Graduate Student Support


Most graduate students in Sociology receive teaching or research assistantships. These assistantships provide living expenses and come with full tuition waivers. The assistantships bring more than financial support: They are an important means by which graduate students are integrated into the research and teaching activities of the department. Teaching assistants perform various functions: most teaching assistants participate in grading and advising enrollees; advanced students desiring teaching experience may be given full responsibility for an undergraduate course. Research assistants often find that their skills in writing and data analysis are sharpened by their assignments. A number of graduate students have seen their research assistantships develop into collaborative relationships and have become coauthors of conference presentations and published articles.

Although assistantships are not automatically renewed, the sociology department makes every effort to continue from year to year to offer an assistantship to each Sociology graduate student who: 1) maintains a satisfactory level of academic performance; 2) fulfills the duties associated with the assistantship; 3) completes the M.A. within four semesters; and 4) completes the Ph.D. within six semesters after receiving the M.A. if the M.A. has been earned at Penn State, or within eight semesters if the M.A. was earned at another institution. Continuation of funding is, of course, subject to the availability of funds. Summer session does not count in the above time limitations. If a student requests continuation of financial assistance and this request is denied, the student will be advised by the sociology graduate officer, after consultation with the sociology graduate committee, as to the reasons for the denial. Students who seek funding beyond the normal limits specified above must formally apply for it. Their application materials will be evaluated by the graduate committee.

For students not on departmental assistantships, there are other forms of financial aid. A number of students have been the recipients of fellowships and traineeships funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Additional external fellowships and grants available to eligible students include American Sociological Association Minority Fellowships, dissertation grants from various federal agencies, student research grants from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Science Research Council, and grants from private foundations, the United Nations, and the governments of other countries. Intramurally, the Graduate School administers University Graduate Fellowships, Minority Graduate Scholar Awards, Grants-in-Aid, and tuition remission awards. Through the University's Office of Student Aid, eligible students may receive National Direct Student Loans, Guaranteed Student Loans, University loans, and graduate work study assignments.

Students are encouraged to apply for dissertation year funding and our students have had excellent success in securing it both internally and externally. Internal support is available from the Research and Graduate Studies Office (RGSO) of the College of Liberal Arts and a number of other Penn State dissertation fellowships, including the Alumni Dissertation Fellowship. In recent years students have received outside support for dissertation projects from NSF, National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and the American Educational Research Association.

The department attempts to ensure summer financial support for students who remain in residency during the summer session. The purpose of providing summer support is to enable students to stay in the area and make progress on their research and degrees. Many students are supported during the summer by ongoing grants from faculty research projects. Students who have completed the M.A. degree may teach summer session undergraduate courses, and beginning students may serve as teaching assistants in larger sections for other students who are teaching.


All Criminology graduate students receive teaching or research assistantships. The program makes every effort to continue from year to year the assistantship of each graduate student who: (1) maintains a satisfactory level of academic performance; (2) fulfills the duties associated with the assistantship (performance of these duties is evaluated at the end of each semester); and (3) completes his or her degree requirements in a timely fashion (see below). One of the most important of these time requirements is completion of the M.A. thesis by the first day of the third year of graduate study. Continuation of funding is, of course, subject to the availability of funds.

Graduate students given research or teaching assignments are responsible for carrying out their duties throughout the entire semester. For those with teaching assignments, the semester (or summer session) does not end until grades are computed and posted. Graduate student teachers must be present for each class session. Any absences except for last minute emergencies must be approved in advance by the Graduate Director and alternative arrangements for the class, acceptable to the Graduate Director, must be made. It is not acceptable for graduate student teachers to miss class without the consent of the Graduate Director. Similarly, research assistants are expected to be present for scheduled meetings as well as for any occasions for which they have scheduled duties.

Criminology program requirements are such that it should take two years to satisfy requirements for the M.A. Completing the Ph.D. should take three more years for students who earn their M.A. at Penn State and four years for students who enter the Penn State Ph.D. program after earning an M.A. elsewhere. Students who take longer to complete the respective degrees are considered to be behind schedule, and in such cases department financial aid will not typically be available.