have worked with PhDs in many capacities and never once been told by a PhD graduate "Pffff you'd fly through it", while with most other degrees I've heard that comment from people that did them, only exception being degrees like teaching degrees. Just don't underestimate it. Another thing PhD graduates have mentioned is that it is a very practical degree so gives you skills that help in QF.

Just make sure your relationships are good. Sound as the plan is, there will be tough parts, and you need to make sure you have some form of emotional support and also to be pretty protected from arseholes. You may get some of this supprt in your faculty as often another PhD student or supervisor understands (as was the case for some of my undergrad friends). Trouble you may get could be anything from friends and family giving you shit over essentially doing a minimum wage job (honestly, I once had an obnoxious friend give me grief over how money I "should" be earning when I explained the way a PhD would work) to a partner giving you grief if you haven't a job "lined up" 9 months before graduating (both scenarios I saw in friends from my undergrad). I've also heard that comment "Pffff you'd fly through it" delivered condescendingly towards me on many, many ocassions in relation to a PhD by gimps that never did anything beyond undergrad. It can wind up with a double whammy of a miserable experience, with people making you out to be a fool and taking ages to finish off. That's probably what the misery was about in the anecdote Andy brought up.

Honestly though, a bit like Andy, I have utmost respect for someone that does a PhD with a solid plan. I don't have as much respect for people that fall into a PhD thinking it will be easy, but that's not your situation. And by respect I mean real respect, not the veiled condescension some people have towards people in sciences where they respect you technical ability but assume you are a simpleton when it comes to careers, when it is clear as day you know what you are doing (trust me that never goes away no matter how much success you get).
 
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