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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

Sociology (SOC)

Program Home Page

JOHN ICELAND, Head of the Department of Sociology, and Crime, Law, and Justice
211 Oswald Tower
814-863-8260

Degrees Conferred:

M.A., Ph.D.
Dual-Title M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology and Demography
Dual-Title Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Data Analytics

 

The Graduate Faculty

 

 

The Program

The graduate program in Sociology offers advanced education for students who intend to pursue academic careers in sociology or who aspire to nonacademic research positions.

The M.A. and Ph.D. programs provide training in general social theory, research methodology, statistics, and a number of traditional and developing substantive specialties. In consultation with faculty advisers, students select two specialties that are among the department's strengths, such as demography (including health and immigration); family, life course, and aging; criminology; stratification and inequality; sociology of education; urban and community studies; or quantitative methods.

Alternate specialty areas not listed above may be selected as the major or the minor, with the approval of the Graduate Director and the student's doctoral committee. Students may elect to pursue a dual-title M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology and Demography, or a dual-title Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Data Analytics. A separate Ph.D. program in Criminology is also housed within the department.

All students who intend to pursue doctoral work are expected to earn (or have earned) an M.A. degree in their normal progress to the Ph.D.

Course work outside the department is encouraged. Areas of study related to sociology, such as rural sociology, geography, economics, business administration, statistics, cultural anthropology, political science, labor and employment relations, women's studies, social thought, biobehavioral health, and human development and family studies are available at the University.

Special department-related research and training facilities include on-site computer laboratories and the Social Science Research Center, the Population Research Institute, the Center for Research on Crime and Justice, and the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing. Additional University facilities used by sociology faculty and graduate students include the Computation Center (containing information about the extensive databases provided through the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research) and the Center on Healthy Aging.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the GENERAL INFORMATION section of the Graduate Bulletin.

Applications will be accepted through January 1 for fall admission the following year. Selection is based on undergraduate grades (and where applicable, record of previous graduate work); letters of recommendation; statement of purpose; areas of interest, and career goals; a sample of written work, such as a term paper; and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) verbal, quantitative, and writing scores. International applicants are required to submit English proficiency test scores, unless they are from one of the countries listed as exempt in the Graduate Bulletin. English proficiency test scores must meet or exceed the minimum acceptable scores listed in the Bulletin. The best-qualified applicants will be accepted up to the number of spaces available. Students with limited prior training in sociology may be accepted, with the provision that they make up background deficiencies in the early part of their graduate program in consultation with and under the supervision of the Graduate Director. Acceptance into or continuation in the program is contingent on successful performance in these areas.

Degree Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the DEGREE REQUIREMENTS section of the Graduate Bulletin.

Masters of Arts Degree (M.A.) in Sociology

Required courses for the M.A. are designed to enhance students' knowledge of substantive specialty areas in sociology, social theory, sociological research methods, and statistics and include:

One seminar in classical or contemporary social theory, chosen from among the following:
Sociology 502 - Theories of Society I
Sociology 503 - Theories of Society II

Three required methods and statistics courses and associated computer labs:
Sociology 513 - Sociological Research Methods
Sociology 574 - Statistical Methods for Social Research
Sociology 575 - Statistical Models for Non-experimental Research
Sociology 596 – Statistical Laboratory (to accompany SOC 574 and SOC 575)

Sociology 500 – Introduction to Graduate School in Sociology (1 credit)
Sociology 600 – MA Thesis (6 credits)
Students are also required to complete six elective graduate seminars, one of which must be a 500-level substantive seminar in Criminology, and two of which may be outside the department.

Sociology department seminars in research methods and statistics assume a background gained through some combination of undergraduate course work and individual study. Students who are not confident of their basic statistical training may find it useful to pursue foundational training at Penn State or elsewhere prior to enrollment in SOC 574.

For the M.A. in Sociology at Penn State, 38 course credits are required, no more than three of which may be for Individual Studies (SOC 596). The Graduate School specifies that students holding twenty-hour-per-week assistantships must carry 9 to 12 course credits per semester. Students receiving Fellowships are expected to enroll for 12 course credits per semester. A minimum grade-point average of 3.00 for work done at Penn State is required for graduation.

Students must either complete an M.A. thesis by the end of their second year in the program or enter the program with an M.A. degree.

Doctoral Degree (Ph.D.) in Sociology

Candidacy Exam
A candidacy examination is required of all students seeking the Ph.D. This evaluation by the departmental Graduate Committee is based on the student’s seminar papers, their proposed dissertation research and record of course performance, and faculty assessments of the student’s ability to complete a high-quality Ph.D. program. The candidacy occurs after the M.A. degree has been completed.

The Doctoral Committee
The candidate's Ph.D. studies are conducted under the supervision of a doctoral committee. The doctoral committee must comply with the Graduate Council doctoral committee requirements. The committee must include faculty members having recognized expertise in the major and minor areas of specialization selected by the student, as well as expertise in general social theory, research methods, and statistics. One faculty member is designated chair of the doctoral committee; ordinarily this person also serves as general advisor and director of the dissertation. Students are strongly encouraged to choose a committee chair as early as possible. The student’s chair can be of great help in selecting other committee members, especially members outside of the sociology department.

Students must identify and convene their doctoral committee no later than one semester following their candidacy examination. The doctoral committee supervises the Ph.D. candidate's course of study, comprehensive examination, and dissertation. This includes approval of proposed course work to meet requirements for the major and minor areas of specialty.

All Ph.D. candidates must have completed all courses required for the M.A. degree in Sociology at Penn State, or their equivalent. These include: SOC 500 (Intro to Graduate Studies in Sociology); SOC 574 (Statistical Methods for Social Research); SOC 575 (Statistical Models for Non-experimental Research); SOC 513 (Sociological Research Methods); one seminar in social theory, chosen from SOC 502 (Theories of Society I) or SOC 503 (Theories of Society II). All Ph.D. candidates are also required to complete a one-credit Lab in Teaching Sociology (SOC 591). The lab in teaching sociology cannot serve to meet other Ph.D. requirements to be described subsequently, such as the requirement for a minimum number of seminars in Sociology.

Major and Minor Areas of Specialization
In addition to the specific requirements common to all Ph.D. candidates, students must complete courses in which they acquire competence in a major and a minor area of specialization. The major and minor should be chosen by the student in consultation with the doctoral committee. A record of the chosen areas must be filed with and approved by the graduate officer. The major area may be selected from the department’s primary Ph.D. program strengths: 1) demography (including health and immigration), 2) family, life course, and aging, 3) criminology, 4) stratification and inequality, 5) sociology of education, 6) urban and community studies, and 7) quantitative methods. Alternatively, students may develop their own customized areas that have included in recent years (but are not restricted to): race and ethnicity, social theory, sociology of organizations, sociology of religion, and collective behavior and social movements. Each student, no matter their choice of specialty areas, in consultation with the doctoral committee develops a program of course work necessary for preparation of the major and minor areas.

At least 12 credits of course work are associated with the major area of specialization. Course work is subject to the following constraints: 1) at least three courses must be listed in the sociology department; 2) at least two courses must be in formal 500-level seminars; 3) no more than one course may be in Individual Studies (Sociology 596).  

The minor area of specialization is developed in the same manner, in consultation with the doctoral committee and with the approval of the Graduate Officer and the graduate committee. Students are required to take at least 9 credits of course work in the area selected as their minor. Earlier-named specific course requirements, such as seminars in statistics, research methods, and theory, cannot be used to meet the nine-credit minimum for the minor area. The minor course requirements also are subject to the following constraints: 1) at least two courses must be in sociology; 2) at least one course must be in 500-level seminars. One course may be double-counted in the major and minor areas.

Comprehensive Examination
After completing all course work and before the period of intensive dissertation research begins, doctoral candidates must pass a comprehensive examination that includes written and oral components. Written components will be administered in a candidate’s major and minor areas of concentration. Members of the doctoral committee will develop questions for and participate in the evaluation of the comprehensive examination. The oral component of the comprehensive involves the defense of a dissertation prospectus.

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense
To earn the Ph.D. degree, doctoral students must also write a dissertation that contains original research and reflects their education in sociology. Upon completion of the doctoral dissertation, the candidate also must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense) to earn the Ph.D. degree. The dissertation must be accepted by the doctoral committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School.

The Department of Sociology has no formal foreign language or communication requirement. However, students are encouraged to pursue additional training in statistics, computer science, foreign language, technical writing, specialized methods, or specialized theory that will further dissertation and career plans.

Dual-Title Doctoral Degree in Sociology and Demography

A special dual-title M.A. program is offered in Sociology and Demography. Details can be obtained from the Sociology graduate officer or director of the graduate program in Demography. Information is also available at http://www.pop.psu.edu/demography.

Admission Requirements

Students must apply and be admitted to the graduate program in Sociology and the Graduate School before they can be admitted to a dual-title degree program. Applicants interested in the dual-title degree program may note their interest in their applications to Sociology and include remarks in their personal statements, in which they address the ways in which their research and professional goals in sociology reflect related interests in Demographic research. Students admitted to the Sociology program will be admitted to the dual-title program in Demography upon the recommendation of a Demography Program faculty member in Sociology. Students must apply and be admitted to the dual-title degree program in Demography prior to taking the candidacy exam.

Degree Requirements

Course Work
Dual-title M.A. students must complete four courses in demography, one in each of the following pedagogic categories: 1) Demography Survey Course (if a population survey course was not completed as an undergraduate), 2) Demographic Methods Course, 2) Seminar in Demographic Processes, and 4) Population Studies Seminar. Multiple courses are offered in each of these categories each year, and many of the courses can be taken within the sociology department and counted toward sociology degree requirements. Dual-title M.A. students must write a thesis on a topic that draws on research questions and literature from both sociology and demography.

Students pursuing the dual-title Ph.D. in Sociology and Demography select demography as their major area of specialization. However, dual-title students must complete a total of 24 course credits (12 credits, or 4 courses, at the M.A. plus 12 additional credits distributed among pedagogic categories) in demography. Some of these courses must be completed in disciplines outside the Department of Sociology. All demography courses taken within the sociology department can count toward both the sociology and demography degrees.

Candidacy Committee and Exam
The candidacy examination committee will be composed in accordance with rules of the Sociology Ph.D. and will include an evaluation of at least one graduate faculty member from the Demography Program. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ graduate faculty may serve in a combined role.
The dual-title degree will be guided by the Candidacy Exam procedure of the Sociology graduate program. The candidacy exam for the dual-title degree will occur as soon as possible after completion of the M.A. requirements. There will be a single candidacy examination to assess whether the student should be admitted into Ph.D. candidacy in both Sociology and Demography. Because students must first be admitted to a graduate major program of study before they may apply to and be considered for admission into a dual-title graduate degree program, dual-title graduate degree students may require an additional semester to fulfill requirements for both areas of study and, therefore, the candidacy examination may be delayed one semester beyond the normal period allowable.

Doctoral Committee Composition
The doctoral committee must conform to all requirements of the primary program and the Graduate Council. The doctoral committee of a Sociology and Demography dual-title doctoral degree student must include at least four members of the graduate faculty, two of whom must be members of the Demography graduate faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ graduate faculty may serve in a combined role. If the chair of the committee representing Sociology is not also a member of the graduate faculty in Demography, one member of the committee representing Demography must be appointed as co-chair.

Comprehensive Exam
After completing all course work, doctoral candidates for the dual-title doctoral degree in Sociology and Demography must pass a comprehensive examination that includes written and oral components. Written components will be administered in a candidate’s major sociology area of concentration in Demography and the chosen minor area. The Demography representative(s) on the student’s doctoral committee will develop questions for and participate in the evaluation of the comprehensive examination.  The oral component of the comprehensive involves the defense of a dissertation prospectus, which must contain substantial Demographic content.

 Dissertation and Dissertation Defense
Upon completion of the doctoral dissertation, the candidate must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense) to earn the Ph.D. degree. Students enrolled in the dual-title program are required to write and orally defend a dissertation on a topic that reflects their original research and education in Sociology and Demography. The dissertation must be accepted by the doctoral committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School.

Dual-Title Doctoral Degree in Sociology and Social Data Analytics

Sociology doctoral students seeking to attain and be identified with an interdisciplinary array of tools, techniques, and methodologies for social data analytics, while maintaining a close association with sociology, may apply to pursue a dual-title Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Data Analytics.

Social data analytics is the integration of social scientific, computational, informational, statistical, and visual analytic approaches to the analysis of large or complex data that arise from human interaction. The dual-title Ph.D. program provides additional training with the aim of providing scientists with the skills required to expand the field of social data analytics, creatively to answer important social scientific questions, and communicate effectively with both academic and nonacademic audiences.

Admission Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the GENERAL INFORMATION section of the Graduate Bulletin.
Students must apply and be admitted to the graduate program in Sociology and the Graduate School before they can apply for admission to the dual-title degree program. Applicants interested in the dual-title degree program may note their interest in the program on their applications to Sociology and include remarks in their personal statements, in which they address the ways in which their research and professional goals in sociology reflect related interests in Social Data Analytics-related research.

To apply to the dual-title doctoral Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Data Analytics, a student must submit a letter of application and transcript, which will be reviewed by the Social Data Analytics Program. An applicant must have a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 point scale) to be considered for enrollment in the dual-title degree program. Students must apply for enrollment into the dual-title Ph.D. in Social Data Analytics prior to obtaining candidacy in Sociology.

Degree Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements stated in the DEGREE REQUIREMENTS section of the Graduate Bulletin.

To qualify for the dual-title degree, students must satisfy the requirements of the Ph.D. in Sociology. In addition, they must satisfy the requirements described below, as established by the Social Data Analytics Committee. Within this framework, final course selection is determined by the student in consultation with academic advisers from their home department adviser and Social Data Analytics.

Course Work

The minimum course work requirements for the dual-title Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Data Analytics are as follows:

  • Course work and other requirements of the Ph.D. in Sociology.
  • SODA 501 (3 credits)
  • SODA 502 (3 credits)
  • 12 or more elective credits in Social Data Analytics from a list of courses maintained by the Social Data Analytics Committee. Collectively the elective credits must satisfy the following requirements:
    • (A) Core analytics distribution. 3 or more credits in courses focused on statistical learning, machine learning, data mining, or visual analytics. Courses approved as meeting this requirement are designated (A) on the list of approved electives.
    • (Q) Quantification distribution. 6 or more credits in courses focused on statistical inference or quantitative social science methodology. Courses approved as meeting this requirement are designated (Q) on the list of approved electives. (A Sociology Ph.D. student would typically satisfy this distribution requirement as a function of completing the requirements of the Sociology Ph.D.)
    • (C) Computational / informational distribution. 6 or more credits in courses focused on computation, collection, management, processing, or interaction with electronic data, especially at scale. Courses approved as meeting this requirement are designated (C) on the list of approved electives.
    • (S) Social distribution. 6 or more credits in courses with substantial content on the nature of human interaction and/or the analysis of data derived from human interaction and/or the social context or ethics or social consequences of social data analytics. Courses approved as meeting this requirement are designated (S) on the list of approved electives. (A Sociology Ph.D. student would typically satisfy this distribution requirement as a function of completing the requirements of the Sociology Ph.D.)
    • Cross-departmental distribution.
      • 3 or more credits in approved courses with the prefix STAT or that of a primarily social science department. (A Sociology. student would typically satisfy this distribution requirement as a function of completing the requirements of the Sociology Ph.D.)
      • 3 or more credits in approved courses with the prefix IST, GEOG, or that of a primarily computer science or engineering department.
      • 6 or more credits in approved courses outside Sociology.
      • 3 or fewer credits in approved courses at the 400-level.

Students or faculty may request that the Social Data Analytics Committee consider approval of elective designations for any course, including temporary approvals for experimental or variable-title courses. Students are encouraged to take interdisciplinary courses that carry multiple (A), (Q), (C), (S) designations, as well as to select SO DA electives that also meet requirements of the primary program. In particular, the 12 elective credits can be met with as few as 6 credits of appropriately chosen course work. Within this framework, final course selection is determined by the student in consultation with academic advisers from Sociology and Social Data Analytics. There is no formal maximum number of credits from the primary SOC degree that can be double-counted toward the SO DA degree. For those meeting the SO DA elective requirement with the minimum of 12 credits, the outside-program minimum effectively limits the number of primary degree SOC credits that count toward SO DA at 6. Doctoral committees may limit the number of credits taken for the SO DA degree that can count toward home degree requirements.

Candidacy Committee and Exam

The candidacy examination committee will be composed in accordance with rules of the Sociology Ph.D. and will include an evaluation of at least one graduate faculty member from the Social Data Analytics Program. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ graduate faculty may serve in a combined role.

The dual-title degree will be guided by the Candidacy Exam procedure of the Sociology graduate program. The candidacy exam for the dual-title degree will occur as soon as possible after completion of the M.A. requirements. Because students must first be admitted to a graduate major program of study before they may apply to and be considered for admission into a dual-title graduate degree program, with permission of the graduate officer, the candidacy examination of dual-title degree students may be delayed one semester beyond the normal period allowable. There will be a single candidacy examination to assess whether the student should be admitted into Ph.D. candidacy in both Sociology and Social Data Analytics.

Doctoral Committee Composition

The doctoral committee must conform to all requirements of the primary program and the Graduate Council. In accordance with Graduate Council policy, the doctoral committee of a Sociology and Social Data Analytics dual-title doctoral degree student must include at least one member of the Social Data Analytics graduate faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ graduate faculty may serve in a combined role. If the chair of the committee representing Sociology is not also a member of the graduate faculty in Social Data Analytics, the member of the committee representing Social Data Analytics must be appointed as co-chair.

Comprehensive Exam

After completing all course work, doctoral candidates for the dual-title doctoral degree in Sociology and Social Data Analytics must pass a comprehensive examination that includes written and oral components.

Written components will be administered in a candidate’s major sociology area of concentration and Social Data Analytics (acting as the minor area). The Social Data Analytics representative(s) on the student’s doctoral committee will develop questions for and participate in the evaluation of the comprehensive examination.

The oral component of the comprehensive involves the defense of a dissertation prospectus, which must contain substantial Social Data Analytics content.

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense

Upon completion of the doctoral dissertation, the candidate must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense) to earn the Ph.D. degree. Students enrolled in the dual-title program are required to write and orally defend a dissertation on a topic that reflects their original research and education in Sociology and Social Data Analytics. The dissertation must be accepted by the doctoral committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School.

Student Aid

In addition to the fellowships, traineeships, graduate assistantships, and other forms of financial aid described in the STUDENT AID section of the Graduate Bulletin, teaching assistantships support many students admitted to the program. Research assistantships also are available to qualified students through individual faculty members' grants and contracts. Students on graduate assistantships must adhere to the course load limits set forth in the Graduate Bulletin. A number of federal agencies also offer fellowships for graduate study in sociology.

Courses

Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 599 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.

SOCIOLOGY (SOC) course list

 

Blue Sheet Item #: 44-07

Review Date: 6/28/2016

Faculty linked: 6/27/14

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