Virginia Tech Pamplin Departments

Ph. D. Program

OverviewAdmissionProgram RequirementsCurrent Ph.D. Students Ph.D. Financial AidPh.D. Job Search

The doctoral program in finance in the Pamplin College of Business is a research-oriented program leading to the Ph.D. degree in Finance. The program is designed to prepare students for careers in college or university research and teaching. Although the doctoral program in finance at Virginia Tech is relatively young (first Ph.D. degree granted in 1979), our graduates have procured jobs at renowned universities. As of Fall 2015, eight students are enrolled in the program.

One indicator of the strength of a doctoral program is the quality of the publications of its faculty. The finance faculty at Virginia Tech has published extensively in the top journals in finance and economics (Journal of Finance, Journal of Financial Economics, Review of Financial Studies, Journal of Business, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, American Economic Review, and Journal of Political Economy). In a recent ranking conducted by Arizona State University, the Finance Department at Virginia Tech was ranked in the top 20 of the public universities in the US, based on research publications in the top 4 finance journals for the 2001-2006 period. The Department has a long-term commitment to research excellence among its faculty and doctoral students. To date our doctoral graduates have published nearly 50 articles in the top journals in the field. In another recent (2005) study by two professors at Ohio State University, the Finance Ph.D. graduates from Virginia Tech were ranked 26th amongst all Ph.D. programs in Finance internationally, and 12th amongst the public universities in the US, based on their research publications in the first five years after graduation.

Ph.D. Program Committee:

Dr. John Easterwood, Director of Ph.D. Program jceast@vt.edu
Dr. Greg Kadlec
Dr. Ugur Lel
Dr. Jin Xu
Dr. Tong Wang

The admission decision for the Ph.D. program is a rigorous process in which candidates are evaluated on the basis of previous academic work, scores on admissions tests, letters of reference, statement of purpose and other factors. Applicants are encouraged to visit the department and meet with the faculty.

The Department ordinarily requires that the candidate take the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), but if a candidate has not taken the GMAT but has taken the GRE, the Department will accept the GRE. Since most of our applicants and current students have taken the GMAT, students who have not taken either test are highly encouraged to take the GMAT as it is easier for us to compare students, and this is likely to improve the applicant's chance of admission.

Students recently admitted to the program have an average GMAT over 700 and a masters grade point average of typically greater than 3.5. The average age is 27. We take in students from all over the world and have a diverse program representation. Students whose native language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). A minimum score of 600 on the paper exam or 250 on the computer exam is required. This requirement, however, is a necessary but not sufficient condition for meeting the expectations of the faculty with respect to a candidate's command of written and spoken English. Non-native English speaking applicants can expect to have at least a telephone interview. A degree from an English-language university is considered an acceptable substitute for a TOEFL but does not assure that language will not be a factor in an admission decision.

All scores (GMAT/GRE, TOEFL) must be sent directly by the examination service to Virginia Tech. Unless specifically requested, copies of scores are not accepted. (Institutional code for reporting of scores is: 53B-XS-59).

The committee places a heavy emphasis on the applicant's training in quantitative methods needed for graduate level economics and quantitative courses in the first year. Students currently in the program scored an average of the 94th percentile on the quantitative portion of the GMAT or GRE.

Application for admission to the doctoral program in finance may be made for the upcoming fall semester. All application materials should be received by the Graduate School by January 15. The program committee will begin reviewing the files on February 1 and admission decisions are usually made by mid-March. All students are required to be knowledgeable of and conform to the requirements of the Virginia Tech Graduate School.

Please note: A candidate often asks before applying if he/she is qualified for admission or what his or her chances of admission are. We are generally unable to answer that question. They only time we can answer the question is if the qualifications are such that there is no reasonable chance of admission. If your GMAT is below 600 and your grade point average is below 3.00, there is no reasonable chance of admission. If you do not meet these minimum requirements, you will not be admitted. If you do meet the requirements, you may still not be admitted, but you have a possibility of admission. Except in circumstances that we decide upon, we do not do any pre-evaluations of candidates. In addition, all students start the program only in the fall semester.

Application information and links:

Formally, students need ninety credit hours to graduate. Much of those credits come from FIN 7994: Research and Dissertation. In general, students should register for 7994 in most semesters so that they always have at least 12 credits per semester.

Typical Course Schedule

First Year

Fall

Spring

ECON 5005 (Prices and Markets I) ECON 5006 (Prices and Markets II)
ECON 5124
(Mathematical Economics)
ECON 5126
(Empirical Economics II)
ECON 5125
(Empirical Economics I)
FIN 6116/6126 (Corporate/Investments)
FIN 6115/6125 (Corporate/Investments) FIN 7994
(Research and Dissertation)

Second Year

Fall

Spring

ECON 5945
(Econometrics Theory and Practice)
ECON 6024 (Adv. Econometrics)
FIN 6115/6125 (Corporate/Investments) FIN 6116/6126 (Corporate/Investments)
Elective Elective
FIN 7994
(Research and Dissertation)
FIN 7994
(Research and Dissertation)

Notes on coursework

  • The PhD Seminars are offered in alternate years: Corporate (FIN 6115/6116) in academic years starting in even numbered calendar years. Investments (FIN 6125/6126) in odd-numbered years.
  • Four electives are needed.
  • Common Electives (Electives typically cover topics such as):
    • Macroeconomics
    • Statistics and/or Econometrics
    • Financial Mathematics

Research Requirements

Summer Research Papers

  • Purpose: the purpose of the first year paper is to give the student the opportunity and experience of identifying a research topic, preparing a plan for researching the chosen topic, and executing the research plan. If the first year paper is deemed worthy of continuing as a thesis or paper project, that will be considered a bonus. The purpose of the second year paper is to identify a research topic and to make considerable progress towards starting a project that could lead to a thesis or publishable research paper. While not every 2nd year project will reach these goals, generating publishable research is the objective.
  • Collaboration: each PhD student is expected to work with a faculty member on their first and second year papers. The extent of collaboration with faculty can range from a full fledge co-author relationship on the project to having a faculty member who serves an advisory role. The details of each relationship between student and faculty member will be determined by the participants and with approval from the PhD advisor. The student and faculty member will be expected to meet to discuss the project from its inception to its completion. Meetings should be both regular and with reasonable frequency accounting for both the faculty member and student’s schedules.
  • Plan for executing the 1st year paper: the following plan should serve as a guide for successful efforts. Individual students and faculty may need small variations based on each unique situation.
    • June 1st: the student should submit a 1-2 page discussion of the topic they intend to pursue. The document should be submitted to the PhD advisor and endorsed by the student’s supervising faculty member.
    • First day of fall classes: the student should have a discussion of the topic suitable for use as an introduction to their paper, a review of the relevant literature to place the topic in existing thought, and a detailed plan for how the paper will be executed. Preliminary results are desirable but not required.
    • November 1st: the student with the endorsement of the supervising faculty member will make a preliminary draft available to the PhD advisor and a date will be selected for presentation. First year papers should be presented in late November or the first half of December. A draft needs to be available to faculty 5 days before presentation.
  • Plan for executing the 2nd year paper: the following plan should serve as a guide for successful efforts. Individual students and faculty may need small variations based on each unique situation. The dates will differ for the 2nd year paper because students will normally take a written exam during June.
    • July 10th: the student should submit a 1-2 page discussion of the topic they intend to pursue. The document should be submitted to the PhD advisor and endorsed by the student’s supervising faculty member.
    • October 1st: the student should have a discussion of the topic suitable for use as an introduction to their paper, a review of the relevant literature to place the topic in existing thought, and a detailed plan for how the paper will be executed. Preliminary results are desirable but not required.
    • December 1st: the student with the endorsement of the supervising faculty member will make a preliminary draft available to the PhD advisor and a date will be selected for presentation. First year papers should be presented in late December or January. A draft needs to be available to faculty 5 days before presentation.

Dissertation

The second two years in the program are mostly spent on the dissertation. The following required deadlines are aimed at keeping the student on track during the dissertation.

  • March 31 (Year before Job Market): Identify the topic and Dissertation Committee. Submit a two-page summary of the topic along with an outline of the remaining work to be done.
  • August 31 (start of Job Market Year): Proposal Defense to faculty and PhD students. The draft must be sufficiently complete that it will be ready for the FMA job market package.
  • Spring or Summer: Final Dissertation Defense.

Other requirements and Policies

  • Comprehensive Exams: Two days, late May or early June after Second Year.
  • Graduate Assistantship: You will be assigned to one or more faculty to assist with their research or teaching activities. Your annual review will be based in part on the faculty’s evaluation of your GA performance.
  • Research Seminars: Attend the weekly seminars and meet with speaker.
  • Annual Review: Each December you will meet with the PhD Director for an annual review. That meeting will include an evaluation of your performance, as well as a discussion of the year to come. An unsatisfactory annual review may result in additional checkpoints to monitor your progress, a reduction in funding, or even dismissal from the program.
  • Teaching Policy for Finance PhD students: An important part of a PhD student's doctoral education is to prepare for classroom responsibilities. Over the course of the program, we seek to balance preparation for work in instruction with training in research using the following guidelines.
    • Students will not teach during the first two years, including summers. Assistantships will be GA positions without teaching responsibilities.
      The department will attempt to provide research support during the summer between the 1st and 2nd years and the 2nd and 3rd years so that students can
      concentrate on their 1st and 2nd year papers. Funding requires that the student be on campus for 10 weeks during the summer. Amounts for summer funds
      will depend on budget conditions.
    • Beginning fall of their 3rd year, students will teach at least three sections over their remaining time in the program with at least two sections (including the 1st one) occurring during fall or spring semesters.
      Typically, this will entail teaching one class during a semester.
    • Students may teach in their 3rd and 4th summers according to their own preferences and departmental needs.
    • Support for a 5th year is provided on a case-by-case basis. Students receiving 5th year funding should expect to teach 1 or 2 sections.
    • It is recommended that students teach at least one section of two different courses over their time in the program to build their teaching portfolios.
  • Professional Development Fund (PDF): $500 annually plus additional cash support for conference presentations. This money can be used to fund trips to AFA and FMA.
  • Fifth year Policy: There are no guarantees for fifth year funding and such opportunities are dependent upon PhD Committee approval based on the student's academic performance and departmental resource availability. When available, the normal arrangement is to teach a class in each semester.
  • Summers: Though students are not generally officially enrolled during the summertime, the expectation is that students are actively engaged in their doctoral work and are in the area for most of the summer. Completion of the program in four years requires making full use of the summers.

Shahram Amini

Shahram Amini received his B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Sharif University of Technology and his Ph.D. in Economics from Virginia Tech in 2012 with an emphasis in Applied Econometrics. He is currently a doctoral student majoring in Finance. Investments, Asset Pricing, and Corporate Finance are his fields of interest. Shahram is interested in an infinite number of things and is a forever growing and evolving man. He truly enjoys playing sports, especially tennis, and different kinds of outdoor activities including hiking and biking. Traveling is his passion. shahram@vt.edu

Fan Li

Fan Li is currently a Ph.D. student in finance at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University . Before joining the program at Virginia Tech, he earned a master’s degree in Quant Finance from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with distinction in Troy, NY.  He studied  mathematics at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China and earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics and applied mathematics. fanli@vt.edu

Hongyan Li

Hongyan Li holds a Bachelor’s degree in finance from Nankai University and a Master’s degree in international finance from Fudan University in China. She pursued her study in US and received an MBA degree, concentration in finance, from University of Pittsburgh. Before joining Virginia Tech, she has worked as an instructor at Northern Michigan University and received high teaching evaluations. She also participated in the CFA track and passed all the exams. At her spare time, Hongyan enjoys traveling, reading and biking. hongyan@vt.edu

Yao Li

Yao Li received her B.S. in Economics from Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing, China and M.S. in Finance from University of Maryland, College Park. jessieli@vt.edu

Xiaolei (Rock) Shi

Xiaolei (Rock) received a bachelor degree in electrical engineering and two master degrees in business administration and mathematics of finance before joining the Ph.D. program at Virginia Tech.  After graduating from college, he started up his own business which ran for two years. Also, Rock used to work at the department of Global Trade Service in one of the top 5 banks in the world for five years.  He usually spends his free time in playing basketball, traveling, and diving. xs2213@vt.edu

Jitendra Tayal

Jitendra Tayal holds a Bachelors of Technology in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and a Master in Financial Engineering from the Institute for Financial Management and Research, India. He joined the Ph.D. Finance program in Fall of 2011. He is the Recipient of the Richard E. and Carol A. Sorensen Fellowship for best incoming student in the College of Business. jitent9@vt.edu

Mete Tepe

Mete Tepe holds a B.Sc. in Industrial Engineering and a M.Sc. in Financial Mathematics from the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, He joined the Finance Ph.D. program in Fall 2011. mtepe@vt.edu

Yutong Xie

Yutong Xie holds a B.S. in Business from Saint Louis University, and an M.S. in Finance from Western Reserve University.  Yutong joined the Finance Ph.D. program in Fall of 2013.  yxie@vt.edu

Because of the importance of gaining research and teaching experience as a doctoral student, Ph.D. students are offered assistantships. The assistantships have monthly stipends starting at $2,222.22 for nine months (excluding summers) for beginning Ph.D. students with a tuition fellowship that covers 100 percent of tuition. These assistantships require students to assist faculty members for 20 hours per week in research and class administration. In addition, qualified students are eligible for $5,000 for teaching a course during the summer.

The department does not give special consideration in admission decisions to students who do not require assistantship funding.

An integral part of the Ph.D. program and indeed the ultimate objective of obtaining a Ph.D. is to find a tenure-track position at an academic institution. Fortunately for students in finance, the job search process is well organized.

The process is centered around two organizations, the Financial Management Association, or FMA, and the American Finance Association, or AFA. In the late summer, the FMA publishes two books, one containing advertisements of position openings and another containing resumés of available candidates. The student's dissertation chairperson and possibly other faculty members may write letters to faculty at other schools to advertise the candidate. Schools then contact candidates they are interested in and schedule interviews that take place at either the FMA convention which occurs in October, or the AFA convention which occurs in January. After these interviews, if a school is interested in pursuing a candidate, it invites the candidate for an on-campus interview, which usually occurs in February and March. The interview normally consists of meetings with faculty members and the student's seminar, which is an approximately one and a half hour presentation of his or her dissertation research.

Students should be aware that the most critical factors in obtaining a job offer are the likelihood of a completed dissertation before the student begins the job, the prospects for publication of high quality articles out of the dissertation as well as the potential for effective classroom teaching.