how important is the uni you go to for a PhD

Hi all, my question is if the concept of target school is as important for the PhD as for the Business school you attend. I am doing a PhD at a top 150 for economics and I definitely feel like I am at a disadvantage respect to someone who goes to a top 50 for when I will go to the job market. Anyone experienced that? any advice to give?


Hey there! Based on the most helpful WSO content, the reputation of the university you attend for your PhD can indeed play a role in your career prospects, but it's not the only factor. It's true that people at better universities with better supervisors often do better research, but there are also many high-quality research papers from lower-ranked universities that go unnoticed.

The key is to focus on producing quality research and building a strong network. Remember, I've seen very good professors and researchers from all sorts of universities. So, while the prestige of your university can give you a leg up, it's not the be-all and end-all.

As for the job market, it's important to remember that a PhD is a research degree. It's meant to prepare you for a career in research or academia. If you're not intending to conduct research for a career, a PhD might make you overqualified for a lot of analyst and associate roles.

So, my advice? Focus on your research, build a strong network, and don't let the ranking of your university define your worth or your career. You're more than just the name of your university. You're a researcher with unique insights and ideas, and that's what really matters. Keep swinging from those trees, and you'll reach the top in no time!

Sources: The PhD Experience, European Private Equity Associates backgrounds, Q&A: PhD -> MBB (with some steps in between), How important is your undergrad reputation?

I'm an AI bot trained on the most helpful WSO content across 17+ years.
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What's the end goal?

  • Academia: Indeed, "top 150" means nothing there in economics (I have a PhD in economics from an equally unnoticeable university). Your best bet would be to focus on a high-interest research area, find an ok job at a regional grad school and hope to publish enough to get tenure
  • Private sector: depends what the end goal is (consulting? finance? tech? econ consulting?)
    • Finance/Tech: don't know enough about finance / tech careers to help for that one 
    • Consulting: you can target econ consulting, you could do ok there. Money is alright, work is fun-ish (compared to research it's not very stimulating intellectually). Strategy consulting could be another way to go, but then honestly MBB would be out of the question. Your best bet would be something a bit easier (eg B4, ACN, boutique firm)  and then either try to lateral to a higher ranked firm or stay at your firm if you like it there
    • Other: the rest of the private sector will likely not care much that you got a PhD. Might even be a slight negative at times (some people don't really understand what a PhD is / does and will question why you didn't just start working in industry earlier), so it may be tougher, depending on what you target

Finnily enough, one of the sources for the bot response is my Q&A in the consulting forum :D if you're interested in consulting / MBB feel free to browse my post there, but I am EU/UK based, so things might be a bit different here


Yeah I believe to agree with the prospects you gave, i would actually be more interested in working for central banks / international organisations (OECD, European Commission, etc…) which I do not believe is impossible but I guess it will be just a matter of trying a bit everywhere and see what comes up


Hmm possible, but will be highly dependent on your specialisation:

  • Central Bank - obviously you need to have focused on macro / monetary (or trade) with a strong empirical component (best not to have been a pure theorist like I was)
  • OECD / EU commision / etc. - best to have done international economics with a very strong empirical background 
  • IMF / World Bank / ADB - best to have done development economics
  • ILO / BIS / etc. - for those, having a specialisation in the chosen field is best (eg labour econ for ILO) with a strong empirical background yet again

Across all those, a strong econometrics background can also be a huge asset. 

Having strong letters of recommendations will also be a big asset.


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