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About the Graduate Programs

Penn State's Department of Sociology & Criminology is known for excellence in research and graduate education. This claim receives confirmation from the National Research Council's recently released evaluation of U.S. graduate programs. Using the S method (which emphasizes objective quality characteristics), the NRC report ranks Penn State among the top three sociology programs overall. We also rank highly on two specific dimensions of particular interest to people considering graduate study: second on the "research activity" dimension (which measures , among other things, the number of faculty publications, citation counts, and grant activity) and fourth on "student support and outcomes" (covering such aspects as financial support, time to degree, and likelihood of degree completion). Moreover, our Criminology program consistently places among the five best graduate criminology programs nationally. Penn State's Sociology and Demography Dual-degree program (see below) is in the top four population science graduate programs as well.

Image of Faculty and Graduates outside of Oswald Tower.

The reputation of the Department rests on its commitment to rigor in the analysis of social phenomena. We offer challenging and rewarding programs of graduate study toward Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Sociology and Criminology. Students who pursue the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees are exposed to an exciting intellectual and professional environment.  Though located in a major university, our graduate programs remain intimate in scale.  A low student-to-faculty ratio promotes frequent interaction with leading scholars in theory, methods, and a wide range of substantive specialties.

The programs attract students from all over the world and from a variety of academic backgrounds. Some students enter with professional experience; others have completed M.A. degrees elsewhere before coming to Penn State or enter the graduate programs directly upon completing their undergraduate work. This diversity contributes to a stimulating atmosphere for learning.

Academically, our students are very talented. At the national level, their abilities are reflected in numerous presentations at professional conferences, where they have won graduate student paper competitions sponsored by the American Sociological Association, American Society of Criminology, and Society for the Study of Social Problems. They also publish in leading general journals (American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Annual Review of Sociology, Social Forces, Social Science Research) and more specialized outlets, such as Demography, Journal of Marriage and Family, Criminology, Sociology of Education, International Migration Review, Urban Studies, Review of Religious Research, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, and Research in Social Stratification and Mobility.

Our students have an outstanding record of dissertation support from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Institute of Justice, and American Educational Research Association. A substantial number of students are on fellowships or traineeships funded by NSF and the National Institutes of Health. Others have worked as interns; recent internship destinations include the Population Council, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, U.S. Census Bureau, and Inter-American Development Bank.

Students in our department have enjoyed success on the intramural level as well. For example, they have finished first and second in the campus-wide Graduate Research Exhibition, held Graduate School and interdisciplinary studies fellowships, and won University and Liberal Arts teaching, research, and dissertation awards. A more complete list of graduate student awards can be found here.

Sociology students may pursue one of seven areas of specialization or some combination of these areas. Penn State also offers the unique opportunity for students to earn a Dual-Title Ph.D. in Sociology and Demography, and they can enrich their training in a variety of other ways.

If you are seeking an outstanding graduate education to prepare you for an academic or professional career, please visit the links below for detailed program information and our recent graduate course offerings.

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