MA, PhD in Sociology

The department offers an MA and PhD program in Sociology, with students receiving the MA by the end of their second year.  Next is candidacy when students formally shift into the doctoral program.  Each new cohort becomes part of the broader graduate student community learning from other students how to manage the demands of graduate school. 


In the first two years of the program, students develop an area of interest and learn how to ask interesting research questions and develop analytic designs to investigate them.  Through workshops, labs, presentations, and coursework, they master the tools of analysis and are coached in the organization, presentation, and writing of a research paper.  By the end of the first year, their projects are launched; by the end of the second, they have produced a publishable paper and earned their M.A.s. 

Doctoral students choose from our primary areas of concentration for their major and minor areas of sociological study:

During the third year, students are working on completing their formal course work.  They also begin to formulate a reading list that will serve as the basis for their written and oral comprehensive exams in their major and minor areas of concentration.  Students’ dissertations begin to take shape as they delve into the literature in their areas. Working with their doctoral committees, students develop a dissertation prospectus, which they present to their committees for advice and feedback.  Throughout the training process, students are also actively engaged in writing papers for publications and making preparations for going on the job market.

We provide two summer workshops on the job search process.  Students learn how to write cover letters, organize statements about their research and teaching philosophies, devise personal strategies for finding jobs, and prepare for in-person and virtual interviews.  During the fall of their dissertation year, faculty and students attend mock job talks and participate in mock interviews.  The formal training concludes with the dissertation defense, formal submission of the dissertation to the Graduate School, and the graduation ceremony.  With diploma in hand, our new PhDs become part of the Penn State Alumni Community, the largest organization of its kind in the world.

Many of our graduates have built successful careers inside and outside of academia.  Find out more about our alums on the Where are They Now page.