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I started a PhD in financial economics at one of the world's top universities and left with just a master's degree. I am obviously biased since I already made my decision to leave, but it's generally not worth it. It's significantly harder to make it to the top of academia than it is to make MD/Partner in a bank or fund. A PhD is first and foremost a research degree. It is meant to prepare the next generation of researchers in a field. If you're not intending to conduct research for a career, getting a PhD isn't worth it in almost all cases.

What's more, a PhD will probably make you overqualified for a lot of analyst and associate roles, so it actually closes more doors than it opens to research or academic positions. You are also quite isolated in your studies and write for an audience of maybe a few dozen or few hundred people. And as a rule, you can generally only move down the prestige ladder as an academic. While it's not impossible to get a PhD from, say, University of Minnesota (which has a decent program actually) and get a tenure-track role at MIT, it's exceedingly rare. As a result, you're likely to be teaching students and conducting research at a lesser institution than you attended.

And in a field like economics or finance, the tenure-track positions are so insanely competitive that any academic placement is seen as an achievement (even if you're coming from a top-10 PhD program). Moreover, your PhD years in a b-school or economics department aren't as laid back as MBA programs. I know some of you seem to think MBAs are a lot of work, but if we're honest here, the VAST majority of Harvard/Wharton/Stanford MBAs would not pass the first year or second year exams (prelims and qualifiers) that PhD students take. In truth, they wouldn't get into the PhD programs at those same schools in the first place.

With all that said, if you're coming from a developing country or from Nowheresville, USA, going to a PhD program on a stipend might make sense for you. It gets you out of your country or small town, and gives you a chance to prove yourself relying on nothing but your mind. It comes with a lot of drawbacks, and the risks/opportunity costs are relatively high, but it still makes sense for some people.

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