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The Graduate Program in Sociology

Balancing academic rigor with a wealth of opportunity   . . .

Ranked among the top programs  in the nation, Penn State sociology offers students the flexibility to study a wide range of topics, reflecting both the size and intellectual breadth of the faculty.  The department provides strong academic and financial support to our graduate students in the form of multi-year funding commitments during the academic year and summer.  This foundation of support allows students to build both their research and teaching skills over the course of the program.

Student mentoring is a program priority.  We pair students with faculty advisors who guide students’ intellectual development, help them make informed career decisions, and emphasize the goals of a Penn State education—research, teaching, and service.  

Our department is particularly strong in:


During a typical year, approximately 55 students are engaged in full-time graduate-level training in sociology.  Students in the MA program complete 36 credits, including classes in Social Theory, Research Methods, Quantitative Analysis, and seminars in our areas of concentration listed above.  Most of the coursework occurs in seminars with six to twelve members.  A thesis prepared in journal-article format is required to complete the M.A.

Ph.D. students can work towards their Ph.D. in Sociology or they can choose one of our unique Dual-Title Ph.D. programs—the Dual-Title Ph.D. in Sociology and Demography or the Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Data Analytics.  In addition, students can earn formal minors in Social ThoughtStatistics, andSocial Data Analytics.   Students in any area of specialization may earn a Certificate in Quantitative Methods or a Certificate in Survey Methodology.


All our graduate students receive guaranteed financial support that includes both academic year and summer funding as they progress through the program.  Through Graduate Assistantships, which require approximately 20 hours of work per week, students in residence receive an annual stipend paid monthly during the academic year, a tuition-and-fee waiver to cover credit-hour charges and related fees, and a significant health insurance subsidy for either individual or family coverage.  During the summer, all students receive an additional stipend.  Our departmental philosophy is to admit and invest in students who will be successful in our program for the duration of their graduate studies. Students receive multi-year funding packages to help ensure financial support throughout their graduate school careers. We also work with students interested in applying for prestigious national grants to help them secure competitive graduate fellowships.

What Graduate Assistants Do

Our Graduate Assistantships engage students in ongoing research, allowing them to experience all the steps of the research process.  The bulk of student assistantships are Research Assistantships that allow students to collaboratively work with faculty to produce coauthored papers that appear in peer-reviewed journals.  Our graduate students routinely publish with various members of the faculty.  Most students also gain experience as teaching assistants in undergraduate classes, observing different techniques for teaching large or small sections, introductory or specialized classes.  Students are not assigned to independently teach undergraduate classes during the academic year.

Interested students have the opportunity to teach their own classes during the summer, after they have taken a seminar in Teaching Sociology and guest lectured on several occasions.  During the academic year, we want our students to be able to focus on research—both collaborative and individual.  Because coursework is often complete by the end of the third year, students have two full years to devote to building expertise in their areas of concentration, developing and completing their dissertations, working with faculty, and writing papers.

Whether providing travel funds to annually present papers at professional meetings; research funds to support travel to international fieldwork sites; funds to hire coders, programmers, or interviewers; support to attend workshops, purchase specialized software, or access restricted data—we make sure our students have access to what they need to do their research.

Where are Graduates Working Now?

Our graduate alumni hold tenure-track positions in universities across the country, including the top universities in the nation such as Cornell, UCLA, UC-Irvine, USC, Brigham Young University, UC-Davis, Florida State University, and Michigan; tenure-track positions in top-ranked liberal arts colleges, such as Dartmouth, Skidmore, William Patterson, and Colorado College, professional positions in prominent government agencies, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the National Center for Health Statistics; and build research careers in centers within the Research Triangle Institutes, Facebook, Population Reference Bureau, and Pew.


Melissa Hardy

  • Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Demography
  • Director, Graduate Program in Sociology

(814) 867-4337

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