Currently, I am starting the first year of a Ph.D. program in Mathematics with intention to specialize in Mathematical Finance. I have noticed during the application process that this area is rarely represented on Mathematics departments in general — although few universities have faculty working in it (e.g., Columbia, Michigan, Pitt, CMU), most do not or at least move this area to another departments, e.g., Statistics or Operations Research.

Possible explanation of this may be that there are many Math Finance Master's programs that are tailored for industry, so this field may be seen as very applied in general. However, I am mostly interested in an academic career.

Will specialization in mathematical finance provide fewer career opportunities in mathematical academia than some contemporary mainstream areas like algebraic geometry or representation theory? If so, will I be at significant disadvantage with Ph.D. in Mathematics while applying to other departments (Applied Mathematics, Statistics, Operations Research, Finance)? In general, do researchers working on narrow cross-disciplinary topics have fewer opportunities in their main field than their pure counterparts?

If it matters, I mostly interested in North America region (U.S. and Canada).

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    Will you be interested in working at a college or university without a PhD program, possibly where teaching is a large portion of your workload? These are a major component of the US job market. Sep 1, 2018 at 5:11
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  • @AlexanderWoo, I'm primary interested in research positions.
    – Hasek
    Sep 1, 2018 at 22:06
  • Asia can be a good place to try, like Hong Kong or Singapore. You would have more academic freedom than the USA at early carer level, and there are lots of research positions available given the number of students seeking university education.
    – apg
    Apr 23, 2023 at 21:20

1 Answer 1


There's no question that mathematical finance has a smaller market for academics than, say algebraic geometry. (However, if you can pitch yourself as being more broadly interested in, for example, stochastic processes, that's almost as big a market.)

Small markets are subject to more variance on both the supply and demand sides. You could apply for jobs in a year when no one is actually interested in hiring in mathematical finance.

On the other hand, if comparisons could actually be made across fields, the best person in mathematical finance one year could be equivalent to anywhere from the best to the 10th best person in algebraic geometry that year. If someone is really looking to hire in mathematical finance, that person will probably be hired. In algebraic geometry, while the best algebraic geometer on the tenure-track job market in a given year is almost sure to be hired somewhere, the 10th best should be looking at other options, and even the 5th best should be quite worried.

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