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mekornilol
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Joined: April 13th, 2013, 5:29 pm

To PhD or not to PhD when you are 30

October 4th, 2015, 10:52 am

Well this is an odd one, haven't seen anyone going through the same situation on this forum so I'd like to hear professional's take on the following matter.After several weeks shaping my research proposal together with my potential supervisor, I am now about to submit my application to study a PhD in Mathematics at a Scottish university. Ever since I finished my Masters in Financial Mathematics last year, I have been convinced that studying probability theory is something I would really enjoy doing. However, I have just turned 30, which means that when I finish my PhD I'll be 34 (give or take).I'll sum up my background shortly: I have almost 3 years experience working as software engineer at an investment bank, and after finishing financial maths I have joined a financial engineering team at a rating's agency in London, where my daily tasks involve linear pricing (boring) from time to time and no interesting programming whatsoever since we use an in-house scripting language. I definitely don't enjoy what I do and I'd rather have a much more analytical job related to math finance (Monte Carlo, finite differences, alternative copula function research). I do get interviews at big firms from time to time, but either I end up bombing them or my recruiter gets back to me saying the team really liked me but there is another candidate with a Phd who gets the job. This has been happening for a while already, which is at times frustrating.And here go the two questions, which might seem unrelated but they are really not:1. Is 34 an age which employers might consider a bit too high to access highly quantitative positions? 2. Should I just forget about the PhD and simply keep interviewing until I get a quant job, hating what I do in the meanwhile?I hazard many of you will say "you don't need to do a PhD to be a quant", but I'd like to point out that if I ever start a PhD it would not be exclusively for professional reasons and rather because I want to know more maths and be more able in the future to cope with complex modeling problems at work.
Last edited by mekornilol on October 3rd, 2015, 10:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
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DDUKON
Posts: 155
Joined: September 14th, 2011, 8:46 am

To PhD or not to PhD when you are 30

October 6th, 2015, 7:04 am

Question to ask for yourself : why do you want to do PhD ? Is it to land a bad ass job ?Or is it for your own good that you wan to be a specialist in your field ?Either way, age is not a factor. But opinions vary.
 
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bearish
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To PhD or not to PhD when you are 30

October 6th, 2015, 10:14 am

So, are you looking to relocate to Scotland and study full time for 4 years, or is this a part-time distance learning set-up? If the former, do you expect there to be adequate funding in place for you? And is this a lifestyle choice you are comfortable with? If the latter, do you think it is realistic to combine with your current job? I think the age question is pretty irrelevant (in 4 years you will be 34 either way); most of the junior positions where this would be a real issue would not be suitable for PhDs anyway, and you hopefully have just enough experience accumulated to bypass that level.
 
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Cuchulainn
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To PhD or not to PhD when you are 30

October 6th, 2015, 3:38 pm

And not forgetting: after thee age of 22-23 the mathematical originality has dissipated.
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barny
Posts: 387
Joined: May 8th, 2007, 6:55 pm

To PhD or not to PhD when you are 30

October 6th, 2015, 5:52 pm

QuoteOriginally posted by: CuchulainnAnd not forgetting: after thee age of 22-23 the mathematical originality has dissipated.Complete nonsense.
 
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mekornilol
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Posts: 32
Joined: April 13th, 2013, 5:29 pm

To PhD or not to PhD when you are 30

October 6th, 2015, 6:23 pm

Thanks for your answers. The plan would be to relocate to Scotland full time 4 years (1 year of phd courses + 3 years of research). Funding is somewhat uncertain at the moment: I have background in engineering and apparently people with background in pure maths tend to be favored over engineers when funding is distributed. I could easily live from my savings for over a year but I'd rather get paid to be honest. I would definitely be confortable with this kind of lifestyle, as long as I can get funding for at least 3 years.
 
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QuantOption
Posts: 269
Joined: February 8th, 2003, 9:00 pm

To PhD or not to PhD when you are 30

October 6th, 2015, 7:36 pm

QuoteOriginally posted by: mekornilolI do get interviews at big firms from time to time, but either I end up bombing them or my recruiter gets back to me saying the team really liked me but there is another candidate with a Phd who gets the job. This has been happening for a while already, which is at times frustrating.if you already get interviews, that's a very good sign. The candidate with a PhD definitelly didn't get a job just because he/she had a Phd, it's an advantage when CVs are short-listed, but not after that. So he/she most likelly did better at interview, what they told you was probably just an easy way to tell you they're not proceeding with you.My simple advice would be:1. prepare, prepare, prepare, do as many braiteasers, algorithm, maths, etc questions as you can possibly do, and then some more. Buy all the quant interview questions books (there are only few) and do/learn and UNDERSTAND all or as many questions as possible. This can easily take you half a year or so.2. be prepared not only to explain in depth everything on your cv (obvious) but also try to learn/research related topics to each point on it. You can start with PhD, but I'd expect that if you already get interviews and properly prepare for them, you're likelly to get a quant job offer within a year, and then you'll be posting here on whether you should carry on with it or accept itps: your age is not a problem
 
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roundandround
Posts: 66
Joined: November 18th, 2011, 8:19 pm

To PhD or not to PhD when you are 30

October 7th, 2015, 7:39 am

For the most part, a PhD makes sense only if you want a faculty position. Very rarely does it happen that a company will hire only PhDs for quant roles. In any case, it makes no sense to go to a university full time for the next 5yrs just because it makes you eligible for a handful of additional jobs. You are going to lose out on half a decade's worth of job experience, besides being set back financially. Master's degree plus work experience is all you need. As has been pointed out, interview preparation is the key here, not another additional piece of paper with 'PhD' written on it. Perhaps a certification like CQF and/or a few coursera classes might help.
 
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DominicConnor
Posts: 11684
Joined: July 14th, 2002, 3:00 am

To PhD or not to PhD when you are 30

October 12th, 2015, 10:24 am

It seems you have passed the most important test of whether a PhD is a good move.You say you have a passion for the topic, which you will see from my many other advice posts on this issue is something that too few people think about, seeing it instead as a career move which is typically a bad idea.34 ain't too old, if as others say you prepare well for interviews.That is of course not applicable for all hiring managers and banks and HRs (don't get me started about what happens to people over 25 who meet Resource Solutions outsourced HR)Your programming skills may well be critical in getting the job you want.As to what jobs you get, I see the first moment down as being a better grade of Quant Programmer than you are now. Not ideal, nor tragic.or quant job in model val at a decent bank. Within that range I see you back at the Ratings agency as basically the boss of the person you are currently.The first moment up is as Quant in trading, though that will be hard and your extra-curricular worklad would be non trivial.
 
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liam
Posts: 175
Joined: November 16th, 2004, 11:51 am

To PhD or not to PhD when you are 30

October 13th, 2015, 7:50 pm

Doing a PhD "for a job" isn't a good idea, even if it's a place like Herriot Watt in Edinburgh (which I suspect it is). I'll mainly echo what the others say - yes, PhDs tend to get quant roles but it's about the preparation and thought they have put into it that would have gotten them the roles. Did you go through books like Hull, Mark Joshi's book on C++ etc? Also you may need to convince them that you're not another wannabee idiot - although the masters is helpful sometimes employers are warier of hiring people in quant roles that have worked elsewhere - you may need to work an a solid story as to why you didn't go into quant finance straight out. Ultimately age isn't an issue in the sense that employers won't bring it into their final decision. What I've noticed is that a lot of older PhD students underestimate the impact of a lot of the additional factors (like having to sell a house, raising family or even just going back to student wages etc) that a younger student mightn't think of. Also doing a degree in excess of what you expect can be very, very stressful.Sometimes people misread these factors as things being more difficult "because of age" but it's simply something that can be worked on.Also, although it is encouraging you're getting interviewed, are these for the right roles? I found quite a few of the initial places to interview me were for admin work masquerading as risk roles - then I found the agency that placed me and got put forward for more suitable roles until I got a quant role. Thing is many people, including agents don't know real quant roles from something like excel modelling (you'll probably hate that if you hate linear pricing) and it just doesn't help.You may require coaching - good careers coaches are hard to come by and rarer than a 45 year old virgin, but I have come across decent coaches through my network, one by sheer luck was a specialist in "tech" careers a boss of mine used. It may just be a case of sourcing something that matches to you or even just basics in preparation.
Last edited by liam on October 12th, 2015, 10:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
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Commodore
Posts: 22
Joined: March 18th, 2014, 4:48 pm

To PhD or not to PhD when you are 30

October 26th, 2015, 3:15 am

Do the PhD! I also did a masters of financial mathematics, and now I'm in a CS PhD program. I'll be 38 when I graduate next year. I don't know whether my age will be a disadvantage when interviewing. But, I've had former coworkers call to stay connected, and we've talked about jobs in the future.You'll be working for 30 or 40 more years, which is a long time to do work you don't love. Having a PhD will help you get a more interesting job - one where you are the principle investigator.I found that I worried about money before starting the PhD full time, even though I had savings. It's hard to leave a secure job. But now, I have no money concerns at all. It is easy to live frugally when you are surrounded by others doing the same. My savings is lasting longer than I planned (and I now have 4 kids).One bit of advice, though. Since a PhD is a significant chunk of your life, you should make it as enjoyable as possible. The deeper I get into my program, the more interesting I find ALL topics. So, don't pick a single topic that you feel desperate to pursue even if it means working with an unpleasant advisor. It is far better to work with an advisor you like than stick with a topic you chose (perhaps based on little information).Good luck.
 
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Marco72
Posts: 128
Joined: March 14th, 2006, 11:09 am

To PhD or not to PhD when you are 30

October 26th, 2015, 6:58 pm

I would be more concerned with the "hole" in your CV than with your age when you finish it, and would consider doing the PhD part time, if possible.
 
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TehRaio
Posts: 11
Joined: August 19th, 2014, 3:29 am

To PhD or not to PhD when you are 30

October 26th, 2015, 9:28 pm

why would a PhD be considered a "hole" in a CV?a PhD student is employed as a research assistant, and that's a job.Furthermore if one tailors a PhD project to enhance a set of skills required for jobs in the research industry, hard to believe recruiters would see the PhD as a gap in experience.I have nothing against pursuing a part time PhD, I'm even interested in hearing from people who did it. It's often given as an alternative but I have read few stories about people who did it.
 
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mekornilol
Topic Author
Posts: 32
Joined: April 13th, 2013, 5:29 pm

To PhD or not to PhD when you are 30

October 29th, 2015, 10:44 pm

There's been an interesting turn of events that I thought I'd share with the forum. Essentially, while I was finishing my research proposal to enter the PhD program next September, I managed to arrange a couple of interviews at two investment banks here in London. I have to say that I nearly got to the point of mental exhaustion after so many stages, brainteasers and all that jazz... but I have been finally made an offer to work as a front office quantitative analyst at an american investment bank, which I have accepted. I will be forgetting about doing a PhD for a long while I think.I know that there are many and varied reading lists for people looking for quant jobs, but in case mine helps anyone, three of the books that have really helped during my interviews have been:1) Brownian Motion and Stochastic Calculus (Karatzas and Shreve, I had to study this book while writing my research proposal as it was also a requirement to enter the PhD program)2) Concepts and Practice of Math Finance (Joshi)3) C++ for Quantitative Finance (Halls-Moore, I actually prefer this one over C++ Design Patterns by Joshi)Some chapters from a couple of other books have also helped, but what interviewers really liked was bringing up during interviews some projects that I had implemented in C++ and Python in my own time and be able to discuss them. Maybe this is less important for more experienced people, but I have got the impression that for junior roles it's rather essential. I might be wrong though.
 
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tagoma
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To PhD or not to PhD when you are 30

October 29th, 2015, 10:48 pm

Congratulations for your new job.
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