Complementing a Math PhD: Master's or MBA?

avelcas's picture
Rank: Chimp | 3

I need help making a tough call on graduate education. I hold a PhD in mathematics and have four years of work experience in academia and three in the non-profit sector. I am in my mid-thirties and I am looking for a career switch. I hold offers for the following three programs:

MBA from INSEAD
MSc Finance and Economics from London School of Economics
MS Mathematics in Finance from NYU

Question: which one of these best complements my background and which will get me "closer to the money"? I am thinking of jobs in finance but I do not exclude consulting if I can somehow leverage my PhD as well as the MBA/MS. Top choice right now would be to work for a hedge fund or a prestigious IB although I do not have any experience of the work environment. The opportunity to interact with clients would be a plus for me.

Of course there is the quant option, and NYU is tailor-made for this, but I hesitate to do a specialized math course where the average age is probably in the mid-20s, given that I already have a math PhD. Also I have the impression these roles come with a glass ceiling. My programming skills are a bit rusty (had a very good aptitude years ago but have never used C++).

I am strongly leaning towards INSEAD since it is much less specialized and MBAs typically go into more senior roles (I think the average age was 29 years). My reservation is that I wouldn't want to nullify my current qualifications; I'd like to build on my PhD but not cancel it out, and I'm not sure if INSEAD can take me to roles which allow this, especially since it is not focused on finance. Can I gain some competitive advantage from my math PhD while targeting roles at the associate level or above (and possibly managerial roles in the long run), or does the MBA necessarily mean I start from scratch?

The MSc at London School of Economics seems to be somewhere in between; it is clearly oriented towards Investment Banking, but still the students are typically in their mid 20s and targeting analyst roles.

In the long run I would want to work in Europe, although I wouldn't mind a stint in NY.

Advice would be immensely appreciated.

Comments (11)

Jun 18, 2011

You have a phd in math why would you even consider going back for a masters in "financial" math. Get the mba

Jun 18, 2011

If you are trying to work for a hedge fund or an IB I would recommend going to LSE. You already have a PHD in math so going back for a masters in mathematics doesn't seem like the best use of your time. LSE has a strong reputation among prestigious IB and hedge funds in NYC (not to mention great placement in European branches, especially London.) Of all your options on the table I would say go with LSE. Not only is it probably your best bet of getting into IB, but it is also a very respectable degree across the Europe. If you do not think you will change your mind about working in Europe in the long run then I think this one is a no-brainer. Go to LSE.

Jun 18, 2011

paralysis by analysis

a math phd will get you an interview today if you are not completely socially retarded, if you have matlab skills and a general understanding of markets your experience is more than enough.

a far quicker and more profitable path would be to take some saved up cash and trade on your own for six months, while simultaneously reading (if you haven't already) on trading theories/strategies...six months of half way decent alpha generation (perhaps even losses if you can explain your strategy and speak intelligently on why you did what you did and how you learned from it) and most top prop shops will sit and talk to you, which is basically all you'd be guaranteed after two years in a master's program (which at your stage is a step backwards, no matter what you have heard otherwise).

Jun 18, 2011

INSEAD. This is a no-brainer.

The NYU and LSE programs are good programs if you have a Bachelor's degree only, but with a PhD, these degrees would be redundant. You really don't need these degrees unless your PhD is from a really low-ranked school and you cannot get any interviews for quant positions.
INSEAD propels you on a different career track, which is more management oriented. This will give you the best bang for your buck.

    • 1
Jun 18, 2011

Thanks to all for your comments.

I haven't seriously tried to get interviews but I have the impression that it wouldn't be straightforward as I don't have any experience in finance or programming. For the record, INSEAD and LSE are both 1-year programs while the NYU program is 16 months long unless you get a job before that (in which case one could switch to part-time).

LSE is very tempting because it's the one in which I would probably learn most in terms of substance. However, even though LSE is extremely well connected with the finance world, I still wonder if it can compete with an MBA in terms of placements, at least in terms of seniority (analyst vs associate). I am leaning towards INSEAD also because I have the feeling that an MBA is something of a prerequisite for virtually any senior role in business and now would be the right time for me if at all.

I don't have my heart set on quant roles, in fact not even finance necessarily, but I am trying to choose which degree will make my profile strongest given my background. I guess my core question remains:

If I take the MBA, will I have some competitive advantage from my math PhD when targeting MBA roles or am I simply starting from scratch?

Jun 19, 2011

If you already have a math PhD, can't you just leverage that to get into finance?

Jun 20, 2011

You are on the wrong forum. Go on quantnet.

Jun 20, 2011

You should contact the guys at GQR (global quant recruitment). It's a HH firm that specializes in cases much like yours. You definitely don't need any more schooling. What were your researching in? This will also have an impact on how attractive you are to the quant shops (i.e. Stochastic Analysis is probably preferred to Representation Theory etc.). The school also makes a big difference, especially for consulting. PM if you feel comfortable sharing some specifics. I can at the very least put you in touch with some people in the consulting world (this should definitely be your backup though because your talents will be better used in quant finance).

Dec 11, 2017

MBA from INSEAD then MSF from LSE, with preference for the former. MBA like you said puts you on a more senior level, also increases chances of getting into IB with good exit opps to PE/HF later on

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Dec 11, 2017

I just realized this is like 2011 man... Which one did you pick

Dec 11, 2017
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