Sociology, PhD—Advanced Entry

The PhD program is designed to attract students who wish to develop a broad base of sociological knowledge, such as would equip students to embark on academic careers in leading institutions of higher education. The PhD program boasts a wide array of curricular strengths and diverse methodological offerings, all of which draw upon the department’s emphasis on the study of social inequalities along lines of race, class, and gender. Faculty expertise ranges widely from domestic U.S. concerns to issues that affect groups, regions, and societies on a global scale.

The PhD program is organized around four key areas of specialization.

In addition to the graduate courses offered in the areas of specialization, the program provides a strong foundation in both theory (classical and contemporary) and methods (quantitative and qualitative). Reflecting the program’s distinctive emphasis on social inequalities, students are required to select a core elective in this field, choosing from a list of approved courses maintained by the department (e.g., a course on the social psychology of stratification or a seminar in social inequality). As students complete their core requirements, they also work closely with individual faculty members to advance their work within one of the department’s standing areas of concentration. Students also have the right to petition to construct their own areas of specialization (pending departmental approval) and have completed area examinations in a host of subfields. Among these are environmental justice, political economy of global capitalism, theoretical criminology, feminist theory, political sociology, social psychology, sociology of violence, and immigration, among many others.  

The PhD program is designed to admit relatively small numbers of graduate students each year, which affords students the opportunity to forge close working relationships with the faculty. Our faculty and graduate students work together in a number of interdisciplinary research projects, programs, and centers, including the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute; the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict; the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy; the Institute on Urban Health Research and PracticeEnvironmental Justice Research Collaborative, the Institute on Race and Justice, and the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program. Many of the faculty in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology have additional interests and are affiliated with other departments on campus, including environmental studies; law, policy, and society; Latino, Latin American, and Caribbean studies; African-American studies; international affairs; Jewish studies; and criminal justice. Students who wish to work with faculty in other disciplines are encouraged to enlist the aid of the sociology graduate program director or their advisers in contacting individual faculty members.           


Students admitted with a master's degree in sociology from another institution may be exempt from taking the theory exam but may be required to do some additional course work in theory and methods. For students admitted with a master's degree in a field other than sociology, the theory exam requirement and supplementary course work requirements will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Please note that all applicants for the doctoral program are required to submit a writing sample. The writing sample should consist of written materials that demonstrate students' capacity for scholarship at the doctoral level. (Copies of several course or term papers or a copy of a master’s thesis or paper are appropriate.)   

Theory Examination

Students entering the graduate program must take a theory qualifying examination at the conclusion of their first year of study during the spring semester. The theory qualifying examination is a standard exam taken by all students in the same cohort. The exam is graded on a pass/fail basis. Students who fail the examination may take it a second time but will not be allowed to enroll for course work beyond the 30-semester-hour MA requirement or their first year of PhD residence (whichever case applies) until successfully completing the qualifying exam. Students who fail the examination on their second attempt will be asked to leave the program. In the latter case, a student may petition the graduate committee for a review of the student’s record and performance in the program.

Degree Candidacy

To enter into degree candidacy, the student must have earned a Master of Arts degree or its departmental semester hour’s equivalent, passed the qualifying examination, established a graduate committee of three faculty members from the sociology department, and successfully completed the candidacy examination.      

Course Requirements

Students entering the PhD program from another university will be required to take the core requirements courses unless they can provide evidence of the completion of equivalent courses during their master’s degree work. Credits earned for master’s-level core requirements cannot be counted toward the doctorate.

  • (SOCL 7210) 
  • Research Methods (SOCL 7211) 
  • Foundations of Social Theory 1 (SOCL 7200) 
  • Foundations of Social Theory 2 (SOCL 7201)               

Doctoral candidates are also required to complete two advanced methods classes from a list of approved courses maintained by the department. Finally, doctoral students must take a course in the area of social inequality, choosing from a list of approved courses maintained by the department.  

A minimum of 28 semester hours of graduate work beyond the master’s degree is required.

Once students complete doctoral course work, they will register for the following courses in the following sequence:

  • Exam Preparation—Doctoral (SOCL 8960) The semester following completion of course work, students will register for Exam Preparation. During this semester, students should complete their first comprehensive exam. Students only register for Exam Preparation once. Even if a student is unable to complete their first comprehensive exam during this time frame, they will not register for Exam Preparation again.
  • Research (SOCL 9986)  The next semester, students will register for Research, during which their second comprehensive examination should be completed. Upon completion of both comprehensive examinations, students will have achieved PhD degree candidacy, be certified by the graduate office, and will have five years to complete the dissertation.
  • Dissertation (SOCL 9990) Upon achieving PhD degree candidacy, students will register for two consecutive semesters of Dissertation, during which they should complete and defend their dissertation proposal.
  • Dissertation Continuation (SOCL 9996)  Following the successful defense of their dissertation proposal, students will register for Dissertation Continuation for their remaining semesters until the dissertation is approved by the graduate office and submitted electronically to Proquest.

Students do not have to register for Dissertation Continuation during the summer unless that is when their dissertation defense occurs.

Complete all courses and requirements listed below unless otherwise indicated.


Qualifying examination or waiver
Annual review
Two field comprehensive examinations
Dissertation committee
Dissertation proposal
Dissertation defense

Core Requirements

Core Course
SOCL 7263Social Psychology of Stratification4
Advanced Methods
Complete 8 semester hours from the following:8
Quantitative Analysis
Seminar in Qualitative Analysis
Qualitative Methods
Advanced Topics in Methods
Qualitative Methods in Health and Illness
Techniques of Program Evaluation


Complete 16 semester hours in the following subject area: 16


Exam Preparation
Required for students who have completed coursework but have yet to complete the comprehensive exam. Not repeatable. Required for students who must maintain full-time status while completing thesis or comprehensive exam.
Exam Preparation—Doctoral
Complete the following (repeatable) course twice:
Dissertation Continuation
Following completion of two semesters of SOCL 9990, registration in the following class is required in each semester (including the summer if the dissertation is submitted in summer) until the dissertation is completed:
Dissertation Continuation

Program Credit/GPA Requirements

28 total semester hours required
Minimum 3.000 GPA required