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Finance Major thinking about Poli Sci PhD...Possible?


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Hi guys,


I'm a senior Finance and Chinese double major at a top 20 school. Until this year, I was set on working as an investment banker but I've come to realize that I don't quite fit the profile and the finance industry is not where I can envision myself. I've been working on a thesis that focuses on Hong Kong politics for my Chinese major, and it has been more fun and engaging than anything I've ever had to do relating to business. As a result, I want to consider doing a PhD in poli sci (or maybe Political Sociology) with a specific focus on Hong Kong-Mainland China politics but I don't know how viable this is for a number of reasons.


- I have a low GPA ~3.2, which came about because of family issues and bad studying habits during my first two years 

- My major probably doesn't convey interest in political science

- No connections to political science professors at my university for recommendations 

- All my previous work experiences are concentrated around Ibanking. However, much of the work was very research based...but in a different way 


The only pluses I can think of are that I am fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin, I will have written a thesis and my internships were in Asia. Seems like everything else would be going against me.


Does anyone know what the job market is like in both the U.S. and Hong Kong/Asia for students looking to conduct research in this area? What should I do if I want to pursue a PhD? Is it even practical?

Edited by eyce22
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My two cents:


(1) It might be useful to consider getting a MA first to make up for your undergrad GPA, and more importantly, to figure out if a political science PhD is really for you. It also helps overcome points #2 and #3 in your post.


(2) I don't think work experience matters, well, at least it won't be used against you. Having "academic" RA experience might be nice, but not necessary.


(3) What about Mainland-Hong Kong politics excite you specifically? Given that it is difficult these days to only be an area specialist (and HK isn't really an "area" [think of areas such as the post-Soviet region, China, US]), you might want to think about the broader theoretical debates that fascinate you. From what I learn this application cycle, fit is hugely important. The mere fact that very few, if not none, study Hong Kong in American poli sci departments makes admission even more difficult. It is thus doubly important that you frame your puzzle in ways that are not only interesting, but relevant to broader political science debates.

Edited by NBM
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Is your research anyway connected with finance? Like trade/foreign aid/etc? That would be a way to sell it. Also, you could minor in international relations (that is what I did, however, I now feel that it was not strong enough to convey interest to certain schools). If you can land an investment banking analyst position out of UG, do your 2 years and form some type of research topic involving multinational corporations /international business expansion/etc., you could get into a PhD in Business or Political Science as long as you have a high test score.


my .02 cent (I used to want to be an investment banker so I am quite familiar with the prep needed to get such a job)

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The economic cost of a PhD is:


assume whatever you could make as a UG graduate (in US - 30-40k USD; if you are working in IBD more like 60 - 100k) x 5 = 150,000 - 500,000 to get the degree.


+ Psychic Cost of actually getting the degree (studying like a mad man, stress, etc)


+ The non-monetary cost to get one (delaying life, living somewhere you may not want to, etc)


The only reason to get one is if it will A.) Maximize your personal utility someway, B.) You want to be an academic, C.) A job absolutely requires it (IMF, WB, etc - and even then, you still maybe shouldnt do it because strong banking work exp can allow you to break in).


You are in an emerging economy in banking and that is the most exciting place to be these days. I personally would move to Asia/India if I had the opportunity. I would work atleast 3 years and think about either a MPA/ID from HKS, MBA or a PhD in Business/Econ or MAYBE poli sci (if that is what you are passionate about)

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Hi Eyce22, 


Although there must be a lot to think about in your situation, I think one unfortunate fact that would nonetheless simplify your situation is that (allow me to be honest) your 3.2 GPA would very very unlikely get you into a good PhD program. If you look at the 'result search' page here at GradCafe, you'll notice that, say, with the top 25 political science program, very few people managed to be accepted with GPA<3.7 (regardless of which school you're from). And among those who did get in with GPA<3.7, a lot had undergone a master degree and did very well in it (which is exactly what you should do some time down the road if you're really interested.) 3.2 GPA isn't bad at all; it will get you a lot of jobs. But phd is really another story. 


As to what you should do now, whether and how you may apply for PhD later, etc. you can PM me. I also graduated from a top 20 school, worked in investment banking for a number of years, went back to study, and am also from China. I should be able to help you a bit.

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Thanks for the advice guys.



It seems like the GPA thing is really going to hold me back. In that case, how difficult are MA programs to get to with a low GPA like mine? Should I try to work at least a few years before applying to an MA program? At this point, recruiting has already ended for many of the major business firms and I'm a little worried about starting a career in a totally unrelated area, which will make me look even more uninterested/random as an applicant.


TheMarketMan: I'm looking at Hong Kong social identity specifically in relation to the "one country, two systems" in China. This actually leads to another question I have. Though it's heavily related to politics, there is a strong sociological aspect to it as well and I'm wondering if it'd be flexible to go think about looking into Sociology also. Most of the academics who have done research in this area either have PHds in poli sci or sociology, but I have no idea as to how much these two disciplines differ in terms of competitiveness.

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Guest hopefulfool

I think Minnesota offers a minor in political sociology for Political Science PhDs, but I am not sure. I think you need to keep in mind that a lot of the IR theories (constructivism, post-structuralism, etc.) are dependent on other fields such as sociology and philosophy (what comes to mind instantly is John Searle and his work on speech acts).

Just my random 25 cents. 

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You mention that your low GPA is due to bad study habits over your first two years in college. Does this mean then that your GPA was significantly higher over the last two years of your studies? If so, this could make a big difference and should be mentioned if you decide to apply. My GPA was only a 3.40 overall, yet I was recently accepted into a program. I think it helped that my GPA in my junior and senior years was 3.80, and that my GPA within my PoliSci major was 3.75. Similarly, highlight any relevant coursework you may have done well in. For me, this was pointing out that I had taken and gotten A's in upper-level courses designed for PoliSci students considering graduate school. For you, perhaps you will need to emphasize whatever class you wrote your thesis on Hong Kong politics in. Anything that can show the admissions people that your GPA is not reflective of what you are capable of should be included.


Edited by TyKohnfelderf
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