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I want to pursue a PhD in Financial Economics in USA/Canada. I am a software engineer and going to Canada to pursue an MBA in Finance in September from an average public university.

I have studied a lot of high level math courses in Engineering (Undergrad). I will study many Finance and Econ courses in the MBA program.

I am interested in a PhD from a US university (average public university, not targeting top level).

I am really crazy about this subject. I know that I wasted a lots of time on other things but I still have time and I am very interested in teaching.

What opportunities can I take advantage of during the MBA to maximize my chances of PhD admission?

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PhD programs exist to produce researchers, so an admissions committee would like to see that you will be able to produce original research. (In economics, that means journal articles.) So, what would help immensely would be to gain actual research experience. The best way to do that would be to work as a research assistant for someone who is actively publishing research.

It would be fantastic, of course, if you could co-author a paper and get it published in a top journal. But don't worry so much about that. What you're looking for is a chance to work with someone who can then write a letter of recommendation that says they are confident that you will go on to produce quality research of your own, and whose opinion will matter because they have a good track record of publishing their own work.

Add some statistics coursework to your programming experience and you'll be well-positioned to work as an RA. (Even without a stats background, being able to wield Perl or R or some other tool to collect and clean data is valuable.) Or find someone working with agent-based modelling who needs a code jockey. Then, of course, work hard and ask lots of questions.

  • Hi Szarka, This is great suggestion. I am thankful to you. I will take electives 9301, 9302, 9303 - Research Project in 2nd year of my study. I will also try to get good recommendation letter from faculty of Economics. I have studied a lot of math stats, calculus in Engineering, not sure If that would be counted. My main worry is what should I keep in mind from the very first day about getting admission in good grad school in usa. – Atush Jul 19 '14 at 12:33
  • Keep in mind that you will be completing applications for graduate school in the fall semester next year. If possible, don't wait until your second year to do research. Start either during your first year or during the summer before second year. – Dawn Aug 20 '17 at 1:51
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I am doing something similar right now. It really depends on the sub-field of your interests. As mentioned by Szarka most of the finance/economics research statistics is often used, but not at a very high level. You could have a shot in many of the RA positions because you are fluent in R or Stata, but those data analyst positions will not likely to yield a coauthorship in top departments. On the other hand, there are a lot of subfields in Econ/Fin researches, for examples:

  1. Contract theories, insurances: you need rigorous measure theories, probability theories, and sometimes non-linear functional analysis (convex optimization) in graduate level
  2. Decision theories (behavioral fin-econ): you need measure theories, probability theories, functional analysis, optimization, and sometimes Lipschitz analysis in graduate level
  3. DSGE, GE theories in Fin Econ, incomplete equilibriums (closely connected to 2), evolutionary dynamic game theories: You need measure theories in graduate level, stochastic differential equations, abstract algebra (advanced linear algebras in graduate level), stochastic optimizations on different types of manifolds, and sometimes methods of perturbations, Lipschitz analysis, and differential topologies.
  4. Auction theories, multi-agent models: usually you need a very strong CS background, DNN, graph theories, discrete analysis, dynamic optimizations and controls, etc. Sometimes linked to dynamic game theories.
  5. Corp-Fin, principle agent theories: This is very closely connected to contract theories and sometimes, decision theories
  6. Derivative pricing theories and applications: measure theories, stochastic differential equations, and non-linear functional analysis are the minimum. Sometimes connected to contract theories and decision theories.

Each of the "subfields" that I classified has many subsubfields, and the subsubfields have their subsubsubfields. For example, despite of being mathematically intensive, some recent advances in decision sciences are closely linked to not only psychology, but also neuro sciences, physiology, and cell biology. MBA courses are usually focus on the practical uses. As a general advice, you could take more theoretical courses (like microeconomics theories in PhD level), and most importantly, find your field of interests and find the proper advisor.

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