The Basics of Sociology PhD Programs
Dictionary.com defines the term sociology as “the systematic study of the development, structure, interaction, and collective behavior of organized groups of human beings.” Thus, sociology gives a little bit of everything to the learner.
Some psychology is involved for those who enjoy discovering the reasons behind individual human behavior and how those characteristics either hinder or help someone relate to his or her society as a whole; political science for the government guru who is intrigued by the way in which a society is run; and urban planning for the architectural enthusiast who wants to delve into how a city and its subsequent structures are built and maintained for the greater good of the people residing and/or working there.
Finally, there is even some romance contained in sociology curriculum, presented in the form of examining ways that divorce rates and marital bliss affect the entire population.
Whatever a scholar’s forte or concentrated societal interest, this subject offers it all and can prove to be quite the experience to study.
General Admission Requirements
Before enrolling in a sociology PhD program, a student must first achieve a Master’s degree in some subject matter, which doesn’t necessarily have to be in sociology.
Those who have a Masters degree in another subject will most likely have to take mandatory prerequisite sociology courses before beginning PhD studies. Said classes are meant to help those who need it to meet any credit requirements prior to being permitted to start on the educational path toward their PhD.
A student may also be required to do what is called a “Masters Review” if he attended a different institution for his Masters than where the PhD degree is being obtained. The Masters Review requires the individual to submit his or her thesis paper to the evaluation committee, who will then make sure the student is on the correct track before permitting him to advance in the sociology PhD program.
What to Expect During the Application Process
When it comes to the actual process of applying to a sociology PhD program, a student must meet several requirements before he is even considered for acceptance into the curriculum.
Number one on the list is transcripts. An eventual student must submit a copy of his undergraduate and graduate (i.e. Masters) transcripts to the acceptance committee of the university that he is thinking of attending. Besides aiding approval into the school, the transcript also assists the executive team in knowing where an individual should begin his or her doctoral courses (i.e. distinguishing the person’s possible need to take any supplemental classes first).
Further, a transcript will show records of the potential student’s past performances in subjects such as English composition, logic, language, and different math courses taken over the years, all topics heavily studied in sociology PhD programs.
Statement of Purpose
The next required item is the “Statement Of Purpose” document, which clearly explains to the application committee the reasons behind a scholar’s desire and interest to study the discipline of sociology, and what he intends to do with the doctorate degree (i.e. career plans) once it is received.
Letters of Recommendation
Third on the agenda is the formal letter of recommendation. An applicant will typically be required to submit three of these with his original application. Though not explicitly required to be written by his past sociology professors, these letters should still be composed by an instructor who is familiar with the student’s previous work as well as any research projects the individual may have conducted during prior academic years.
Though there are others to be completed, these three conditions are common to all sociology PhD programs which a person may be interested in. Otherwise, each institution may establish its own unique requirements in addition to the ones listed above.
What is Learned in Sociology PhD Programs?
There are a multitude of areas to study within the sociology curriculum. Race and gender, inequality between classes of people who make up the featured society, and the system of politics at work that governs the population are only a few on the long list of intriguing topics from which to choose.
Because the student is heavily involved in active research throughout the duration of the sociology PhD program, there are hence many classes offered that are dedicated to research models and methods, and the various approaches to conducting the actual research included in a concrete study on an aspect of human or cultural behavior.
Research of this kind is meant to lead students to an analysis of the various human organizations and populations that exist, with the information collected on these groups then used to develop theories and subsequent solutions to the social dilemmas that plague today’s world.
Typical Sociology Classes
Students vying for their PhD are often seen taking classes with the following names:
- Sociology of Culture, which is a course dealing with the social activity between members of the same cultural group and how these individuals use symbols, language, hand signals, and other tools to communicate universal meaning across the population. Students in a class such as this one will also find themselves comparing and contrasting the culture in question to other issues that affect the world at large, such as race, class, gender, and change within the society itself.
- Sociology of the Family, which is a class designed to study just that, the family institution. Typical family roles (parent, child, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin etc.) are examined in a course such as this, along with the expectations and behaviors associated with each position in the overall family hierarchy. And because a family changes so significantly as the years go swiftly by (children growing up and going to college, parents feeling the ‘empty nest’ syndrome as a result and becoming lonely without their children around all the time, etc.), there will always be something to study while taking this class.
- International Migration, a course very in tune with today’s current issue of international immigration, allows the student to scrutinize the people who journey to a new (foreign) territory to start their lives anew. And not only are the migrants themselves examined, but how the new move affects their extended families is also a topic of consideration. In addition, a student will be able to learn about how a new alien resident takes to a different way of being governed than what he was used to in his home country, and how this impacts the overall lives of his family.
If these kinds of classes sound captivating and richly full of information, that is because they certainly are!
Employment and Career Opportunities With a PhD Degree in Sociology
The U.S. Bureau of Labor And Statistics cites sociology as a career with one of the greatest growth potentials and opportunities for advancement.
The chance to take part in advanced research in addition to qualifying for high-paid teaching positions on the collegiate level are just two of the advantages enjoyed by those who have graduated from sociology PhD programs.
Universities, federal agencies, and sociological organizations (such as the American Sociological Association, the Association For Humanist Sociology, and the Sociological Practice Association, to name just a few) are also where PhD holders are employed.
It is estimated that between the years of 2008 to 2018, employment prospects for sociologists will increase by a margin of twenty-two percent, which means that there will be more occasions than ever for those in this field just starting out to find a great job, and those already ensconced in their careers to have ample chances to increase their already solid salaries.
In the year 2008, the U.S. Bureau of Labor And Statistics named the income figure of $68,570.00 as the average salary for sociologists who had a PhD degree. As for even better news, in March 2009 it was discovered that PhD sociologists who were employed by federal agencies were cracking a six-figure income, totaling a little over the one hundred thousand dollar mark for an average of $100,824.00 per year.
A strong salary and impressive career opportunities all lead to a never-boring day in the life of a sociologist. What more could a career-minded individual ask for?
What Schools Offer Sociology PhD Programs?
Now that the decision has been made to study for this advanced degree, what schools should the prospective student choose to look into for enrollment?
The answer to this question depends on one main factor: does the individual wish to sign up at an online-based institution, or is a program located in a physical classroom more appealing to the person and his learning style?
Whichever type of school the student elects to attend, online or land-based, each option has some remarkable universities to look into.
Offline Accredited Universities for a PhD in Sociology
According to www.SocialPsychology.org, the top two ranked offline schools for a doctorate degree in Sociology are:
University of Wisconsin at Madison
Scoring a 4.87 out of a possible five points, graduates from this program are infamous for their quality of world research and for some of their books that have been published on the subject of sociology.
Three of the diverse research areas for this school’s PhD degree include: Economic Sociology, Sociology of Knowledge, and Sociology of Agriculture and Food Systems.
8128 William H. Sewell Social Sciences Building
1180 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1393
Website URL: www.ssc.wisc.edu
Phone: (608) 262-2921
Fax: (608) 265-5389
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
Scoring a 4.85, this school’s website specifically states, “One of the most distinctive features of our program is intellectual breadth. We offer eight broad areas of training in the major subfields of sociology.”
Examples of these training areas are: Gender And Sexuality, Power, History, And Social Change, and Race, Ethnicity, And Immigration.
Department of Sociology
Room 3001 LSA Building
500 South State
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1382
Website URL: www.lsa.umich.edu
Phone: (734) 647-4428
Fax: (734) 763-6887
A prospective student may also navigate directly to the school’s website to participate in an online consultation with an adviser.
Wherever your future sociology studies may take you, there are plenty of options available for receiving that coveted PhD!
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