SERVING THE QUANTITATIVE FINANCE COMMUNITY

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lynnw
Topic Author
Posts: 3
Joined: April 1st, 2012, 6:32 pm

Hi all,I am about to graduate from Cambridge with BA and MEng degrees in Information and Computer Engineering soon. Currently there are two options available to me after graduation:1. Stay at Cambridge to do a PhD in Engineering, with a focus on financial time series modelling, funded by a prestigious full-cost scholarship2. Start working in the quantitative equities group, or any other group of my choice (provided I prove myself capable), under an investment fund which manages more than US$100b over a wide range of asset classesPersonally, I am more inclined to have a break from school and gain some real investment experience. However, I am a bit concerned that going for the 'easy' option (i.e. work) would be short-sighted, because I believe that one needs to have a certain level of technical knowledge and intellectual preparation in order to make real contributions, gain credibility and build a successful career in a field as competitive as quantitative portfolio management. I am just not sure which of the two, advanced education or work experience, will help me, in the most efficient way possible, reach that level. May I have your advice please? Thanks a lot. SierpinskyJanitor Posts: 1069 Joined: March 29th, 2005, 12:55 pm ### PhD or Work? Quoteeasy' option (i.e. work) twopence worth of advice: stay in school. Last edited by SierpinskyJanitor on April 2nd, 2012, 10:00 pm, edited 1 time in total. CrashedMint Posts: 2591 Joined: January 25th, 2008, 9:12 pm ### PhD or Work? QuoteOriginally posted by: lynnwHi all,I am about to graduate from Cambridge with BA and MEng degrees in Information and Computer Engineering soon. Currently there are two options available to me after graduation:1. Stay at Cambridge to do a PhD in Engineering, with a focus on financial time series modelling, funded by a prestigious full-cost scholarship2. Start working in the quantitative equities group, or any other group of my choice (provided I prove myself capable), under an investment fund which manages more than US$100b over a wide range of asset classesPersonally, I am more inclined to have a break from school and gain some real investment experience. However, I am a bit concerned that going for the 'easy' option (i.e. work) would be short-sighted, because I believe that one needs to have a certain level of technical knowledge and intellectual preparation in order to make real contributions, gain credibility and build a successful career in a field as competitive as quantitative portfolio management. I am just not sure which of the two, advanced education or work experience, will help me, in the most efficient way possible, reach that level. May I have your advice please? Thanks a lot.I was in a comparable situation some years back and decided to do the PhD. To be honest I am second-guessing this decision a lot, and in a way I'm thinking that the easy option actually is the PhD, not work, simply because a PhD has no impact and there is no urgency involved. To make a point: If you really mess up once at this fund you probably lose more money than you will earn in your entire life, but if you mess up at your PhD research you simply close your notebook, get a drink and then the next day you look through your code and data and try again. There is pretty much nothing in a PhD that would require immediate action or even attention. It's exclusively a stamina/endure thing. If you are normally intelligent it's literally impossible to fail because you have literally all the time in the world and it's in the very best interest of your supervisor to not accept your thesis until it's good enough to pass and then let you pass the defense as well, because if you don't it's them looking stupid infront of their peers. Of course I am strongly contradicted by empirical evidence here, at my university 60% quit the PhD program and numbers for other schools are ball park comparable. Why that is, is something I cannot comprehend. To me it seems utterly bizarrely stupid to quit a PhD.So what should you do?Here's how it is, and you are probably not gonna like it, but I think you should actually bookmark this thread so that in a few years you can reply things along the lines of "OMG! You were so right, how cld i not see?": Whatever you do you will not like it. If you do the PhD you will have little money (despite the scholarship) and after you spend the next few months slacking you will really hate it and think just how much more cool it would be to work a real job. If you don't do the PhD sooner or later some idiot at your office with a Dr infront of his name will talk BS and your coworkers/clients will believe him and not you. Also if you ever make it really high you will lose out against similarly qualified people with a title, and if you ever get kicked out or things won't work out as planned you will likely think it's because you didn't do the PhD.Solution: There is no panacea to this dilemma, but probably doing an internship now and then quickly completing the PhD is the best real world solution.

spv205
Posts: 478
Joined: July 14th, 2002, 3:00 am

### PhD or Work?

Last edited by spv205 on April 2nd, 2012, 10:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Shaik
Posts: 29
Joined: March 21st, 2012, 9:35 pm

### PhD or Work?

QuoteOriginally posted by: CrashedMintWhatever you do you will not like it. If you do the PhD you will have little money (despite the scholarship) and after you spend the next few months slacking you will really hate it and think just how much more cool it would be to work a real job. If you don't do the PhD sooner or later some idiot at your office with a Dr infront of his name will talk BS and your coworkers/clients will believe him and not you. Also if you ever make it really high you will lose out against similarly qualified people with a title, and if you ever get kicked out or things won't work out as planned you will likely think it's because you didn't do the PhD.Solution: There is no panacea to this dilemma, but probably doing an internship now and then quickly completing the PhD is the best real world solution.This is so true. To continue on this.. Even with a ph.d, you would look at some colleague who has ph.d from a more reputed University than yours and might feel inferior. Or could think that their field is 'hotter' than yours.PhD at top tier University like Cambridge with full scholarship is good thing to pursue i think, considering its only 3 years as opposed to 5 years in US. Unless you have the 'perfect job' in probably the 'perfect place' like 'rentec', it is not worth leaving a chance to do PhD.

DevonFangs
Posts: 3004
Joined: November 9th, 2009, 1:49 pm

### PhD or Work?

Of course it depends on what your preferences are, but if you're even thinking about it I'd say:1) You can't be serious. Take the f*cking job.2) Not sure what it means in engineering, but financial time series modelling sounds not cool I'm afraid.3) It could also happen that: you start working as a quant, realize you're already tired of a technical role and want to be a trader or a sales or an HR or whatv. So better to figure it out soon and not after an N year PhD.4) Personal exp: I didn't go for a PhD, found an internship (post crunch), now working as a quant and learnt everything on the job. Sometimes I feel like I'd need a proper training (not having studied finance at all), but definitely not a PhD in something else. I think you need a PhD to convince Dominic to put you forward for the positions he has, though.Conversely, if you secretly feel like you want to stay in school then there's no discussion either.

mit
Posts: 1169
Joined: February 5th, 2005, 4:52 pm

### PhD or Work?

make some money, buy a house in One KL, then move over to Malaysia.

lynnw
Topic Author
Posts: 3
Joined: April 1st, 2012, 6:32 pm

### PhD or Work?

Thank you all for your advice. You've addressed almost all my concerns.I apologise if the word 'easy' unintentionally implies that work is in any way less challenging than study. What I mean is that, from my limited number of internships which include one at an IB as an algo quant analyst, I find myself more motivated at work than at university. Of course, any short-term material consideration also votes in favour of starting work immediately.To be completely honest, if I chose the first option now, it would be more because of my anxiety of not being competitive without a PhD (both the title and the skills) than a desire to find novel solutions to interesting problems (I do have such a desire but just not as strong as the anxiety and not as strong as if the work is well paid). Although perhaps quite valid, this is certainly not the best motive for pursuing a PhD and will probably not help me make the most out of the next 3 years.Therefore, I have decided to put aside the first option for the time being. If in future the need for further education arises out of a genuine desire to understand a subject matter, I believe I still have the option to go back to university for a postgraduate degree, either a Master or a PhD, in the most relevant field. The opportunity cost will be greater but at least I know what I am after. It is also not impossible that after being introduced to other investment groups in the fund, I find myself better suited to something less quantitative. In that case, I would be glad that I have three more years to build a career.I hope my thought process makes sense. Please feel free to leave comments, especially if you feel a strong urge to persuade me to decide otherwise. Again thank you for your inputs. They are very much appreciated.
Last edited by lynnw on April 3rd, 2012, 10:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

spv205
Posts: 478
Joined: July 14th, 2002, 3:00 am

### PhD or Work?

lynnwbtw did you ever ask the algo-quants you interned with their opinion?
Last edited by spv205 on April 3rd, 2012, 10:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

lynnw
Topic Author
Posts: 3
Joined: April 1st, 2012, 6:32 pm

### PhD or Work?

Yes. My boss did a PhD because he liked research and didn't have much interest in other areas at that time. He has known successful quant portfolio managers/traders both with and without PhDs, although there tend to be more people with advanced degrees at the entry level. He asked me what I would like to do for 14 hours a day for a number of years. My answer to that is quite certainly work instead of academic research.
Last edited by lynnw on April 3rd, 2012, 10:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

stali
Posts: 63
Joined: January 10th, 2006, 12:40 am

### PhD or Work?

Quote1. Stay at Cambridge to do a PhD in Engineering, with a focus on financial time series modelling, funded by a prestigious full-cost scholarship2. Start working in the quantitative equities group, or any other group of my choice (provided I prove myself capable), under an investment fund which manages more than US\$100b over a wide range of asset classesNo matter which option you choose you'll regret it later.Quote ... to make real contributions, gain credibility and build a successful career in a field as competitive as quantitative portfolio management.No you dont need a PhD for any of that.
Last edited by stali on April 5th, 2012, 10:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

bearish
Posts: 5800
Joined: February 3rd, 2011, 2:19 pm

### PhD or Work?

I was in a vaguely similar position a long time ago and went with the PhD program. In my particular case it was almost certainly the right choice (of course, you never know), but it helped that I really enjoyed being a student. If you think that your ultimate comparative advantage is in the general area of research, you should seriously consider doing the PhD. Not only that, but you should be mentally prepared for the possibility that spending some time as an academic after getting your degree might be an option. It will not be as well paid as some of the obvious alternatives, but, on the other hand, it may be even more educational than the PhD program and a faster way to build a reputation than slogging it out as a relatively junior (if very well qualified) quant. If you aspire to do just about anything other than research/modeling, you are almost certainly better off going for the job right away.

CrashedMint
Posts: 2591
Joined: January 25th, 2008, 9:12 pm

### PhD or Work?

bottomline: life is so much easier if you have no skills.

tagoma
Posts: 18379
Joined: February 21st, 2010, 12:58 pm

### PhD or Work?

@mit why are kuala lumpur and malaysia so attractive to you? (if you are in the palm oil industry i want to hear you as Cactusman would probably say)@Crashedmint i disagree with your statement above. life gets better as one can knot his tie in less than 20 minutes time.
Last edited by tagoma on April 6th, 2012, 10:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

CrashedMint
Posts: 2591
Joined: January 25th, 2008, 9:12 pm

### PhD or Work?

QuoteOriginally posted by: edouard@Crashmint i disagree with your statement above. life gets better as one can knot his tie in less than 20 minutes time.Not sure how i can say this without sounding like a pretentious asshole, but whatever: A key difficulty for me is that I have too many talents and am too good at too many different things. For example I have degrees in two completely different areas. As a student I did part-time work in completely different areas, mostly creative stuff and turns out I am good at this too. So it's hard for me to decide what it is I want to do, and then focus my energy. Instead I am doing x things at the same time.