Prospective Students FAQ

What exactly is ICES? Is it a part of the Economics Department?

ICES is a research center affiliated with the Economics department, and its faculty conduct research using the methods of experimental economics. We are located on the Arlington campus of George Mason, as opposed to the Fairfax campus which houses the rest of the Economics department.

Can I enter the Mason PhD program and then join ICES later?

Yes. Any Mason PhD student is welcome to take our classes at any time. But in order to receive ICES funding, you must be accepted into the ICES program. This can be done on your initial application to the Mason PhD program, or later after you have already entered the program. Be aware, though, that we are selective and not all applications are accepted, even from current Mason PhD students.

What is experimental economics? How is it different from other kinds of economics?

Experimental economics is now a well-recognized method in economics, and experimental papers are published routinely in top economics journals. Research in experimental economics often involves recruiting subjects to come to a lab to make choices in decision-making situations we have designed and which we then study. Other times it involves recruiting firms or government agencies to run an experiment in the field. It always involves actively gathering data under conditions that we create as experimenters, as opposed to gathering naturally-occurring data, such as stock prices or unemployment figures. Our control over these conditions, and the ability to create necessary counterfactuals, allow us, in some cases, to answer questions that are difficult to address with naturally-occurring data.

All ICES students get a lot of training focused on experimental economics, so it may be difficult for you to switch later to a non-experimental field. However, remember that experiments are a method, not a topic. You can use experiments to study a wide range of subjects, and we encourage students to apply experimental methods to any question in Economics that interests them.

I’m really interested in studying experimental economics. What are the benefits of studying at ICES?

We aim to get students involved in research and experimental lab work as early as possible. You will have lab shifts from the moment you arrive on campus. Since all our faculty and students do experimental work, you will have a large community of like-minded scholars interested in the same questions as you, and often with answers for problems you’re struggling with.
When thinking about PhD programs, you should consider how long it will take before you are eligible to participate in lab research, and also the number of professors to choose from as advisors for your experimental research. We believe you will find ICES compares favorably in these important dimensions.

Would my PhD be in Economics?

Yes, our graduates have PhDs in Economics, with Experimental Economics as one of their fields.

What kind of job placement can I expect if I graduate as an ICES-affiliated student?

We aim to place every one of our graduates in jobs at research universities. In this, we have been remarkably successful. Because our program is small, our faculty can focus a lot of attention on teaching and co-authoring with students, and then placing the handful of graduates we have on the market every year. As a program focused on experimental economics, we have established a strong brand as leaders in the field. As a graduate, you get to share in the value of that brand.

What kind of courses should I have taken to be a successful student at ICES?

Our courses demand the same training in mathematics and statistics required by other top PhD programs in Economics. You should already have a strong understanding of calculus and basic statistics. If you have done some real analysis or linear algebra, this will help you as well. If you come in a little behind, we will do our best to help you catch up, but be prepared to work hard.