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PhD after MS in quant?

Hi,
I'm wondering how hard is it to get into PhD programs in Finance/Financial Econ/OR after doing a master degree in quant finance? Have anyone done this, and could you share a bit about your experience? If anyone know any information please feel free to share!
 
Before I give my thoughts, I'm going to assume that you're talking about getting into a top PhD program in Finance/Financial Econ/OR. For low rank PhD programs, pretty easy if you came from 1) a reputable school or 2) a shitty no-name school if you have some research experience/paper publication.

Now, for the top PhD programs, it's definitely hard.

At Columbia Engineering, there's been a few MSOR and MSFE students who have gone to Columbia IEOR, Princeton ORFE and Oxford MCFG programs over the years--might be missing some other top PhD programs here. Having research experience is definitely important, actual paper publication(s) is even better--yes, I've seen PhDs at Columbia IEOR who had like 3 publications, some of which they were the first author, before they came to Columbia.

School/program ranking also matters. If you're coming from a low tier MFE program, you really have to aim for perfection. On the other hand, if you're coming from a program like UC Berkeley IEOR, then you definitely have more room for error.

In addition, showing proof that you can handle PhD level courses at a top PhD program. PhD courses actually have varied difficulty depending on which school you take them at. The PhD courses at top PhD programs are much, much harder than those at some low-ranking PhD program--I say this from experience. At Columbia IEOR, for example, you can take PhD level courses in optimization and stochastic modeling but you need to get permission from your advisor. If you do well, it'll be a very positive sign that you can handle the level of rigor/difficulty at any top PhD program in Finance/Financial Econ/OR (Columbia Business School PhDs also have to take similar PhD courses).

Lastly, yes, having awards like an IMO (Bronze, Silver, Gold) does help especially since getting into the top PhD programs are hella competitive, but it's not a necessity by any means. I've only seen like one former IEOR PhD student at Columbia who got bronze and silver IMO. She's an assistant prof at Stanford MS&E now.

NOTE: For master's programs like UCB MFE, I'm actually not sure. I only know they waive GRE for applicants with PhDs.
 
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Before I give my thoughts, I'm going to assume that you're talking about getting into a top PhD program in Finance/Financial Econ/OR. For low rank PhD programs, pretty easy if you came from 1) a reputable school or 2) a shitty no-name school if you have some research experience/paper publication.

Now, for the top PhD programs, it's definitely hard.

At Columbia Engineering, there's been a few MSOR and MSFE students who have gone to Columbia IEOR, Princeton ORFE and Oxford MCFG programs over the years--might be missing some other top PhD programs here. Having research experience is definitely important, actual paper publication(s) is even better--yes, I've seen PhDs at Columbia IEOR who had like 3 publications, some of which they were the first author, before they came to Columbia.

School/program ranking also matters. If you're coming from a low tier MFE program, you really have to aim for perfection. On the other hand, if you're coming from a program like UC Berkeley IEOR, then you definitely have more room for error.

In addition, showing proof that you can handle PhD level courses at a top PhD program. PhD courses actually have varied difficulty depending on which school you take them at. The PhD courses at top PhD programs are much, much harder than those at some low-ranking PhD program--I say this from experience. At Columbia IEOR, for example, you can take PhD level courses in optimization and stochastic modeling but you need to get permission from your advisor. If you do well, it'll be a very positive sign that you can handle the level of rigor/difficulty at any top PhD program in Finance/Financial Econ/OR (Columbia Business School PhDs also have to take similar PhD courses).

Lastly, yes, having awards like an IMO (Bronze, Silver, Gold) does help especially since getting into the top PhD programs are hella competitive, but it's not a necessity by any means. I've only seen like one former IEOR PhD student at Columbia who got bronze and silver IMO. She's an assistant prof at Stanford MS&E now.

NOTE: For master's programs like UCB MFE, I'm actually not sure. I only know they waive GRE for applicants with PhDs.
I was wondering the same things and found this really helpful, so thanks. Just wanted to ask what your view is on which MFin programs are the best for transitioning to a PhD after. Of course high ranking is better than low ranking, but is there a sense in which the more mathematical/less applied programs might be preferable even if they're ranked a little bit lower (but still, say, top ten)? Some of the top programs are ranked top precisely because they are very job/industry geared and courses are as a result quite applied to optimize for that outcome.
 
I was wondering the same things and found this really helpful, so thanks. Just wanted to ask what your view is on which MFin programs are the best for transitioning to a PhD after.
That's a good question. Tbh, I'm actually not sure. Off the top of my head, I want to say Princeton MFin and MIT MFin. However, if I recall, Princeton ORFE does say to do the MSE degree if you want to go for PhD. I think ultimately the best MFin programs to choose are the ones that allow you flexibility to do research--maybe some Princeton/MIT MFin students on here can better answer this?
Of course high ranking is better than low ranking, but is there a sense in which the more mathematical/less applied programs might be preferable even if they're ranked a little bit lower (but still, say, top ten)? Some of the top programs are ranked top precisely because they are very job/industry geared and courses are as a result quite applied to optimize for that outcome.
Personally, I'd say top 10 should be fine but I'm no expert in this area. I'd honestly look at the QS/THE subject rankings for this since they're research focused. It also helps to check out how many citations the faculty have.
 
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@Andy Zhang Hello Andy, thank you for your helpful information. I'm now MFE student at Tandon and I'm interested in PhD OR, too. Do you know any other great OR PhD programs that are not from Ivy (MIT, Princeton, ...) ? I thought Columbia was in my reach but after your comment, I do have to reconsider my targets.
 
@Andy Zhang Hello Andy, thank you for your helpful information. I'm now MFE student at Tandon and I'm interested in PhD OR, too. Do you know any other great OR PhD programs that are not from Ivy (MIT, Princeton, ...) ? I thought Columbia was in my reach but after your comment, I do have to reconsider my targets.
Cornell and Berkeley comes to mind. @Andy Zhang should be able to provide a much more thorough list though.
 
@Andy Zhang Hello Andy, thank you for your helpful information. I'm now MFE student at Tandon and I'm interested in PhD OR, too. Do you know any other great OR PhD programs that are not from Ivy (MIT, Princeton, ...) ? I thought Columbia was in my reach but after your comment, I do have to reconsider my targets.
I think coming from Tandon you still have a chance. Do you have research experience (or working towards publication(s))? From what I've seen, publications can offset school ranking. For example, I got into UCSB for their PStat PhD program whereas a fellow classmate at Columbia (yes, I declined UCSB but it was a super hard choice to make) who came from UC Berkeley didn't. Main reason was because I had one publication and he had none.
Cornell and Berkeley comes to mind. @Andy Zhang should be able to provide a much more thorough list though.
I'd put Cornell ORIE in the same tier as those OR PhD programs @dangtransontung mentioned above. Berkeley IEOR maybe a tiny, tiny bit lower--this is actually coming from a Columbia IEOR prof who did his PhD at Berkeley and Postdoc at Cornell, but I never asked why. Frankly, I don't think the difference is significant enough to fuss over. I'd be damn happy to get into either...

I think UMich, GaTech and UW-Madison have pretty damn good OR programs (one Columbia IEOR prof got his PhD from GaTech). I'm also adding Rutgers here mainly because of Andrzej Ruszczynski; however, a big drawback with this PhD program is they don't offer funding to everyone, so I'm not sure if it's worth it.

Obviously there's other OR programs out there in the US, but I'm less familiar with those ones and you can expect that the lower ranked the PhD OR program, the lower the quality of your peers, i.e., fellow PhD students--not saying all the PhD students you'd encounter would be crappy, but expect a nontrivial number.

In general, I would say obviously everyone wants to go to the top OR PhD programs, but slightly lower ranked PhD programs where there's a superstar supervisor, e.g., Andrzej Ruszczynski, (assuming you get funding ofc) are still worth it.

And again, this is just my opinion based on talking to profs and going through the application processes. I would also check LinkedIn to see where the PhD graduates are (either in academia/industry).
 
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I think coming from Tandon you still have a chance. Do you have research experience (or working towards publication(s))? From what I've seen, publications can offset school ranking. For example, I got into UCSB for their PStat PhD program whereas a fellow classmate at Columbia (yes, I declined UCSB but it was a super hard choice to make) who came from UC Berkeley didn't. Main reason was because I had one publication and he had none.

I'd put Cornell ORIE in the same tier as those OR PhD programs @dangtransontung mentioned above. Berkeley IEOR maybe a tiny, tiny bit lower--this is actually coming from a Columbia IEOR prof who did his PhD at Berkeley and Postdoc at Cornell, but I never asked why. Frankly, I don't think the difference is significant enough to fuss over. I'd be damn happy to get into either...

I think UMich, GaTech and UW-Madison have pretty damn good OR programs (one Columbia IEOR prof got his PhD from GaTech). I'm also adding Rutgers here mainly because of Andrzej Ruszczynski; however, a big drawback with this PhD program is they don't offer funding to everyone, so I'm not sure if it's worth it.

Obviously there's other OR programs out there in the US, but I'm less familiar with those ones and you can expect that the lower ranked the PhD OR program, the lower the quality of your peers, i.e., fellow PhD students--not saying all the PhD students you'd encounter would be crappy, but expect a nontrivial number.

In general, I would say obviously everyone wants to go to the top OR PhD programs, but slightly lower ranked PhD programs where there's a superstar supervisor, e.g., Andrzej Ruszczynski, (assuming you get funding ofc) are still worth it.

And again, this is just my opinion based on talking to profs and going through the application processes. I would also check LinkedIn to see where the PhD graduates are (either in academia/industry).
Oh btw Andy, I hear UNC-Chapel Hill's OR department is really good, what do you think?
 
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Oh btw Andy, I hear UNC-Chapel Hill's OR department is really good, what do you think?
I've heard about it, but I don't know much about it to give a reasonable take. A few things to generally look at are 1) where the students get placed and 2) the number of citations by supervisor of interest. Maybe do a LinkedIn search?

Btw, just realized I forgot Northwestern's IEMS program above lol.
 
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