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I am currently a researcher ("postdoc") at a world-class university. I have an assistant professor job offer from a business school in the New York area where I would be doing research in quantitative finance (financial mathematics/statistics). I am 35-36 years old.

In all honesty I am getting tired of academic work, and don't see myself doing it for much longer. I am rather certain this will not change when I have to juggle research/teaching/grant applications/departmental service, and at the same time feel underpaid.

However, since I'm already there, I would like to give the professorship a shot for a year or two, work on research projects that interest me, without pressure so to speak since getting tenure is simply not a do or die thing for me. I am also about to become a father and being a professor would be convenient for the first couple of years.

My question is: Is it going to be extremely hard for me to find a position in finance (or related field like insurance) after being an assistant professor, and being in my late thirties? I worked for one year in the financial industry after my PhD, I have a good quantitative skill set, and my research is also related to finance/technology (in short: my degree/research is not "useless").

I know there is demand for me at this point as a postdoc at my current institution, but I am unsure how I would be perceived as a professor from a second-tier business school.

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  • @joe even if you're right, at the bottom in proper Quant finance is basically at a salary point far beyond the avg cto salary, with no real cap as career progresses. – bharal Apr 18 at 11:57
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If you're starting a family then two years fluffing around is not the best idea. Put the family needs first, you'll no longer be responsible for just getting by. So you make decisions with that in mind, and you make sacrifices for it as well in terms of putting your own inclinations aside.

I'd get a career started asap and work my way up as fast as I can. As far as I can see your reasoning is basically inertia.

In terms of being perceived as overqualified, for those that will, you're probably already there. The only difference is you'll be older. In my opinion, it's not so much overqualified, as a perception that a professor is an academic and has an academics mindset ingrained into them over the years, rather than an ingrained work ethic.

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  • "As far as I can see your reasoning is basically inertia." this would seem ot be spot-on here – Fattie Apr 18 at 11:44
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    How is working on academics all the way up to a post-doc "fluffing" and how is that not working on your career? I know of a few places that would pay top-dollar for a post-doc graduate with a background in quant/finance. I feel like I missed something in the essense of your answer. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Apr 18 at 16:04
  • @BenjaminGruenbaum Fluffing because the potential for those jobs you mention is available now, why wait 2 years. With academics inertia can stop things now, if it does, it will do so again in 2 years, etc,. Currently the OP is focused on nothing and getting older. If you're still in school in your late thirties without a solid end goal in mind, you're an academic – Kilisi Apr 18 at 23:45
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Your field is, perhaps, the single most lucrative field on Earth at the moment.

Like, I just walk around all day saying "Where did my life go wrong, why don't I work in quantitative finance financial mathematics statistics?"

So,

In all honesty I am getting tired of academic work, and don't see myself doing it for much longer

  • Question 1. Is your aim in fact to work in that business?

So, you'd be the quantitative finance financial mathematics statistics person at a Quant, starting on 300k with the occasional 2 or 3 million buck bonus, and then if you did well you'd make real money.

So,

  • If your aim is to work in that business, most people would suggest:
  1. Do whatever it takes - starting today - to achieve that.

  2. Do that as fast as possible. Don't waste even minutes.

If what it takes is working some tedious academic position for a year, do that. If what it takes is publishing a book in the field, do that. If what it takes is learning how to breed Afghan Hounds, do that. Just Do It!

Conversely,

  • If your aim is to stay in academia

Many would suggest, choose the most fun institution where you do the least painful-nonsense.

  • You mention age

The news is all good.

In the commercial world of quants, it means nothing. Every being you meet in that world is concerned with one thing, and it has five letters and starts with "m". They won't even notice your name, far less noticing your hair color, hobbies, whether you are 15 or 80, etc. Nobody Cares. The only thing in anyone's consciousness in that field, starts with M.

  • You mention becoming a father

Half the people in the universe become Fathers. It's a non-issue for them and it will be a non-issue for you. Enjoy!

If you choose the "commerce" route above, your kids will be sickeningly rich. If you choose the "academic" route, your kids will have the Cool Academic Dad They Never See Due To All The Academic Paperwork! It's all good.

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A professor sounds a lot more impressive on a resume than post-doc, so if you have a job offer already you might as well take it. You've done all the hard work and there's no sense passing up the payoff. I also don't see how being a professor could possibly look worse than being a postdoc.

How difficult it will be to find a job depends strongly on many specific factors which makes it impossible to answer here. The universal factors tend to be:

  1. Having the correct skillset for the job
  2. Having the correct mindset (aka personality/culture fit)
  3. Networking

Your academic work partially fills 1, but if you are aiming to be a strong candidate rather than an okay candidate you will need to go our of your way to learn skills that the industry wants. This is because academia and industry are very different fields. For someone coming from academia, taking 1 for granted is a great way to fail both on both 1 and 2. A career in academia will typically not do much for 3 either. So you definitely want to actively work on these 3 things.

If you seriously intend to shift your career to the industry, you should do your homework and figure out what actually goes into hiring decisions in your field and what you can do to improve your employability. Things like what year you were born or how many children you have are not important here. Instead you want to find out what sort of skills are needed, what sort of work is done, and what is the value proposition associated with hiring someone of your background for such work. If you can present a strong value proposition when applying, finding a job will be easy. If you cannot, it will be hard.

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