PhD Program

The objective of the PhD program is to prepare candidates for a career in teaching and research by providing training to conduct theoretically informed and methodologically sophisticated state-of-the-art sociological research. Graduates from the program will be able to conduct independent research and to communicate their research in a variety of contexts. To this end, the program is designed to provide both a broad knowledge of the discipline and training in basic research. Students are expected to have acquired autonomy in conducting research, preparing scholarly publications, and participating in professional conferences.

These objectives are achieved through a combination of course work, participation in seminars, preparation of comprehensive examinations, paid work as research and teaching assistants, conference presentations, and supervised dissertation research.


We admit 12-15 students into the PhD program each year and typically have over 100 applications. To be admitted, you should have an MA in Sociology or a related degree from an accredited university with an overall average of at least A-.

The online admissions application opens on October 1st annually. The deadline for beginning the application process (with payment) is December 1st. The deadline to complete your application (upload all supporting documents) is December 15th. We do not make any exceptions for missing either deadline. Note that there is a $120 application fee.  See detailed information about the application process.

Although extremely rare, the Department may recommend admission directly after completion of a four year B.A. degree. Direct entry of this kind will only be recommended for outstanding students who have provided a clear and detailed plan for thesis research. Students who enter the doctoral program directly from a four-year B.A. will be required to take the three half-courses that are required at the M.A. level in addition to the standard Ph.D. requirements.

Program Requirements

The PhD program requires course work, successful completion of two comprehensive examinations, and the completion of a PhD Dissertation. Throughout their Ph.D. program, students are expected to be involved in professors’ projects. This work helps students gain first-hand experience in conducting research, from the formulation of the research question to the completion of the research paper. In most cases, students have the opportunity to present their work with professors at professional conferences and subsequently to publish this work.

Course work

Students in the program are required to have two years of residence and to complete 9 half-year courses (4.5 FCE). As part of their ten courses, students are required to take the following courses:
SOC 6101H Contemporary Sociological Theory
SOC 6707H Intermediate Data Analysis
SOC 6511H Professional Development Seminar I (taken in the Fall term of the first year PhD program)
SOC 6711Y Research Practicum

[A full-course (Y) counts as two half-courses.] If a student has already taken any of these courses at the graduate level, they may petition the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies to have other courses substituted.

Students may request to enroll in one non-departmental elective course by completing an Add/Drop form and submitting it for departmental approval.

Comprehensive Examinations

In addition to course work, students are required to take two comprehensive examinations in the two chosen major fields of sociology. The comprehensive examination helps students familiarize themselves with the literature in the field and synthesize the literature in order to address research issues, and it provides broad background preparation for teaching in the field in the future. Comprehensive exams may be taken in the following areas: Sociology of Crime and Law; Sociology of Culture; Environmental Sociology; Family; Gender; Health & Mental Health; Immigration and Ethnicity; Life Course and Aging; Political Sociology; Qualitative Methods and Quantitative Methods; Social Networks; Social Policy; Theory; Urban Sociology; Work, Stratification and Markets.

Faculty in each comprehensive area provide a reading list updated on a yearly basis. Reading lists are prepared and available for the eight core areas of specialization in the department (Sociology of Crime and Law; Sociology of Culture; Environmental Sociology; Family; Gender; Health & Mental Health; Immigration and Ethnicity; Political Sociology; Social Networks; and Work, Stratification and Markets) as well as theory and qualitative and quantitative methods. Area committees appoint three committee members to serve as the examining committee for a given year. Areas listed above without lists (Social Policy, Life Course & Aging, Urban Sociology) will have lists created on an adhoc basis when a student wishes to take an exam in this area. Students should notify the graduate director at least six months prior to the start of studying for the exams, so committees may be struck.

Click here to see current committees, reading lists and details of our comprehensive exam policy.

We advise students  to take core courses related to the fields in which they plan to be examined prior to taking the exam. These courses are designed to help students understand the major developments and debates in the field.

PhD Dissertation

In preparation for the Ph.D. thesis, Ph.D. candidates must demonstrate an adequate knowledge of a language other than English if an additional language is deemed essential for satisfactory completion of research for the thesis.

The final stage in the PhD process involves completing an independent dissertation research project with the supervision of a committee, normally composed of three members. This begins with a thesis proposal that students defend before their committee prior to beginning their research. The proposal and its defense should demonstrate the students’ knowledge, the importance of the proposed research questions, the strategies for exploring the questions, and the likelihood of completing the research in a reasonable time frame.

Following a successful PhD thesis proposal defense, students advance to the status of Doctoral Candidate and commence their dissertation research, analysis and writing, all in close consultation with their committee members. Upon completion of the research project the final oral exam is scheduled. Once both the candidate and the committee is pleased with the dissertation, they schedule a Ph.D. oral exam. This marks the final step in completing the PhD program.

Collaborative Specializations

Some students choose to broaden their doctoral program by participating in a collaborative program. Students wishing to do so must apply to both Sociology and the collaborative program for admissions. In order to participate in any collaborative program, students must first be admitted to the Sociology Department.  We offer collaborative programs at the PhD level with: