The Department of Sociology and the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology conduct a combined graduate program in sociology designed to prepare students for scholarly research, teaching, or applied work. The program leads to the Master of Science degree with a major in sociology and the Doctor of Philosophy degree in sociology. It also offers a minor to students earning a doctoral degree in other departments. All major areas of sociological inquiry are represented in the curriculum. The program consistently ranks at or near the top in studies of U.S. doctoral programs.

Distinguished faculty, outstanding students who learn from and support each other, an increasingly multi-ethnic student body, a curriculum covering a broad spectrum of sociological interests, thriving research projects in many areas, and a stimulating campus environment make UW–Madison an excellent choice for students interested in sociology and/or community and environmental sociology.

Members of the departments also participate in a number of interdisciplinary programs. Faculty and students are involved with several research institutes, including the Applied Population Laboratory, the Center for Demography & Ecology, the Center for Demography of Health & Aging, the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, the Holtz Center for Science & Technology Studies, the Institute for Research on Poverty, the Institute on Aging, the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, and the University of Wisconsin Survey Center. Further information about faculty and areas of study is available on the department websites: Department of Sociology, and Department of Community and Environmental Sociology.

Degrees and Career Goals

The sociology graduate program admits students who intend to earn a Ph.D. Students complete a master of science degree on the way to the Ph.D. or receive a waiver of the program’s master’s requirements based on their having written a thesis and obtained a master’s degree previously. A few students leave the program after completing the master’s degree and pursue careers in the public and private sectors. Of those who graduate with the Ph.D., a majority obtain university teaching and/or research positions; others take research and/or administrative positions in government organizations, nonprofit organizations, or private firms.

This master’s program is offered for work leading to the Ph.D. Students may not apply directly for the master’s, and should instead see the admissions information for the  Ph.D. 

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and processes related to funding.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 30 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 16 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework (15 credits out of 30 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.25 GPA required (3.00 in the first semester)
Other Grade Requirements Students must earn a BC or above in all required courses. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.
Assessments and Examinations Master’s students write a thesis under the supervision of their major professor. After completing the thesis, students take a comprehensive oral exam covering general sociology, graduate work to date, and the thesis.

Occasionally students decide not to pursue the Ph.D. and opt to complete the requirements for a non-thesis Master’s degree. In these rare cases, students complete course requirements and take the comprehensive oral exam.
Language Requirements No language requirements.

Required COURSES

SOC 700 Introductory Proseminar for Graduate Students1
SOC/​C&E SOC  361 Statistics for Sociologists II3
SOC 773 Intermediate Classical Theory3
Select one of the following:3
Ethnomethodology & Conversation Analysis
Research Methods in Sociology
Survey Methods for Social Research
Comparative and Historical Methods in Sociology
Qualitative Research Methods in Sociology
Demographic Techniques II

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Graduate Program Handbook

A Graduate Program Handbook containing all of the program's policies and requirements is forthcoming from the program.

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With Program approval, students may count up to 14 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions toward the minimum 30-credit Master’s degree requirement and the minimum 50% graduate coursework requirement. Coursework completed five or more years prior to admission to the Master’s program may not be used to satisfy either of these requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

With program approval, students may count up to 7 credits earned in an undergraduate degree program at UW–Madison toward the Master’s degree requirements. If the courses are numbered 300–699, the credits may count toward the minimum 30-credit degree requirement. If the courses are numbered 700–999, the credits may also count toward the minimum 50% graduate coursework requirement. Coursework completed five or more years prior to admission to the Master’s program may not be used to satisfy either of these requirements.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students may count up to 15 credits taken as a Special Student toward the Master’s degree requirements. If the courses are numbered 300–699, the credits may count toward the minimum 30-credit degree requirement. If the courses are numbered 700–999, the credits may also count toward the minimum 50% graduate coursework requirement. Coursework completed five or more years prior to admission to the Master’s program may not be used to satisfy either of these requirements.


The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.

  1. Good standing (progressing according to standards; any funding guarantee remains in place).
  2. Probation (not progressing according to standards but permitted to enroll; loss of funding guarantee; specific plan with dates and deadlines in place in regard to removal of probationary status).
  3. Unsatisfactory progress (not progressing according to standards; not permitted to enroll, dismissal, leave of absence or change of advisor or program).


Each new graduate student is matched with a first-year faculty advisor who shares his or her research interests. The first-year advisor helps with the transition to graduate school, offers an introduction to department culture, provides a structured point of contact should questions or problems arise, and provides information and support as the student selects a permanent advisor and thesis director.  Students are expected to have ongoing contact with their advisor.  All students are required to submit a yearly progress report that is read and discussed by a committee of faculty during the annual review. In addition, all students are expected to create and regularly update an Individual Development Plan (IDP) and use it as the basis for conversations with their advisor about evolving goals, current strengths, and plans for mastery of new skills. A student's advisor serves as chair of the thesis committee, which is composed of three graduate faculty members in Sociology and/or Community & Environmental Sociology.


15 credits

Time Constraints

Students are expected to complete the Master’s degree by the end of the summer after their third year in the program.


The Department guarantees five continuous years of funding to all admitted students. Our graduate students receive support toward their studies through project assistantships, research assistantships, teaching assistantships, lectureships, traineeships, and fellowships (fellowship awards may come from either the University or external agencies). All types of funding provide a full tuition remission, a stipend, and health insurance.

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

  1. Demonstrate a broad understanding of major theories, methodologies, and research findings in the sociological literature. Develop critical thinking skills that empower them to analyze strengths and weaknesses in the existing literature, identify knowledge gaps, evaluate evidence, synthesize information, and form conclusions. Attain the skills necessary to conduct research with intellectual and ethical rigor, care, and creativity.
  2. Complete an original research project in one of the subfields of sociology. In doing so, they will learn to formulate ideas and develop research questions, interpret and evaluate existing literature on the topic, design a feasible research project, use an appropriate methodology, analyze and interpret the resulting data, and consider avenues for future research. Write a thesis describing their research project and defend it during a comprehensive oral exam.
  3. Develop an understanding of the field of sociology by participating in a required introductory proseminar as well as completing required courses in sociological theory, research methods, and statistics along with elective courses in their area of interest. Demonstrate their understanding by working as teaching assistants, project assistants, research assistants, and trainees; by presenting work-in-progress at informal brownbag colloquia; by preparing and submitting manuscripts resulting from their research for publication in respected journals; and by submitting papers for presentation at professional conferences.
  4. Retrieve, interpret, and evaluate social science literature and use it, along with their own understanding of relevant methodologies, to employ the most appropriate methods and practices in their own research.
  5. Develop analytical thinking skills that enable them to evaluate information pertinent to their research questions. Develop the breadth of knowledge and experience that empowers them to synthesize disparate information and use the resulting synthesis to respond creatively to challenges in their field of study.
  6. Communicate in a clear, organized, engaging manner, using language, methods, and critical tools appropriate to the social sciences. Learn to develop grant proposals; gather, manage, and analyze data; write a thesis that is thought-provoking, concise, and persuasive; present research informatively; listen with care and patience; and give and receive feedback orally and in writing.
  7. Understand, recognize, and apply principles of ethical and professional conduct by developing effective relationships with faculty mentors, graduate student colleagues, and the undergraduate students whom they teach. Design research, collect and analyze data, and interpret and report results with honesty and scientific rigor.

Faculty: Professors Raymo (chair, Sociology), Green (chair, Community & Environmental Sociology), Bell, Borman (affiliated), Carlson, Collins, Curtis, Elwert, Emirbayer, Ermakoff,  Fletcher, Freeland, Friedland (affiliated), Fujimura, Gerber, Goldberg, Grodsky, Lim, Logan, Massoglia, Maynard, Montgomery, Morales (affiliated), Nobles, Nordheim (affiliated), Rogers (director, COWS), Schaeffer (director, UWSC), Schwartz, Seidman, Stoecker, Thornton (affiliated), Tigges, Wright; Associate Professors Alatout, Christens (affiliated), Conti, Eason, Engelman, Feinstein, Grant (director, Graduate Studies), Higgins (affiliated), Light, Shoemaker (affiliated); Assistant Professors Addo (affiliated), Conwell, Garoon, Goffman, Halpern-Meekin (affiliated), Leachman (affiliated), O'Brien (affiliated), Rios, Simmons (affiliated), White, Xiong (affiliated)