You Don’t Need a Ph.D. to be a Quant!

One of the most asked questions I receive, from anxious readers who just got a master’s degree or are still working toward one, is whether they’ll need a Ph.D. to be a quant.

The answer is a resounding "no," as explained many times in my book. Because I have a Ph.D. myself (in economics from NYU), my discussion may have had a slight "tilt" toward a Ph.D. audience, although I did do my best to balance my discussion and address an audience from those with bachelor’s (and even those still in college) to those with master’s to those with doctorates.

There’s no such thing as "I only have a master’s." A master’s degree (again, as I point out in the book), is a very important advanced degree in itself. The difference between a master’s and a Ph.D., is the latter requires more independent research, and the aim of Ph.D. training is to turn someone into a researcher. Master’s students, on the other hand, learn practical knowledge and skills, without emphasis on carrying out research, although, as we know, many master’s students write excellent theses. In fact, some of the ground-breaking ideas in quantitative disciplines emerged from master’s theses, not necessarily only from Ph.D. dissertations.

I really don’t want any reader to feel "inferior" if he or she "only" has a master’s degree. Warren Buffet "only" has a master’s. Many quants, like the guy who founded Citadel the hedge fund, don’t even have a master’s. Succeeding as a quant requires you to be smart and work hard (and have luck on your side, of course). A Ph.D. may help in some cases, but I can’t count many of them, and in any case, an eager-learning and hard-working master’s holder can accomplish the same tasks.

Of course, as you search for a job, you’ll discover that some quant shops prefer to hire Ph.D.s. But just as many, if not more, places prefer to hire master’s because these employees are often perceived to be more pragmatic and less dogmatic. Don’t let your degree dictate where you look and what you look for. Decide what you want to do, formulate a plan, and put your best foot forward – of course, my book can help!  🙂

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