I was emailed by a reader recently asking about mathematical finance PhD programs and the benefits of such a course. If you are considering gaining a PhD in mathematical finance, this article will be of interest to you.
If you are currently near the end of your undergraduate studies or are returning to study after some time in industry, you might consider starting a PhD in mathematical finance. This is an alternative to undertaking a Masters in Financial Engineering (MFE), which is another route into a quantitative role. This article will discuss exactly what you will be studying and what you are likely to get out of a PhD program. Clearly there will be differences between studying in the US, UK or elsewhere. I personally went to grad school in the UK, but I will discuss both UK and US programs.
Mathematical finance PhD programs exist because the techniques within the derivatives pricing industry are becoming more mathematical and rigourous with each passing year. In order to develop new exotic derivatives instruments, as well as price and hedge them, the financial industry has turned to academia. This has lead to the formation of mathematical finance research groups - academics who specialise in derivatives pricing models, risk analysis and quantitative trading.
Graduate school, for those unfamiliar with it, is a very different experience to undergraduate. The idea of grad school is to teach you how to effectively research a concept without any guidance and use that research as a basis for developing your own models. Grad school really consists of a transition from the "spoon fed" undergraduate lecture system to independent study and presentation of material. The taught component of grad school is smaller and the thesis component is far larger. In the US, it is not uncommon to have two years of taught courses before embarking on a thesis (and thus finding a supervisor). In the UK, a PhD program is generally 3-4 years long with either a year of taught courses, or none, and then 3 years of research.
A good mathematical finance PhD program will make extensive use of your undergraduate knowledge and put you through graduate level courses on stochastic analysis, statistical theory and financial engineering. It will also allow you to take courses on general finance, particularly on corporate finance and derivative securities. When you finish the program you will have gained a broad knowledge in most areas of mathematical finance, while specialising in one particular area for your thesis. This "broad and deep" level of knowledge is the hallmark of a good PhD program.
Mathematical Finance research groups study a wide variety of topics. Some of the more common areas include:
These are only a fraction of the total areas that are studied within mathematical finance. The best place to find out more about research topics is to visit the websites of all the universities which have a mathematical finance research group, which is typically found within the mathematics, statistics or economics faculty.
The benefits of undertaking a PhD program are numerous:
I would highly recommend a mathematical finance PhD, so long as you are extremely sure that a career in quantitative finance is for you. If you are still unsure of your potential career options, then a more general mathematics, physics or engineering PhD might be a better choice.comments powered by Disqus
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