Program Overview

The Ph.D. in Business Administration – Finance and Real Estate program prepares students to engage in productive scholarly research and teaching in the broad area of financial and real estate economics. Graduates of this program typically are placed with major universities in the United States, although some students choose to work in research positions at non-academic institutions. The focus of the program is corporate finance, investments, financial intermediation, and market microstructure.

The Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate is primarily interested in placing students at research institutions to write papers in top-tier publications (Journal of Finance, Journal of Financial Economics, Review of Financial Studies, and Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis). This is the main, if not the only, goal. If you are getting a Ph.D. to teach, then we’re not the place for you. If you’re getting a Ph.D. to go to industry or do consulting, then we’re not the place for you. If you are getting a Ph.D. to go to a lower-level school that emphasizes the number of publications and not the quality of publications, then we are not the place for you. Not every graduating finance Ph.D. student from Florida places at a research institution, but when they started the program, this was their intention.

The Department is somewhat unusual in how we treat students. We treat them as colleagues and look forward to working with them on research projects as their skills develop. Most faculty maintain an “open door” policy regarding visits. Our biggest shortcoming at Florida may be that we don’t put enough pressure on students. Our turnover rate is very low—almost zero. We don’t admit a large group and expect to flunk out x% of them. Accordingly, the more successful students are those with the greatest degree of effective self-motivation. We are working on ways to increase pressure subtlety, to encourage all students to take more responsibility for their research careers (after courses are finished).

Our eminent scholars:

  • Mark Flannery
  • Chris James
  • Jay Ritter

Our chaired professors:

  • Joel Houston
  • David Ling
  • Miles Livingston
  • Andy Naranjo
  • Mahendrarajah Nimalendran

A Career in Academia

Being a professor is a pretty good job, but being a business school professor is much better than being a professor in another discipline.

Even if you are not planning on a career teaching in a business school, it may be a good place to start. Consulting firms, money management firms (including hedge funds), investment banks, and government agencies all are willing to pay more for people who are experienced. They have found that people who are good teachers are usually good at making client presentations, and that people who do successful academic research also tend to be good at coming up with strategies for making money or writing good consulting reports.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many students are in the Ph.D. program?

There are usually from 15-16 students in the program at any point in time.

How much does school ranking matter in the job market?

Some, but not so much. Your advisor and your dissertation research are much more important.

What is a typical starting salary for someone with a finance Ph.D.?

Finance professors are pretty well paid. Starting 12-month salaries for our recent University of Florida graduates have been in the range of $150,000 to $250,000, which is 2 to 4 times as much as assistant professors get paid in disciplines outside of business schools, with the exception of medical schools.

Where do I find school rankings to determine what schools to apply?

It is difficult to get an unambiguous assessment of schools’ relative qualities. There is no definitive list. Few departments are good at everything, so your ranking should probably depend on which area of finance interests you – and you may not know that yet. To get a broad overview, look at a paper entitled “Comparison of Top Journal Publications Across the Functional Areas,” by Mark D. Griffiths and Drew B. Winters in the 2008 Journal of Financial Education. Also, look at Arizona State University’s Finance Rankings. Try looking at a paper entitled “What’s New in Finance?” by Matti Keloharju, published in 2008 in European Financial Management. Also, look at the bibliography of the paper for lists of research productivity by school. The 2013 Journal of Empirical Finance has an article by Chan, Chang, and Chang entitled “Ranking of Finance Journals: Some Google Scholar Citation Perspectives” that also has an appendix listing the top 50 authors.

Of course, just because a school is good at research does not mean it is necessarily good at producing top Ph.D. students. For that, you have to ask each school about its placement record. Our placement record is available online, but many schools don’t provide this information. Another good source of further information is your favorite finance professor.

There are two other ways that universities are sorted. The best research universities tend to be the AAU schools. The next level is “Research 1” schools. The more placements a school has in these universities, the better their placement record. On the web page listing our placements, these schools are indicated.

What is a professor’s job like? What type of person tends to do well in this career, and what type of person doesn’t do well?

A successful academic must be good at a lot of different things: original thinking, writing, public speaking, math, and programming. It also helps to be good at politics, though that isn’t as critical as it is in many other jobs. You’ll need to be able to connect ideas on your own; to think on your own. If you feel uncomfortable without lots of external directions, then being an academic is probably not a good idea. You also need to be a naturally intellectually curious person. You need to be smart, and a bit of a “nerd”. If you haven’t been getting very high grades, you will probably not be successful in your coursework. You will be competing against a lot of smart, hard-working people.

There is a lot of pressure on you until you get tenure—5 years of being a Ph.D. student, followed by 5 or 6 more years as an assistant professor. So that’s 10 or 11 years of high pressure, 60-hour workweeks. Of course, every week isn’t 60 hours, but some are 80 hours. Research projects take a long time (between 2 and 5 years), and then can fall apart at any time (the results change when you do something slightly differently, or someone else publishes your idea first). Teaching takes time and effort, but there is little obvious external reward for doing a good job (although there are substantial penalties for doing a bad job). A successful research career involves at least some luck, especially at the beginning. If your first few papers get published quickly, that’s great. But the acceptance rate is only around 10% at the top journals, so for every 10 papers you submit, only one will get published. Over the last fifteen years, a much higher fraction of University of Florida graduates have published one or more dissertation papers in the top journals.

To be a successful finance professor, you can’t be inclined towards procrastination. It’s kind of like you’re in business for yourself. There’s nobody to tell you how much to work each day. There are short-term duties (teaching) and long-term goals (published papers). If you let short-term success override your long-term efforts, you won’t make it.

You cannot be a perfectionist. Nobody ever tells you when to stop working on a paper and send it in to a journal. If you are a perfectionist, you won’t be able to recognize when a paper is good enough to get published. This is not good.

You’ll need to be a hard worker, but also a smart worker. You need to be able to figure out where to put your effort so that you can publish enough to get tenure and promotion.

You’ll need to be able to connect ideas on your own; to think on your own. Intellectual curiosity also counts for a lot. If you don’t love learning about new things, you probably won’t find research very rewarding and this makes it harder to do well in the profession.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this career in your opinion?

Advantages of the career: You meet some really smart people and most of the people that you spend time with are fantastic, you get to choose your co-workers (co-authors), you basically are your own boss, and you have a pretty flexible schedule so you can work when you want.

Disadvantages of the career: With the skill set you have, you could make a lot more money on Wall Street (some of our students take this route)– in other words, you will not get rich being just an academic, though salaries for Finance Professors are quite high. Doing top quality research is hard. Teaching is great and very rewarding, but some unmotivated or problematic students can make it unsatisfying at times. Thinking up an idea is fun, but executing the idea can be tough; and finally your papers will sometimes get frustratingly rejected for wrong reasons.