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Learn to examine society’s most pressing issues by pursuing one of the Best PhDs in Sociology, then become a researcher or professor.
Sociology is the study of social relationships and institutions. It explores topics including religion, culture, education, crime, family, gender, sexuality, social change, inequality, and much more. Sociologists use a variety of research methods to understand and analyze social issues and the social processes that shape human lives.
By earning a Ph.D. in Sociology, you’ll learn to think critically, evaluate, analyze, and communicate effectively. You’ll also learn to ask and answer insightful research questions that expand our understanding of people and society. After completing your degree, you’ll be prepared to work in academia or for a government organization, nonprofit, business, or public policy agency.
Whether you want to conduct research at a top think tank or teach courses at a nationally ranked university, earning a Ph.D. from one of these programs will help you reach your goals.
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What kind of Ph.D. in Sociology should you get?
Some universities offer specialized degrees in sociology, like NYU’s Ph.D. in Sociology of Education. At most universities, you’ll declare one or two areas of specialization. Your options generally depend on the expertise and research interests of the faculty. As you browse the PhDs listed here, pay attention to the specializations offered. Try to choose a program that aligns with your interests in the field.
Although most Ph.D. programs are on campus, some programs are available online. Online programs give you the convenience and flexibility to work around your schedule. If you’re interested in pursuing an online degree, browse our list of the Best Online Colleges and Universities.
How much money do people make with a Ph.D. in Sociology?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a sociologist is $82,050. High-level employment in research institutes think tanks, and private and government agencies may offer higher pay.
Graduates with a Ph.D. in Sociology may also teach courses and conduct scholarly research at universities. According to PayScale, the average salary for a full-time professor is $99,712. Of course, this salary may vary widely depending on the university.
Jobs for sociologists are projected to show little to no growth over the next decade. However, the demand for professors is expected to grow at a rate of 15%, which is much faster than average.
What can you do with a Ph.D. in Sociology?
Most graduates with a Ph.D. in Sociology teach at liberal arts colleges and research universities. There, you will continue your scholarly research while also teaching college courses. You will be expected to continue publishing your work in journals or even books.
Another option is to work as a researcher for institutes, government agencies, nonprofits, businesses, and public policy organizations. A master’s degree will suffice for some of these positions. However, most high-level roles with good promotion prospects require a Ph.D. in the field.
What are the requirements for a Ph.D. in Sociology?
Typically, you will only need a bachelor’s degree to enter a Ph.D. program in Sociology. You will earn your MA in Sociology as you complete requirements for the Ph.D. If you already have a master’s degree, you may be able to complete the Ph.D. program at a faster pace.
Requirements for a Ph.D. generally include coursework in sociological theory, methodology, and statistics. You’ll develop a general foundation in these areas, then acquire an advanced level of knowledge in at least one area of specialization. Other requirements may include passing a qualifying examination, writing papers and/or submitting them for publication, and devising and completing a reading list in your area(s) of specialization.
After completing these requirements, you advance from Ph.D. candidate to Ph.D. student. You will then need to write and defend a dissertation, a process that takes 1-2 years. In total, you should expect to spend five-seven years completing your Ph.D.
What are the best PhDs in Sociology?
The 30 schools listed below offer the best PhDs in Sociology. To compile this list, we’ve considered factors like tuition costs, return on investment, and school reputation. In addition, every school on this list is accredited, and many are nationally ranked.
All data comes from sources like:
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- U.S. News & World Report
- Princeton Review
- Official university websites and course catalogs
Earning your Ph.D. in Sociology is a major investment, so it’s natural that you want the best of the best. Choose any program on this list, and you’ll gain the skills and knowledge you need for long-term success in the field.
Top PhD in Sociology
New York, NYTuition
Established in 1754, Columbia University is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York. The private Ivy League research university located in Upper Manhattan and ranked No. 3 among national universities by U.S. News & World Report. Columbia enrolls over 32,000 students and offers a comprehensive array of academic programs. The campus features 25 libraries and more than 100 research centers and institutes. Columbia’s Department of Sociology offers a Ph.D.
The Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program prepares academic sociologists who are grounded in the discipline of sociology, knowledgeable about critical debates in at least one field, capable of designing and carrying out research projects, able to present results in written and oral form, and ready to teach courses. To earn a Ph.D., students must submit a grant/fellowship application for a research project, write a field statement, present a paper at a conference, and submit a paper to a scholarly journal. Courses include:
- Sociological Theory
- Introductory Social Data Analysis
- Designs of Social Research
- Advanced theory course and advanced methods course
- Graduate Research Practicum
The typical trajectory through Columbia’s program includes the awarding of the MA after the second year, the M.Phil. degree after the third year, and ABD – All But Dissertation – status during the fourth year. Some students receive “Advanced Standing” equivalent to the awarding of the MA degree and are able to progress through the program more rapidly.
Founded in 1838, Duke University is a highly ranked private research university in Durham, NC. Duke enrolls more than 15,000 students, who are required to live on campus for the first three years. The school offers many student activities and traditions, as well as more than 400 clubs and organizations. Although best known for its professional schools, Duke has over 100 widely regarded degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. You may be interested in Duke’s Ph.D. in Sociology.
Duke’s challenging and rigorous Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program has a reputation for placing graduates in excellent positions in academia and elsewhere. Students benefit from an intensive program of study, a supportive research environment, and collaboration with Duke’s productive and diverse faculty. Requirements include coursework, professional development, exams and milestones, and the dissertation. Coursework includes:
- Two courses on theory
- Two courses on statistics
- Two courses on methods
- Statistics “boot camp” prior to the start of classes
- Nine electives, including two methods electives
Exams and milestones consist of a first-year essay exam, qualification for two specialty areas, and the preliminary exam. The preliminary exam is a defense of the dissertation proposal. This exam leads to an MA degree and marks the transition from Ph.D. student to Ph.D. candidate. The final requirement for the Ph.D. is the dissertation, which may be article-style or book-style.
A private Ivy League university in Cambridge, MA, Harvard University is one of the most recognized and renowned names in higher education. It was established in 1636 and currently serves 36,102 students in total. Harvard is ranked No. 2 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Alumni include 48 Nobel laureates, 32 heads of state, and 48 Pulitzer Prize winners. The university’s world-class learning opportunities include a Ph.D. in Sociology.
Students in the Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program at Harvard develop strong proficiency in both social theory and research methods, with opportunities to develop their own interests. The program includes a sequence of required courses on theory and theory construction. Students also take courses on advanced statistics and qualitative methods. Students are trained in several subfields of sociology related to faculty expertise, including:
- Social stratification and inequality
- Economic sociology
- Political sociology
- Cultural analysis
- Comparative/historical sociology
Applicants must submit a sample of recent written work, such as a master’s essay, term paper, or senior thesis. Program graduates are prepared for scholarly and applied research and for teaching. Harvard also offers a Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Behavior and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior.
Iowa State UniversityLocation
Located in Ames, Iowa, Iowa State University is a public research university. The school’s mission is to make Iowa and the world a better place, and it’s considered the most student-centered university of its kind. The largest university in the state, ISU serves over 36,000 students who stay active in 800 organizations, research, internships, and study abroad programs. ISU is home to ten schools and colleges, 100 majors, and a range of graduate programs, including a Ph.D. in Sociology.
Graduate students in ISU’s Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program develop the ability to conduct original, creative, and relevant research. Students develop an integrated grasp of the field while working toward intellectual independence. They conduct independent and group research under the direction of faculty members, and exploration is encouraged. Requirements include:
- Core coursework
- Yearly evaluation by faculty
- Written and oral preliminary examination
- Dissertation proposal
- Dissertation defense
The program is generally completed in five to seven years. ISU’s Sociology department offers excellent training in classical and contemporary theory and a range of advanced methods and data analysis. The program offers award-winning education in three key areas of research: Social and Economic Disparities; Agriculture, Environment, and Development; and Criminology and Criminal Justice.
Johns Hopkins UniversityLocation
Founded in 1876, Johns Hopkins University was America’s first research university and continues to revolutionize higher education and bring important discoveries to the world. The private research university in Baltimore enrolls more than 24,000 students across nine academic divisions. Students choose from over 260 academic programs in the arts, humanities, sciences, engineering, education, business, and health professions. Ranked a Top 10 University nationally by U.S. News & World Report, Johns Hopkins offers a respected Ph.D. in Sociology.
Students in the Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program at Johns Hopkins University build foundational knowledge of social theory, sociological analysis, and methods and statistics. In addition to the core curriculum and elective courses, students complete a research apprenticeship, a teaching assistantship, and a dissertation. Beyond these requirements, students are free to customize their graduate training under the supervision of their advisors. Potential courses include:
- Theories of Society
- Sociological Analysis
- Linear Models for the Social Sciences
- Categorical Data Analysis and Selected Topics
- Research Designs for Causal Inference and Mixed Methods
All required courses must be completed with a grade of B minus or higher. By the end of the spring semester of the third year, students must have completed an approved Trial Research Paper. With the exception of the dissertation, all requirements must be completed by the end of the spring semester of the fourth year.
Michigan State UniversityLocation
East Lansing, MITuition
Starting in 1855 when Michigan State University was founded as a prototype for land-grant universities, the school has a strong tradition as an innovative pioneer. The public university in East Lansing, MI, is ranked No. 33 in the nation and No. 100 globally. It’s also a Top 40 Best Value public college. MSU enrolls more than 50,000 students and offers over 200 academic programs, including a Ph.D. in Sociology.
In the Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program at MSU, students are prepared for careers in academia and the public and private sectors. The program generally takes five years to complete, but students with advanced research portfolios can sometimes graduate within four years. Requirements include:
- Core courses/elective courses
- Workshop attendance
- Qualifying paper
- Comprehensive examination
- Dissertation proposal defense and dissertation defense
MSU’s Department of Sociology is especially strong in three signature areas: Environment, Health and Medicine, and Migration. Students may also enhance their training with certificates in topics like Animal Studies; Chicano/Latino Studies; Environmental Science and Policy; Gender, Justice, and Environmental Change; and Women’s Studies. A hallmark of the program is its working relationships with a variety of other disciplines.
New York UniversityLocation
New York, NYTuition
One of the largest universities in the nation, New York University is a private research university serving more than 50,000 students. Since being founded in 1831, NYU has expanded to campuses in New York City, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai, as well as study-away sites on six continents. NYU promotes diversity, creativity, and enriching intellectual and cultural experiences. The university offers more than 400 excellent academic programs, including a Ph.D. in Sociology of Education.
NYU’s Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology of Education prepares students to think sociologically and effectively using the research methods of sociology. They learn to analyze educational problems and issues using the knowledge and concepts of sociology. Students work with an adviser to develop their course of study. They complete substantive coursework, school requirements, a comprehensive examination, and a dissertation. Courses include:
- An Introduction to the Sociology of Education
- The Sociology of Urban Life and Education
- Sociology of Higher Education
- Education as a Social Institution
- Planned Change in Organizational Settings
NYU’s Ph.D. program is 48 credits for students who matriculate with an MA and 65 credits for students who matriculate with a BA only. To advance to candidacy, students must pass a comprehensive oral exam on core books and articles in the field of educational sociology, in addition to a list of readings in the student’s area of specialization.
Based in Evanston, IL, Northwestern University is one of the nation’s leading private research universities. It’s committed to excellent teaching, innovative research, and the intellectual and personal growth of students. 21,000 students are enrolled across 12 schools and colleges and benefit from over 500 organizations and clubs. According to U.S. News & World Report, Northwestern is one of the Top Ten Universities nationally. Among the school’s exceptional programs is a Ph.D. in Sociology.
Students in Northwestern’s Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program developed an individualized program of study and research. During the first year, students take courses on a variety of theories and methods. The second-year revolves around seminars, workshops, and independent research. Students write a field essay to demonstrate their grasp of their third-year subfield. Work then focuses on the dissertation, workshops, and research seminars. Courses include:
- Classical Theory in Sociological Analysis
- Contemporary Theory in Sociological Analysis
- Stratification, Race, and Gender
- Seminar on College Teaching
- Topics in Sociological Analysis: War and Society
Northwestern’s Department of Sociology is one of the top sociology departments in the nation. However, there is virtually no area of sociological inquiry that students cannot pursue. Nearly all graduates move into academic or research positions.
Ohio State UniversityLocation
Ohio’s highest-ranked public university, Ohio State University is also ranked among the Top 20 public universities nationally. OSU is a large university that enrolls more than 67,000 students who choose from over 200 academic programs. Located in Columbus, Ohio, the university offers something for everyone. In addition to top-notch academic programs, offerings include entertainment like sports, food, art, history, and more. The spirited school also offers a Ph.D. in Sociology.
The Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology at Ohio State University offers a thorough grounding in theory, methods, and statistics while allowing students to pursue their individual interests in sociology. Students learn to ask questions, collect and analyze data, and advance knowledge on issues that are critical to societies. Graduates are prepared for positions in academia, government, business, and research organizations. Requirements include:
- MA thesis and minimum of ten graduate courses in Sociology
- Six additional courses at the Ph.D. level
- Candidacy examination (written and oral)
- Dissertation proposal and dissertation defense
OSU’s research facilities are among the finest in the country, and both faculty and students conduct innovative research and publish books and articles in top journals in the field. The department is best known for scholarship and training in Comparative Social Change; Crime and Community; Gender, Race, Work, and Inequality; and Population, Health, and Life Course.
Pennsylvania State UniversityLocation
Commonly known as Penn State, Pennsylvania State University is a public university in Centre County, PA. The school was founded in 1855 and is ranked No. 14 among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. Penn State enrolls 100,000 students across 24 campuses and offers more than 275 degree programs. Known for expert research and innovation, Penn State encourages creativity and collaboration. The school’s Top-20-ranked sociology department offers a Ph.D. in Sociology.
In the first two years of Penn State’s Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program, students develop an area of interest and learn how to ask insightful research questions and design investigations. By the end of the second year, they’ve launched a project and written a publishable paper. As students complete formal coursework and select their areas of concentration, their dissertations begin to take shape. Areas of concentration include:
- Families, Relationships, and Interpersonal Networks
- Social Institutions and Culture
- Urban, Community, and Spatial Sociology
- Health and Life Course
Students may also choose Demography or Social Inequality as major or minor areas of concentration. During the third year of the program, students formulate a reading list that will serve as the basis for their written and oral examination. They begin writing their doctoral prospectus, and formal training concludes with the dissertation defense. Penn State provides two summer workshops on the job search process, and students participate in mock interviews.
Ranked the best university in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, Princeton University is a world-class research institution with extraordinary resources, teaching, and career development. It’s located in Princeton, NJ, and was founded in 1746. The notably beautiful campus is home to just over 8,000 students. Princeton’s graduate students work closely with distinguished faculty and have demonstrated success in launching exceptional careers. One graduate option is a Ph.D. in Sociology.
The course of study in Princeton’s Doctor of Philosophy program in Sociology is geared toward two goals. Students develop a solid foundation in sociological analysis, including theory, research methods, and social statistics. They also learn to make significant contributions to sociological literature, as evidenced by a major research paper, mastery of knowledge in specialized fields, and the dissertation. In addition, students complete courses like:
- Classical Sociological Theory
- Contemporary Sociological Theory
- Techniques and Methods of Social Science
- Research Ethics and Scientific Inquiry
- Research Seminar in Empirical Investigation
Princeton’s program is primarily designed for students interested in academia, but it’s also oriented toward students seeking employment in the government or private sector. Students work on independent research projects. Often this is done with close aid from the faculty. For instance, faculty often curate their coursework and mentoring style to aid in these specific research experiences.
Rutgers University is a public university in New Brunswick, NJ. Chartered in 1766, Rutgers is New Jersey’s state university. The school enrolls more than 70,000 students and is ranked a Top 5 public university in the northeast. It’s a standout in diversity, innovation, and providing access to higher education. Rutgers awards more than 17,500 degrees annually across 29 schools and colleges. One Rutgers degree is a Ph.D. in Sociology.
Rutger’s Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology prepares scholars for successful careers in academic and applied settings. Initial courses focus on theoretical issues, research methods, and statistics. Training then shifts to more interactive learning, with seminars, individual research, and the selection of an area – or areas – of specialization. Students take a qualifying examination and write a dissertation. You’ll complete courses such as:
- Sociology of Environmental Health
- Space, Place, Inequality
- Statistical Methods in Sociology
- Cultural Sociology
- Contemporary Theory
The goal of this program is to help students develop a distinct sociological voice while becoming creative and competent working sociologists. Writing is heavily emphasizes, and students write two article-length papers before beginning the dissertation. They are encouraged to develop papers and articles based on original scholarly work. Most students complete the program with one or more peer-reviewed publications, some in leading journals in the field.
Located in Stanford, CA, Stanford is a private research university that was founded in 1891. According to U.S. News & World Report, Stanford is among the Top 10 universities in the nation. It’s known for innovation, discovery, world-class faculty, and boundless opportunities. The university enrolls 16,424 students and offers more than 90 graduate fields of study, including a Ph.D. in Sociology.
Stanford’s Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program prides itself on cutting-edge research programs and world-class faculty who work in close proximity with students. The program is committed to highly analytical sociology. Students learn a variety of methods designed to answer pressing empirical questions and advance important debates. Core requirements include:
- Two courses in sociological theory
- A series of courses in methodology, as well as one methods elective
- Four survey courses
- Two qualifying exams
- Third-year paper, two presented papers, and a dissertation
Students also attend workshops, complete the Sociology Colloquium (a semi-monthly seminar), take 60 units of sociology coursework over the first two academic years, and complete three-quarters of teaching apprenticeship in departmental courses. Three-quarters of research experience is required as well. Graduates are well-positioned to be leaders in the field.
Stony Brook UniversityLocation
Stony Brook, NYTuition
An internationally recognized public research institution, Stony Brook University is located in Stony Brook, NY. The university has been named a Top 50 public university by U.S. News & World Report. In addition to providing academic excellence, SBU also provides affordability and value. It’s ranked a Top 35 Best Value Public College by both Kiplinger and Money Magazine. Stony Brook enrolls more than 26,000 students and offers over 45 graduate programs, including a Ph.D. in Sociology.
Students in the nationally ranked Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program at SBU learn the best methods available to explore the most pressing research questions. The program emphasizes global sociology, and students take courses in theory, statistics, and methods. They write a theoretical/empirical paper and an analytical review of the literature, complete a supervised teaching experience and preliminary exam, and defend their dissertation. Areas of faculty expertise include:
- International development
Students also have the opportunity to take courses at NYU, Columbia University, CUNY, and other nearby universities. They may complete certificates in programs such as African Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexualities Studies, among others. Graduates are placed in elite universities, teaching schools, and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.
Texas A&M UniversityLocation
Texas A&M is a public research-intensive flagship university in College Station, Texas. Founded in 1876, the university is known for an extensive and impressive alumni network and its low-price, high-quality academic programs. The main campus is home to over 64,000 students, with an additional 5,200 enrolled across four branch campuses and education centers. Texas A&M offers more than 350 degree programs, including a Ph.D. in Sociology.
Texas A&M’s Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program facilitates completion of the Ph.D. within five years of full-time study. The program provides candidates with a comprehensive knowledge of a specific field, as well as training in research methods. Candidates also develop the ability to express thoughts clearly and persuasively in oral and written language. The student creates a degree plan and outlines a research problem in consultation with an advisory committee. Potential coursework includes:
- Comparative Historical Methods
- Seminar in Social Organizations
- Political Sociology
- Measurement of Sociological Parameters
- Sociology of Culture
Ph.D. students must pass a written and oral preliminary examination in focusing on their competence in a major area of concentration and a minor area of concentration in sociology and write a dissertation. Students also take a final examination focused on the dissertation and closely allied topics, with some questions covering the broad field of the candidate’s training.
University at AlbanyLocation
The State University of New York at Albany, commonly known as the University at Albany, is a public research university in New York’s capital city. The school is home to more than 17,000 students. UA offers more than 125 graduate programs. Many of these are ranked in Top 50 national listings by U.S. News & World Report, which includes the program in sociology.
The Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology at SUNY Albany emphasizes theory, research methodology, and the development of two specialization areas. Requirements include 60 credits of formal coursework, satisfaction of a research methods requirement, a comprehensive exam in the two specialization areas, a research tool and teaching tool requirement, and the doctoral dissertation. Required courses include:
- Research Methods
- Sociological Theories
- Intermediate Statistics
- Orientation to Sociology
- Multivariate Analysis
Areas for the comprehensive examination include Aging/Social Gerontology, Children and Youth, Collective Behavior/Social Movements, Comparative/Historical Sociology, Criminology/Deviance, Economic Sociology, Family, Gender, Migration and Immigration, Political Sociology, Sexuality, Urban Sociology, and more.
University of ArizonaLocation
Based in Tucson, AZ, the University of Arizona is a nationally ranked public research university. U.S. News & World Report places UA among the Top 50 Public Universities in the nation. Established in 1885, UA is the state’s land-grant university and a leader in research and economic impact. The university serves about 45,000 students and is best known for innovative research, quality career preparation, and excellent value. UA offers a Ph.D. in Sociology.
The School of Sociology offers a Ph.D. that prepares students for careers in teaching and research. 53 total credits are required for the Ph.D., plus 18 dissertation credits. Students participate in four substantive seminars, an elective course in advanced methods, and core courses on the basic theories and methods of sociological inquiry. Students choose a concentration in one or more areas, such as:
- Economic Sociology
- Health and Medicine
- Law and Society
Other concentration options include Organizations, Political Sociology, Social Inequality, and Social Networks. Faculty consists of senior members who are nationally and internationally acknowledged experts in the field. The school is recognized as one of the top programs in the nation, and graduates are competitive in national labor markets and well-prepared for lifetime careers in sociology.
University of CaliforniaLocation
The University of California Los Angeles is a public research university in Los Angeles. Founded in 1919, it’s the second-oldest of the ten-campus University of California system. UCLA is ranked first in the nation among public schools by U.S. News & World Report and 19th in the nation overall. The most applied-to university in the nation, UCLA enrolls 45,507 students and offers nearly 150 graduate programs. One of UCLA’s esteemed graduate programs is a Ph.D. in Sociology.
UCLA’s Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology is known for its breadth and depth. The program spans the full scope of the discipline, including conversation analysis, ethnomethodology, mathematical sociology, and more. While receiving rigorous training in both qualitative and quantitative methods, students are quickly moved into research and professional activities. Courses include:
- Computational Sociology
- Ethnographic Methodology
- Political Sociology
- Sociology of Culture
- Social Stratification and Social Mobility
Students take two specialized field examinations. If performance is satisfactory, students may nominate a doctoral committee and take the University Oral Qualifying Examination. The examination covers general sociology, the student’s specific fields, and the dissertation proposal. If the exam is passed and the dissertation proposal approved, the student advances to doctoral candidacy. Candidates must complete the approved dissertation and may be required to defend it.
University of CaliforniaLocation
Recognized as one of the Top 15 Research Universities Worldwide, the University of California San Diego has a culture of collaboration and creativity that sparks discovery. The main campus is located in La Jolla on 1,200 acres of coastal woodland near the Pacific Ocean. Founded in 1960, UC San Diego has a student population of 38,798 diverse learners who are both academically exceptional and socially conscious. The school offers a Ph.D. in Sociology.
The Doctor of Philosophy program at UC San Diego is organized around programs of specialization in comparative and historical sociology, the sociology of culture, social inequalities, and science, technology, and medicine. Students are prepared to teach sociology at the undergraduate and graduate level and to contribute to the increase of knowledge about societies, advancing the discipline of sociology. You can expect to take courses like:
- Intro Methods/Epistemology
- Field Methods
- Social Stratification
- Social Movements
- Advanced Theory
Requirements include coursework, first-year evaluation, second-year evaluation, two field exams, and the dissertation. Students must be advanced to candidacy within four years, and it generally takes six years to complete the degree. Most program graduates accept teaching and research positions in colleges and universities, while some also work in non-academic research and social policy positions.
University of California-BerkeleyLocation
More commonly known as UC Berkeley, the University of California Berkeley is a public research university in Berkeley, CA. Founded in 1868, it’s the flagship institution of the University of California System. U.S. News & World Report ranks UC Berkeley the best public school in the nation. The university serves over 40,000 students and boasts an 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio. UC Berkeley offers a Ph.D. in Sociology.
Berkeley’s Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program has been carefully designed to offer a rich and thorough sociological education while giving students space to develop and pursue their own ideas. The graduate program consists of three phases. The first phase acquaints students with sociological theory and methods, takes two years, and culminates in the MA degree. The second phase involves further coursework on two subfields and culminates in the Qualifying Examination. The third phase is the dissertation. Students are expected to complete all work in six years. Potential courses include:
- Advanced Study in Sociology Theory: Classical Sociological Theory
- Advanced Study in Sociology Theory: Contemporary Sociological Theory
- Supervised Preparatory Coursework: Social Stratification and Class Analysis
- Quantitative/Statistical Research Methods in Social Sciences
- Advanced Study in Substantive Sociological Fields: Sociology of Work
U.S. News & World Report ranks Berkeley’s program the best sociology graduate program in the nation. Graduates work research institutes, businesses, governments, nonprofits, and universities. Recent graduates hold faculty positions at Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern, Columbia, Cornell, MIT, Georgetown, and many more. Graduates are frequently awarded for producing the best dissertations in sociology, and many publish them as books.
University of California-DavisLocation
Located in the vibrant college town of Davis, the University of California Davis is ranked No. 12 among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. Since opening its doors in 1908, UC Davis has been a standout for academics, innovative problem-solving, and hands-on learning leading to exciting career opportunities. The university enrolls more than 35,000 students, offering 102 majors and 101 graduate programs, including a Ph.D. in Sociology.
UC Davis boasts a highly ranked Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program with a pluralistic vision of the field. Students choose individualized themes and immerse themselves in rigorous preparation in sociological theory and research methods. Students are encouraged to begin active research early in their careers, with an emphasis on researching issues that challenge the state, nation, and world. Possible specializations include:
- Family and Kinship
- Culture, Religion, and Ideology
- Law, Deviance, Criminology, and Social Control
- Political Economy/Development/Economic sociology
- Social Movements and Collective Behavior
Additionally, students may choose to pursue a designated emphasis in Critical Theory, Feminist Theory, Science and Technology Studies, or African American and African Studies. Students and faculty have excellent records of research awards, grants, and publication. Students pursue their own dissertation projects based on a strong foundation in theory, method, and substantive areas of sociology.
University of California-Santa BarbaraLocation
Santa Barbara, CATuition
The University of California Santa Barbara is a public research university that is also strong in the liberal arts. Founded in 1891, UC Santa Barbara has grown to enroll more than 24,000 students and offer over 200 academic programs. The university is ranked No. 5 among public schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and prides itself on programs that stimulate independent thought and creativity. One of these engaging programs is a Ph.D. in Sociology.
UC Santa Barbara’s Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program provides students with comprehensive knowledge of sociological research and theory, as well as mastery of one or more sub-disciplines within the field. Students are prepared to conduct research, teach college courses, clearly communicate scholarly ideas, and more. They develop their own research projects and produce scholarship that contributes to the field. Potential sub-disciplines include:
- Feminist Studies
- Race, Ethnicity, and Nation
- Global Studies
- Revolutions and Social Change
- Justice, Law, and Inequality
Graduates have gone on to top jobs at other universities and numerous research, policy, and activist professions. The programs are often a unique blend of sociology, activism, and social justice. Students in the top-tier sociology program work with world-renowned faculty both within and outside of the department, as interdisciplinarity is accepted and encouraged.
University of ChicagoLocation
The University of Chicago is a private research university founded in 1890 in Chicago. UChicago is known for its commitment to free and open inquiry, which drives ideas and innovation from students and faculty. The university boasts 91 Nobel Prize winners, including six currently faculty. At UChicago, over 16,000 students choose from a range of internationally recognized programs rooted in collaboration and investigation. The university offers a Ph.D. in Sociology.
Students in UChicago’s Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program generally earn a master’s degree as part of the Ph.D. program. In early years, they’re engaged primarily in coursework. Later, they focus on independent research and examinations. The comprehensive program provides students with a foundation the various subfields. Students complete required courses like:
- Principles of Sociological Research
- History of Social Theory
- Colloquium: Research Questions and Design
- Writing Seminars
- Statistical Methods of Research
Coursework for UChicago’s Ph.D. program is to be completed in two to three years, with all requirements for candidacy met by Autumn of a student’s fourth year. Additional requirements include MA Examinations, Qualifying Paper, Special Field Requirement, and the dissertation. The full degree can be completed in five to seven years, depending on the student’s dissertation.
University of FloridaLocation
A Top 10 Public University in Gainesville, FL, the University of Florida is known for both academic excellence and affordable tuition. The university also boasts strong athletic teams, an expansive and spirited alumni network, and a wide variety of organizations, clubs, and resources for students. The 2,000-acre campus is home to over 900 buildings. UF enrolls more than 52,000 students who choose from more than 300 academic programs, including a Ph.D. in Sociology.
UF’s Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program consists of 90 semester hours beyond the BA. Students develop an individualized plan of study with the supervisory committee chair. All students must explore core ideas in methods, theory, statistics, and professional development, in addition to building expertise in at least one primary and one secondary area. Students may incorporate individual studies, dissertation research, and courses outside the department. The following courses are required:
- Quantitative Research Methods
- Qualitative Research Methods
- Research Design
- Classical Sociological Theory
- Contemporary Sociological Theory
Students must pass a qualifying examination and write and defend a dissertation. The defense of the dissertation is considered the final examination. Choices for the specialization area include Aging, Environment and Resource Sociology, Families, Gender, Health, Life Course, Race and Ethnicity in a U.S. and Global Context, Sexualities, Deviance, Latin American Studies, and Political Sociology.
University of IllinoisLocation
Located in the heart of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago plays a vital role in the educational, technological, and cultural fabric of the city. The public research university enrolls 30,000 students across 15 colleges, providing access to opportunity and excellence. UIC is recognized as having one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse campuses in the nation. The university offers 94 master’s and 62 doctoral degree programs, including a Ph.D. in Sociology.
In UIC’s Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program, students are extensively prepared for academia or for research positions in the public sector. Students earn an MA in Sociology as they complete requirements for the doctorate. In addition to coursework, students complete a preliminary examination that consists of a written exam in a major specialty area and the submission of an original research paper for publication. Students also defend a dissertation. Courses include:
- Seminar: Sociological Research Methods
- Sociology of Childhood and Youth
- Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
- Seminar: Social Institutions
- Colloquium on College Teaching of Sociology
Interdepartmental concentrations in Gender and Women’s Studies, Latin American and Latino Studies, Survey Research Methodology, Violence Studies, and Women’s Health are options for students in UIC’s Ph.D. program. The director of graduate studies may grant credit for applicants who have previously completed an MA from a different school.
University of IllinoisLocation
The flagship university in the University of Illinois System, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a public research university that was founded in 1867. It’s located in Champaign County and enrolls more than 47,000 students from over 100 countries. With an emphasis on teaching, learning, and innovative research, the university offers more than 250 programs of study. One option is a Ph.D. in Sociology.
Students in the Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program often excel in careers at research universities or researchers in public policy, government, and private industry. Competence in theory and research methods is paired with in-depth knowledge in areas of specialization. Students complete coursework, qualifying examinations and a qualifying paper, and the dissertation. You’ll take courses in:
- Foundational methods
- Advanced methods
- Upper level statistics
- Teaching practicum
Faculty specializes in Inequalities and Global/Transnational Sociology, and the department has connections to a wide range of programs, centers, and schools across the university system. The department provides a series of workshops to support professional activities like seeking grants, publishing research, developing teaching skills, and navigating the job market. A professional development fund is used to assist with the expense of attending academic conferences.
University of MichiganLocation
One of the world’s top research universities, the University of Michigan is located in Ann Arbor, MI and is noted its for excellent graduate programs. The university is ranked among the nation’s top five public universities by U.S. News & World Report and boasts 97 graduate programs in Top 10 listings. UM serves more than 46,000 students and offers over 275 degree programs, including a Ph.D. in Sociology.
At the University of Michigan, the Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology exposes students to the latest in sociological thought, theories, and methodology. A diverse community of graduate students works alongside faculty who are leading scholars in the field. While conducting meaningful research, students gain the practical skills and knowledge needed for a highly successful career. Required coursework includes:
- Qualitative Research Methods
- Comparative and Historical Methods
- Quantitative Practicum
- Survey Methodology
- Logics and Strategies of Sociological Research Inquiry
To advance to candidacy, students must complete all departmental coursework, pass preliminary examinations, complete two cognate courses, and produce an original, scholarly paper of publishable quality. Students are expected to achieve candidacy by the end of the third year. Each student will write a dissertation and defend it before a dissertation committee of at least four members.
University of MinnesotaLocation
The state’s flagship university, the University of Minnesota was founded in 1851. The public research university’s main campus is located in Minneapolis, with another campus just three miles away in St. Paul. UM currently serves more than 47,000 students who are prepared to be leaders and innovators through research opportunities, community engagement experiences, and collaboration with field-shaping faculty. UM offers more than 200 graduate programs, including a Ph.D. in Sociology.
In this program, students may opt to earn a master’s degree along the way if desired, but it is not required. Students complete 14 credits of core courses, 12 credits related to their course of study, 12 sociology credits, 24 thesis credits, a reading list, written and oral exams, and a dissertation. Faculty in the Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program teach a rotating selection of seminars on thematic and practical topics every semester. Sample courses include:
- Social Statistics for Graduate Students
- Memory and Politics After Genocide
- The Sociology of Race and Racialization
- Social Network Analysis: Theory and Methods
- Crime and Human Rights
The University of Minnesota’s Ph.D. in Sociology program boasts a 94% job placement rate and has an average cohort size of ten students. Most graduates work in academia, but others are researchers and analysts for government agencies and other institutions. The department also offers a highly regarded minor in sociology.
University of Texas at AustinLocation
One of the biggest and best research universities in the nation, The University of Texas at Austin is home to more than 51,000 students. U.S. News & World Report ranks it among the Top 20 Public Universities in the United States, with more than 40 graduate programs appearing in Top 10 listings. UT Austin is known for groundbreaking research, exceptional return on investment, rich tradition, and a strong alumni community. The university offers a Ph.D. in Sociology.
UT Austin students may earn a Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology with a Demography or Non-Demography specialization. Both tracks are similar, with students completing 42 hours of graduate work and an MA thesis, taking comprehensive exams, submitting several articles to journals, presenting at professional meetings, and defending a dissertation. Students take courses such as:
- Classical Sociological Theory
- Social Statistics: Basic Concepts and Methods
- Social Statistics: Linear Models and Structural Equations
- Contemporary Sociological Theory
- Supervised Teaching in Sociology
UT Austin’s Department of Sociology is considered one of the best in the nation. U.S. News & World Report ranks it No. 6 among public universities and No. 11 overall. The department is committed to placing Ph.D. graduates in influential academic, nonprofit, and government organizations. Graduates are on faculty at Princeton, Duke, Penn State, and many more, and they hold research positions with the United Nations, US Bureau of the Census, Urban Institute, and beyond.
Vanderbilt University is a private research university in Nashville, TN. Vanderbilt is ranked No. 14 in the nation overall by U.S. News & World Report. It was founded in 1873 and continues to be recognized for both academics and financial aid. 12,000 students attend the university and are ranked the third happiest students in the nation by Princeton Review. Vandy offers a wide range of programs, including a Ph.D. in Sociology.
Vanderbilt’s Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology program is described as “vibrant and flexible,” with students and faculty working in close collaborative relationships. The program prepares students for careers in sociological research and teaching through courses on theory, research methods, and a variety of substantive areas. Students also develop written and oral communication skills, conduct research, and complete a teaching assistantship. Courses include:
- Sociological Inquiry: Introduction to Research Methods
- Multivariate Analysis I and II
- Workshop on Sociological Criticism
- Teaching Workshop
- 18 hours of elective courses (including one additional methods seminar, two survey seminars, and one special topics seminar)
Additional requirements include 33 additional hours of electives, passing two special area exams, a completed dissertation, and satisfactory defense of the dissertation. A scholarly journal called Work and Occupations is edited within the department. The department also contributes to and benefits from a number of research centers and programs.
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