Thursday, April 17, 2008

Part-Time Ph.D. Programs

I've had a number of emails asking if it's possible to go to a reputable finance Ph.D. program on a part time basis. Unfortunately, the writers probably won't like the answer. To the best of my knowledge, it's not possible -- and a program that offers a part time doctoral program probably isn't worth it.

Getting a doctorate in Finance isn't like getting a "Super MBA" - it's a totally different animal. First off, the level of material is both more difficult and much less structured. Second, it's geared towards producing future scholars. So, a big part of the doctoral process involves "acculturation" to the academic world. The (very) strange world of the finance academic scholar is generally best learned by a) seeing how academics arrange their day-to-day lives, and b) being able to ask frequent questions of faculty or peers on an irregular basis. These are best done by living with the natives. After all, An anthropologist usually ends up living with the people he's studying (at least for a while), and a doctoral student should too.

Finally, writing a dissertation is extremely difficult when working full time. At the front end of the process (determining the research question and working toward a proposal), it's important to have access to faculty (I shudder to think how many times I imposed on one committee member or another with "just one LITTLE question").

Then, when you're in the writing phase, you need regular blocks of uninterrupted time. It's hard writing while working. This is why so many students who take a visiting teaching position while writing their dissertation take so much longer to finish (if they finish at all).

I realize that taking a few (i.e. 4-5) years off to get a Ph.D. is a huge committment. In a perfect world, you could do it part time so people wouldn't have to pay such a price (3-4 years of lost income and a lot of studying). Unfortunately, doing it that way probably wouldn't do the job in the same way that the current system does.

As a result, a program that offers a "part time" doctoral program wouldn't be well respected, and it's graduates would have an impossible time getting jobs in academia. I could be mistaken, but it's true as far as I know.