This fascination first led Marco to study a Master of Science in Economic and Social Sciences at Bocconi University in Italy.
Now studying for a PhD in Finance at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, he strongly credits his Master’s for paving the way into academia, and for preparing him for a rigorous research program.
Accelerating from a bachelor’s to a master’s
While Marco had originally opted to study engineering, he quickly switched economics and business in his first semester.
It didn’t take him long to set his heart on studying a master’s. Unlike most of his classmates on his three year bachelor’s, Marco completed his degree in two years.
When he started applying for masters degrees, he couldn’t ignore Bocconi’s reputation. “In Italy, if you’re thinking of doing economics or business, the first thing you think about is Bocconi.”
As someone who didn’t have clear career goals, and was interested in a broad range of subjects, Marco felt the MSc in Economic and Social Sciences program offered the variety and diversity he was looking for.
“At the time, I was considering many different careers. I had this passion towards maths and quantitative methods, but also towards broader social sciences like public policy, history, finance, and banking,” he recalls.
The Bocconi Master’s is multidisciplinary, covering a range of topics across economics from monetary policy, to labour economics, to welfare and politics. This is reflected in the diversity of student backgrounds, who come from a vast range of undergraduate majors.
Marco was accepted, and with the help of the Bocconi Graduate Merit Award which offers a full tuition waiver, he enrolled on the program.
Getting used to a rigorous academic environment
Marco was challenged by the Bocconi MSc from the off. He recalls the high standard of the classes, which really pushed his knowledge to its limits, but even more than that, the people. “For the first time in my life I could truly learn from everyone in my class.”
This strong community and network extended beyond his own classroom. Marco says there’s a sense of belonging with many graduates from the program, who have an understanding of the rigorous and challenging process you go through on the degree.
It was this dynamic academic setting which first seeded the ideas to take his studies further, and study for a PhD. For Marco, and his other classmates who shared similar aspirations, the environment gives you the ideal preparation for applying for a PhD.
“This masters really gives you an idea of what a PhD looks like, a sense of what you’re going to do, and an idea of whether you’re ready for it.”
Marco’s Bocconi experience included an introduction to research methods. One opportunity lies at the Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research (IGIER), where visiting students are partnered with faculty mentors to work on research projects separate to your own master’s thesis. This, and other opportunities, give you a flavor of what to expect from the type of research you might conduct on a PhD.
Applying for a PhD at Wharton
While research piqued his interest, Marco was mindful of other career opportunities. Graduates from the MSc pursue a wide range of careers, from public sector positions in policy, government, and banking, to roles in investment banking, asset management, and consulting.
So before he launched himself straight into a PhD, he took up a six-month placement at the European Central Bank. “It wasn't research, but I saw that as an opportunity to see what the professional world looks like, so that I could make my decision in an even more informed way.”
Alongside this, Marco started to research and apply for PhD programs. He knew Wharton’s reputation for banking and finance, as well as being a top business school internationally.
He set his expectations low, aware that several of his other classmates were applying for the same program. But in February 2016, Marco received an acceptance email, and later that year, he set off to Philadelphia to start the program.
Five years on, Marco reflects on how well his Master’s prepared him for a PhD. Physically, it shows you what you can expect from the courses and structure of a PhD. Even the content was a relevant introduction, laying the foundation for quantitative methods and advanced statistics that he needed for his research.
And having tipped his toe into research methods during his time at Bocconi, he wasn’t overwhelmed by the initial research projects at Wharton.
All being well, Marco hopes to complete his PhD in Finance in Summer 2022. As for where it will lead him, Marco is less sure. But he still holds onto the same motivations for pursuing economics in his early academic career.”
“If I can use the tools to better understand what's going on in the world, and hopefully inform better policy making without political bias, then that will be great.”